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Hammond prepares for threatening ash borer bugs

Ozaukee County is about 300 miles away from Hammond, but it was a topic of discussion during the Village's Public Works Committee meeting on Monday night.

Ozaukee County is one of the areas in Wisconsin that has been devastated by an emerald ash borer infestation.

In order to prepare the Village for future infestations, Public Works Director Rod Turk and Chuck Fedie went to the eastern side of the state to learn about the bugs. A meeting was hosted by the Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin Department of Trade and Consumer Protection about identification, prevention and reaction to the ash borers.

While at the meeting, attendees toured the areas affected by the ash borers. Turk compared the area to a fire wiping through an area.

"This is 100 percent devastation," Turk said.

Turk said he has no doubt that eventually this area will be infested with the bugs.

"Sooner or later we will be affected," he said.

Steps should be taken now to prepare for it, Turk said.

Already, the Public Works Department has purchased and planted 150 maple trees. Turk said they plan to get another 300 in the next year. When the ash borer does come to town, the maple trees will be transplanted to take the place of killed ash trees. Turk said the maple trees are resistant to certain diseases and the ash borers.

In the next year, Turk said the Public Works Department will create an inventory of all the ash trees on the Village right of way. Turk and Fedie will head up the searches.

The next step Turk would like to take, he said, is to inventory all the ash trees in the entire Village.

The results of those inventories will help him and the citizens realize just what kind of impact the ash borer would have on Hammond, should it wipe out all the ash trees.

For example, Turk said all the trees in the Village Park are ash trees.

"Our park would look pretty empty without them," Turk said.

He added he thinks most of the trees in the Village right of way are ash trees. When Dutch Elm disease swept through years ago, the Village planted ash trees to replace the infected trees.

"You have to question what the town will look like," Turk said.

The entire state has the potential to lose 737 million forest ash trees and more than 500 million ash trees in urban settings, Turk said.

Turk is working to develop a response plan. Since it hasn't been written yet, Turk said he's not sure exactly what it will say. However, it will outline the steps from the first phone call made to disposal of infected trees.

He said he and Fedie plan to become better educated about the insects. The earlier the problem is identified, the more successful treatments can be.

"We're doing as much training as possible and necessary," Turk said.

"You might not see it right now, but really maybe you have that ash borer now," Turk said, explaining that the first signs are at the top of the trees.

Educating the public is another piece of the plan, Turk said.

Turk will be sending out fact sheets to Hammond residents. In it, he said he'll identify effects an ash borer infestation will have on the community, and what homeowners can do to prevent and alleviate problems.

Hammond isn't the only Village talking about ash borers. Governmental bodies across the state are also taking action to prevent ash tree wipe outs, said Village attorney Tim Scott.

Scott said ordinances to slow down ash borers, like requiring quick disposal of infected trees, are being enacted. He recommended the Village of Hammond begin drafting similar ordinances.

A crucial step people can take to keep the ash borer away from this side of the state is to leave wood where it is. Turk said transporting firewood from one place to another is a quick way to spread infestations.

Although the ash borers may not come soon, Turk has no doubt it will make its way to St. Croix County. For now, getting ready for it is essential.

"We're going to see it. It's going to happen here," said Turk. "We need to start preparing for it now."