SANDUSKY - Ohio's emerald ash borer problem is now in western Erie County.
The discovery, announced yesterday by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, has the potential of being another costly blow to general eradication efforts aimed at North America's peskiest tree beetle.
In addition, it will add to the woes of an international task force that's been especially focused on keeping the deadly Asian pest away from Lake Erie's marshy shoreline. Trees are harder to remove from wetlands because of limited road access.
"As more resources have to be diverted to eradicating outliers, less will be available for slowing and ultimately halting the natural spread of the leading edge as it spreads south from Michigan," said Dan Herms, an Ohio State University entomologist who serves as Ohio's representative on that panel.
Ohio is so cash-strapped that Gov. Bob Taft submitted a request for $10.1 million in supplemental tree-removal funds in the spring. On Sept. 15, the state was notified it would get $4 million to keep chain saws buzzing.
Michigan and Indiana received an additional $2.1 million and $1.8 million, respectively.
Officials want to remove as many affected trees as they can by mid-May, when the beetle makes its annual emergence.
Melissa Brewer, state agriculture department spokesman, said this is the first year infected trees were found in Erie County. Officials are not sure if people have breached quarantines banning the movement of ash firewood and other ash products from restricted areas. Mr. Herms said he believes the infestation predates the quarantines - that infected trees have simply made it easier for scientists to identify latent problems.
"This detection and others is the result of intensified monitoring, rather than increased spread," he said.
Two infested trees were found in Erie County's Groton Township. One each was found in Margaretta and Oxford townships.
All are south of Sandusky, near the Ohio Turnpike and State Rt. 4. Four trees are only a symptom, though.
Typically, crews go back for extensive surveying. Bark is pulled away from selected trees. Eventually, the extent of the problem is identified. Then, to help curtail the beetle's spread, all ash trees within a half-mile radius are sacrificed.
Surveying will begin soon in Erie County. Trees that have to be cut will be marked. Tree cutting may begin in coming months when contracts are executed for similar tree-removal operations in Delaware and Auglaize counties, Ms. Brewer said.
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