By Kevin Werner, News Staff
The emerald ash borer is threatening the destruction of Hamilton’s entire 300,000 ash tree population over the next 10 years, if the city does nothing about it.
Politicians agreed at their government issues committee Sept. 6 to spend about $26 million over the next decade to cut its ash trees, and then replace them to preserve Hamilton’s tree canopy from being eliminated.
“We need to budget money for this, we need to educate people about it,” said Stoney Creek councillor Maria Pearson.
It is projected that Stoney Creek, will be the hardest hit area if the beetle is successful in chewing through the city’s 23,000 estimated ash trees along streets, and in parks. The city has about 136,000 inventoried trees.
Pearson said Stoney Creek has about 1,600 ash trees along its streets and parks, concentrated along Ashwood Court, Eastdale Blvd., and Carpenter Ave.
Politicians will vote on the recommendation at their Sept. 12 council meeting.
Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark insisted that the public needs to be involved in any tree cutting process. He didn’t want to see the city start chopping down healthy trees.
Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson agreed.
“I’m not on for cutting down healthy trees,” saidFerguson. “Only trees that are infested, dead or dying.”
Phillip van Wassenaer, a consultant for the city, bluntly stated that Hamilton must start an education campaign to inform residents about the potentially devastating affects of the beetle.
“It is an inevitability trees will die,” said van Wassenaer. “It’s not going away. You can’t avoid it.”
He saidHamiltonwill see the dire effects of the borer’s impact on trees by 2015-2017.
About 75 ash trees have been cut since 2009, which it was first found in the city. The beetle was identified in southern Ontario, first in Windsor by 2002.
Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins, whose area would also see a significant loss of ash trees, said it’s not only just an environmental issue, but it will affect the community’s health.
“There needs to be an opportunity to have healthy trees stay up a little longer,” said Collins.
The city is already replacing about 6,000 trees per year.Ferguson said the city could save about $8 million by using the city’s current replacement tree program.
“I’m trying to reduce (the budget),” he said.
City staff is also looking at injecting chemicals into trees to protect them from the beetle, an action which has seen some success, said officials.
Craig Murdoch, director of environmental services, said about 400 trees, a year would be done. It costs between $250 to $500 per tree.
Robert Rossini, corporate finance services general manager, said the money for the tree cutting isn’t contained in the 2013 budget.
“We will try to find it as best we can,” he said.
The federal government does not provide funding to provinces or municipalities to fight the beetle. There is also no EAB strategy in Canada, said van Wassenaer. Councillors also requested the federal government provide funding to the city for its EAB strategy.