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Milllions Spent to Cut Ash

It's costing West Michigan counties millions of dollars to fight the invasive emerald ash borer.

Since the discovery of the green insect in Michigan in 2002, according to Grand Rapids records, it has killed millions of ash trees in the state.

Kent County Road Commission Director of Maintenance Jerry Byrne said trees with ash borers look "blotchy."

Affected trees must be cut down to prevent them from falling and causing property damage or personal injury.

Byrne said it can take a crew between 30 and 45 minutes to cut down and haul away a medium-sized tree, and a couple of hours for a large one.

One crew costs about $4,000 per day. With three or four crews on the job about 100 days per year, that adds up to millions of dollars.

Consumers Energy is also investing millions into cutting down ash trees close to their power lines.

"Ash trees fail catastrophically when they die, so they don't actually shed like some trees would. An ash tree will stand there for two or three years, and then somewhere between ground level and 5 or 6 feet off the ground fall over whole," Consumers Energy spokesman Jon Hall said.

Ash trees are one of the hardest woods found in Michigan. Each tree can weigh up to 40,000 or 50,000 pounds.

"So you really don't want it to fall down uncontrolled. A dead tree can be very dangerous to property, to people, to cars, whatever," Hall said.

The City of Grand Rapids spends about $84,000 per year combating the problem -- not by cutting down ash trees, but by saving them with an injected treatment.

Steve Faber with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks says it is more cost-effective to save trees that aren't badly infected rather than destroy them.

"A tree like this is producing hundreds of dollars a year for us," he said.

He says trees help with carbon sequestration, air pollution and storm water management.

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