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CCM Report: Towns Are Overwhelmed By Thousands Of Diseased Trees From infestation

CCM Report: Towns Are Overwhelmed By Thousands Of Diseased Trees From infestation

For immediate release

Kevin Maloney, (203) 710-3486

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) today (Thursday, October 31) reported that towns across Connecticut are being overwhelmed by the fallout from diseased trees across the state as a result of the wide infestation of emerald ash borer beetles and gypsy moths in Connecticut trees.

“Municipal officials believe that this crisis shows no sign of abating in Connecticut,” said Joe DeLong, CCM Executive Director. “This is a bona fide public safety, public health, and environmental crisis for the most affected towns and cities.”

There have already been confirmed deathsfrom falling trees and limbs as a result of the infestation. The first significant snowfall this fall or winterin Connecticut could bring down hundreds of diseased trees and thousands of limbs along with extended networks of power lines perhaps worse than the state experienced with hurricanes Irene and Sandy in 2011 and 2012. If power lines come down across the state, you can expect electric rates may have to rise to cover the cost of restoring wide-spread power outages.

As towns, the State, and power companies scramble to get to all the needed tree work, there are reports that tree-trimming companies are charging a premium price to do the critical, necessary work. 

In a letter to Governor Ned Lamont, CCM is calling on the Governor and the General Assembly to address the problem.

CCM recommends that

At the earliest convenience, the Governor convenes a meeting and form a work group consisting of state agency commissioners, municipal leaders and utility representatives to collaborate on a comprehensive and sustainable plan to address the problem of tree infestation. 

Additional financial resources be included in the bond package to help communities negatively impacted by tree infestation. 

Expand eligibility for certain existing grants for tree infestation. 

Reduce the red tape towns are encountering when obtaining state permits to burn tree debris.

As the following examples clearly show, many towns of all sizes have been infested by the emerald ash borer beetles and gypsy moths that destroy ash and other species of trees. The Eversource power company has been removing trees near power lines, and local governments have been undertaking and organizing similar efforts, at considerable expense and with varying support. The amount of tree trimming and tree removal needed is staggering and there is a real question if all the needed work can be accomplished before the first big winter storm hits Connecticut in the coming months.

CCM is working with the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and other key state officials to understand the breadth of towns affected and the amount they’re expending, in order to see what kind of relief to affected communities would be most helpful.

Communities are straining back to top

Here are some specific examples of how communities are straining under the duress of thousands of diseased trees as a result of both the Emerald Ash Borer beetles and gypsy moth infestation:

Middlebury – Has allocated over $230,000 attempting to cut and remove dead trees, with an additional $230,000 needed to remove the 700 remaining dead, dying, or diseased trees on the roadside.

Berlin – The total projected for tree removal in Fiscal Year 2020 is $100,000, of which $63,000 has already been spent since July 1st. They cleared a backlog of trees, but continue to get calls for five to six trees a week.

Litchfield – In calendar year 2018, the town removed 73 ash trees; as of May 31st there are 1,197 ash trees that need to be removed, all of which are in public right of way. This has increased the budget to $105,000/year due primarily to this crisis.

Glastonbury – Typically allocating $75,000 in operating expenses for tree work, an additional $125,000 annual capital allocation is added meaning $200,000 is expected to be spent for the foreseeable future dealing with the effects of the ash borer and drought.

Brooklyn – The Town is faced with $200,000 on costs for an estimated 700 trees that are diseased.

Columbia – The town has already spent $100,000 this fiscal year on tree trimming and removal; after spending $25,000 the previous year. .

Bolton – For the first half of the fiscal year, $50,000 has been spent on the ash tree alone, with an estimated $100,000 by the end of the year, which is taking money away from road repairs.

Oxford – has seen a huge impact for the past several years, spending about $150,000 per year in tree removal largely due to ash trees. Prior to the ash borer, the budget was $30,000 in tree services town wide.

Madison – has been told that all their ash trees will be dead within three years, increasing their budget to $100,000, with a special appropriation of an additional $100,000 to handle trees that came down in storms, many believed to be infested.

Weston – Is spending more than $70,000 on the problem, and having a problem with where to put the wood as the costs associated with carting away or chipping the trees is a huge problem.

South Windsor – An inventory found 600 trees that have the potential to impact travel in 2014 and they have spent $100,000 in the past 3 years to continue removing many of those same trees. They hope to remove all of the problem trees by the end of 2021 and save the ash trees in great health.

Wethersfield – Removal of affected ash trees comprises 30% of the tree crew’s time, removing 10 in 2016, 98 in 2017, 51 in 2018, and 65 removed to date in 2019. By 2017, ash decline began to out-pace their pro-active tree removal efforts.

East Hampton – Has been severely impacted by the ash borer, with nearly every tree dead or severely compromised. Since July 1, a private contractor has removed 50 trees at a $25,000 cost. To remove all problematic trees would cost several hundred thousand.

Bethlehem – They have been able to clear only 2 miles of dead or dying trees out of 44 miles of town maintained roads. With limited resources, they can only address trees that pose an imminent threat to public safety.

Durham – Ran through the tree removal budget of $25,000, forcing them to ask for more money to remove approximately 20 dead ash trees. This problem is compounded by the gypsy moth that is killing oak trees in the area.

Goshen – Spent $43,200 on tree removal contractors and an additional $2,040 on wood disposal in 2018-19. There is a high number of ash trees due to wet soils in the forest not including park or recreational properties, and they have just started to see the effects of the infestation.

Newington – spend about $60,000 addressing diseased ash trees between contractors and in-house efforts. When one diseased tree is found, several are found in the area, so the budget will continue to grow in the future.

Voluntown – As a small town with a limited budget, they’ve seen expenses go from $0 to $35,000 in three years due to the ash borer and gypsy moth. At this point they have more dead trees than they can afford to remove. 

Sherman – On just six of the most prominent roads, all of which are wood-lined, there was a total of more than 100 dead ash trees, accounting for only about one-third of the town roads, suggesting there are many, many other dead ash trees.

Bridgewater – Has been systematically removing danger trees near power lines and roadsides for two year. Roughly two-thirds of the ash trees in town have died.

Barkhamsted – The cost of dealing with this problem is in the range of $20,000 to $50,000 depending on how many more trees die from the borer.

Beacon Falls – Was spending in excess of $10,000 annually clearing dangerous trees from the town right of way, which does not include trees impacted by trees near power lines that Eversource has jurisdiction over.

New Milford – has removed 30 ash trees since July 1, at a cost of $10,350, with an estimated $40,000 - $60,000 spent in 2018-19 when 101 dead or infested ash trees were removed.

Somers – While the town has been far more affected by the gypsy moth infestation from a couple years ago, the town is still spending approximately $10,000 per year for the ash tree removal along roadsides and public lands.

Union – Spends around $20,000 a year to remove dead trees and dangerous limbs over the road, many of which are due to the emerald ash borer.

Essex – Is working on removing 30 to 40 trees at the moment with involvement of Eversource.

Winchester – Has budgeted $20,000 for the management of Ash Trees killed by the emerald ash borer alone.

Plainville – 15 ash trees at the middle school are in the early stages of decline due to the emerald ash borer, and will need to be taken down starting next year as they are not a problem year, but will be an increasing concern.

Marlborough – The town has spent $100,000 to remove dangerous trees and large limbs from damaged trees on town property.

 

 

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