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Council to discuss Emerald Ash Borer plan April 3

Correction: This story incorrectly stated which agency is responsible for emerald ash borer quarantines. That responsibility falls to the Department of Agriculture, not the Department of Natural Resources. The story has been corrected to reflect this change. We apologize for the error. 

The city is moving forward with a plan to remove all poor-quality ash trees within its right-of-ways to try to stave off an infestation of the emerald ash borer.

There are 3,374 ash trees growing in the city-owned boulevards, according to a tree survey done last summer by Jennifer Dullum, the city's natural resource specialist. Of those, 319 trees appear to be in poor health.

The city is concerned because the Department of Agriculture has Dakota County under quarantine with infestations sighted as near as Apple Valley and Hastings. There have been no confirmed infestations of the emerald ash borer in Farmington.

Besides dealing with its own trees, the city is urging residents to take a look at the trees in their yards.

"Now would be the time to start," said Katy Gehler, public works director. "If you have an ash tree on your property, start looking at the health of the tree."

According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's website, Minnesota has the highest volume of ash trees in the United States with almost 1 billion forestland and urban wood ash trees.

The beetle larvae live under the bark. They eat the wood and tunnel in S-shaped patterns, cutting off nutrition to the rest of the tree, causing them to become dry and brittle.

The city would rather remove sickly trees now, rather than wait to remove them when they become hazardous.

Farmington plans to take the following five steps: discuss the Emerald Ash Borer Management Plan at the April 3 City Council meeting, develop an outreach program for homeowners, begin removal of all poor-quality ash trees, prepare a plan to treat good and fair quality trees and discuss making an ash removal policy.

Projected costs are $128,000 to remove poor quality trees and $56,000 to treat trees in fair and good condition that are at least 15 inches in diameter.

If the plan is approved by the council, the city will begin reaching out to homeowners. Gehler said once the city has hired a vendor to treat the fair and good trees, she is hoping to connect residents with this vendor so they can treat their own trees at a discounted price.

The city plans to treat its trees on a three-year cycle which would cost about $18,500 a year, Gehler said.

Removing trees in poor health can't start until October, when larvae go dormant. Between May 1 and Sept. 30, the emerald ash borer is in what's called the "flight season."

"If they're living in a tree and you cut that tree down, they're going to go and find another healthy tree," Gehler explained. Until then, the city will work to get the information online.

"At this point, we are just wanting to get the word out," Gehler said.