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Council approves $6.3-million emerald ash borer plan

Thunder Bay will spend $550,000 in 2017 as the first installment of a 10-year, $6.3-million plan to confront the invasive emerald ash borer.
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THUNDER BAY -- It has been six months since the emerald ash borer was first discovered in Thunder Bay but city council finally unanimously supports a plan to confront the invasive species. 

On Monday, council voted to commit $550,000 of its 2017 budget to efforts it hopes will absorb the pest's impact. The payment will be the first in a $6.3-million, 10-year fight that, if untreated, would likely wipe out the city's 6,300 ash trees. 

"We're pleased city council has endorsed our recommendation," said city urban forest program specialist Rena Viehbeck, whose office estimates the emerald ash borer infestation is in its second or third year of an anticipated nine. 

"It's an unfortunate situation for all the city because no matter how we look at it, it's a cost and it's a lot of work and we're going to lose ash trees but we hope through this management strategy, we'll be able to find our best, realistic outcome." 

The plan calls for injecting and treating 850 trees in 2017 while removing and replanting 200 others. By 2027, it will treat 1,700 or 50 per cent of all mature ash trees.

Considering ash trees make up one in every four trees standing on public property within city limits, administration has argued any cost savings that would have resulted from removing all the trees rather than treating them would be lost in increased storm water and erosion as well as other impacts currently softened through having a forest canopy over the city.      

"There is no zero-cost option," repeated city engineering director Kayla Dixon. 

The plan council passed Monday was exactly the same as the one it deferred in July. The city has since lost the plan's author Shelley Vescio, the city forester of 21 years, who resigned in October.   

Administration believes Thunder Bay is already in the second or third year of a cycle that could exceed 10 years. 

Private residents can hire private certified pesticide applicators to treat ash trees on private property. Dixon said citizens will be expected to cut down ash trees once they fall to the emerald ash borer invasion.  

Administration is encouraging citizens not move to firewood in order to keep invasions localized.

Editor's note: This story has been edited to reflect accurate numbers of ash tree treatments and removals. 



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