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Blighted ash trees bring cost, hazards in Connecticut

Ash tree
Ash tree

Years of attack by an invasive beetle species have decimated Connecticut’s population of ash trees, endangering power lines and roadways and stretching towns’ budgets as they attempt to remove potential hazards.

The iridescent green emerald ash borer beetle is believed to have come from Asia through Canada to the U.S. about 20 years ago, and into Connecticut about 10 years ago. Experts say millions of the trees are now dead or dying.

“It’s fair to say that all ash trees will succumb, in pockets more dramatically than others,” State Forester Chris Martin told The Republican-American.

Removing a dead ash tree from private property can cost between $400 and $1,200, and decisions about who is responsible for tree removal are made in consultation with local tree wardens.

Martin said many towns apply leftover money earmarked for snow removal for tree removal. Falling trees have killed two people in the state in recent years.

“Some weeks we get bills for $12,000 or $8,000. It’s costing the town a lot of money,” Goshen First Selectman Todd Carusillo told the newspaper.

Eversource has a $33 million budget for tree removal in 149 towns along 16000 miles (25,750 kilometers) of roads. Sean Redding, the utility's manager of vegetation, told the newspaper that most trees in western Connecticut have already been affected and have been removed or fallen down on their own without risk to overhead lines or motorists.

There is hope for the trees: Scientists are conducting tests on whether another species of Asian beetle that feeds on emerald ash larvae is safe.

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