- Associated Press - Saturday, June 4, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The City of Omaha has begun preparing for an infestation of the emerald ash borer.

Mayor Jean Stothert said Friday that she will budget $1 million a year in the city’s five-year capital improvement program, beginning in 2017, the Omaha World-Herald reported (https://bit.ly/1U59lDx ) Saturday. The city has begun preparing for the expected infestation by cutting down unhealthy ash trees and buying tree-removal equipment.

The city has hired a four-person tree-trimming crew devoted solely to ash trees, City Parks Director Brook Bench said.

Omaha has about 11,000 ash trees in city parks, golf courses and other city-owned property, City Forester John Wynn said. The city has begun a program to remove about 6,000 of those over the next five years. The trees would not survive an emerald ash borer infestation even if treated, Bench said.

The city will plant other trees near where the ash trees are removed.

When the invasive insect is spotted in Omaha, the city will begin treating its healthy ash trees to protect them, officials said.

The insect is native to Asia and was first spotted in the U.S. in 2002, when it showed up in the Detroit area. Authorities say the insect has spread to at least 25 other states - including neighboring Iowa - and has killed millions of trees. Scientists believe it was accidentally introduced into North America in the 1990s, most likely in wooden shipping crates from Russia, China, Japan or Korea.

Once infected, trees typically die within five years. The ash borer feeds on tree tissue beneath the bark, destroying the tree’s ability to move water and nutrients to branches.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com


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