The emerald ash borer has officially arrived in Lincoln.
The Nebraska Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that the tree-destroying insect was recently found in a trap in an undisclosed location in Lincoln. The department also said an arborist in Fremont found signs of an infestation there.
“While it’s unfortunate we found (emerald ash borer) in Lincoln and signs of an infested tree in Fremont, it is not unexpected, considering we have confirmed infestations in Douglas and Cass counties,” Agriculture Director Steve Wellman said in a news release.
The emerald ash borer was first found in Nebraska in June 2016, and city officials have been preparing for years for the insects' inevitable arrival in Lincoln.
They had already been spotted within about 15 miles of the city, and most experts believed the insect was already here.
"The impact this has on this city is relatively minor because we have been planning for a long time," said Lynn Johnson, director of the Lincoln Parks and Recreation Department.
Johnson said the city has already removed about 2,000 of the more than 14,000 city-owned ash trees in parks, on golf courses and along streets.
City officials estimate there could be as many as 40,000-50,000 ash trees on private property in the city.
The emerald ash borer gets its name because its larva bore under the bark of ash trees, usually killing them within a few years. Once the insect arrives, it usually kills 75 percent or more of all ash trees within a decade.
The city has a plan to remove and replace about 1,000 trees a year going forward, at an estimated cost of $22.8 million.
The budget approved Monday by the City Council contains $2.3 million over the next two years to deal with the emerald ash borer, and the city has a draft response and recovery plan that will be presented to the council later this fall.
"We must continue to find resources to address this costly public safety and quality-of-life issue," Mayor Chris Beutler said in a news release.
Johnson said the city is concentrating on removing smaller ash trees, those that are 18 inches or less in diameter. Those account for about 10,000 of the city's ash trees.
The goal, he said, is to stay ahead of the damage done by the ash borer, so that there are not large numbers of dead trees around the city, which can present a safety hazard.
Johnson said the city will focus on removing trees over the next two years, but after that it may start treating some trees to prolong their life.
He also said the Parks and Recreation Department is working with neighborhood groups to plan ash tree removal and replanting. Residents who are interested in the planning process are encouraged to contact Community Outreach Forester Lorri Grueber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part of the draft ash borer response and recovery plan calls for an "adoption" program for businesses and private individuals to pay for the chemical treatment of city-owned ash trees to keep them from having to be cut down.
The City Council will be asked to amend city code to establish a no-cost permit for the chemical treatment of public ash trees so the city can track which trees have been adopted.
Johnson said it's also time for private-property owners to consider what to do about ash trees they own. The options include chemical treatment, proactively cutting them down or monitoring them for ash borer damage.