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May 15, 2018 06:00 PM

Aberdeen Spent Four Years Planning for Emerald Ash Borer

Aberdeen city leaders haven't even spotted the Emerald Ash Borer, but they're already prepared for it. The City Forester says the department is bumping up efforts to look for it. This could ultimately bring some big changes to the city in the future. 

As far as City Forester Aaron Kiesz knows, the Emerald Ash Borer isn't in Aberdeen.

However, he's paid attention to where it has been. Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and now Sioux Falls have all found it. Knowing the insect that attacks ash trees is so close to home has lit a fire under his team to prepare. 

"We knew it would eventually get to South Dakota," Kiesz said. 

Aberdeen's forestry department started making a plan in January, but actually started preparing four years ago. Kiesz says workers started counting ash trees, and looking at their conditions, so they know how many they have. 

"That way we can start to slowly reduce our large population of ash trees before the insect gets here," Kiesz said.

That could mean cutting down about 240 ash trees per year. Kiesz says they'll look for any trees that are deteriorating. A big clue is excessive damage from woodpeckers. 

"The woodpeckers are going after the larvae, the young stage of the Emerald Ash Borer and when they know it's in the tree, they'll take the bark off, looking for that insect," Kiesz said. 

Kiesz says removing all of the ash trees on the boulevards and replacing them all with different types of trees would be about a $3 million job. However, Kiesz hopes planning ahead will help minimize the actual cost as much as possible.

Right now this is all very preliminary, but Kiesz says it's not a matter of if the Emerald Ash Borer is found here; it's when. 

"It could be found here in Aberdeen this year, could be 10 to 15 years down the road. I'm guessing it'll be found earlier. Could already be here. We don't know," Kiesz said. 

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