Watertown officials warn of city-wide Emerald Ash Borer infestation

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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Throughout the City of Watertown, a deadly pest is impacting local trees.

This pest is known as the Emerald Ash Borer, which particularly harms ash trees. These trees are native to the North Country and can be identified by having diamond shaped bark patterns and compound leaves.

The Emerald Ash Borer, sometimes a silent killer, is an invasive beetle that burrows into the bark of all ash trees to lay its eggs, where the larvae will feed on the inner bark, which disrupts the tree ability to transport water; ultimately drying out the tree. After the beetle makes an ash tree its home, it can kill within two to five years.

Emerald Ash Borer was first identified in the City of Watertown in 2018. Since then, the City has developed plans to attempt and mitigate the problem. Watertown City Planner Michael DeMarco said this pest poses risks to public safety and health.

“This pest will impact tree populations along city streets, within parks, playgrounds, but also in the neighboring woodlands. So the risk of that is that it holds for people living around here, if not proactively taking care of is actually risk to property and health,” DeMarco said.

Higher infestations have been found in the City’s east and west sides south of the Black River, on the Jefferson Community College campus and at Thompson Park. However at this time it is considered a city-wide infestation.

An EAB infestation can be determined through different factors. This can include increased woodpecker activity on a tree, thinning of the canopy, sucker sprouting and the beetle’s calling card, a small d-shaped hole, which is where it exits the tree after laying its larvae.

DeMarco confirmed that in 2020, the City took down 52 ash trees, and plans to match or exceed that number in 2021. He said this removal process is a strategy to slow the spread of EAB. After trees are removed, the City then replants saplings to grow back the canopy.

“If we don’t remove our the Ash trees in a proactive manner, and we wait until they’re dying, then we set up a situation where public risk is then increased,” DeMarco added. “What we want to do is make sure that that that’s not the case. So, when we proactively remove trees, we can also replant them in quicker manner, mitigating the effects of that tree.”

The City is also utilizing chemical mitigation strategies that are injected into ash trees by professional arborist. In 2020, 56 ash trees were treated and the same trees are expected to be treated in 2022.This treatment is funded by the Department of Environmental Conservation, Northern New York Community Foundation and Watertown Noon Rotary Club.

Additionally, starting now, through November 2021, City residents should expect to see staff from the Department of Public Works staff performing proactive removal operations while trees are in relatively good health. This is following recommendations from the DEC and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.

Officials stated that have higher density’s of ash trees will experience canopy loss. Staff will continue to reach out to local property owners throughout the process.

Watertown City Officials ask residents to report any of these signs to allow for the next steps. Reports can be made to the City Planner’s Office at 315-785-7741.

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