Vermont Electric Co-Op says spread of emerald ash borer will pose added challenges for utilities

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A Vermont utility company says it’s concerned about the recently discovered emerald ash borer, a destructive insect from Asia that feeds on bark.

The pest was recently discovered in the town of Orange, Vt., and could spread across the state in coming years.

Vermont Electric Co-Op says it will pose added challenges for utilities, as they work to keep affected trees from falling on power lines.

Across its wide northern Vermont service territory, VEC maintains rights of way along almost 3,000 miles of power lines, which involves cutting and pruning trees that grow too close to lines.

VEC says dead and dying trees that can fall unexpectedly near lines pose additional risk to lines and line workers themselves.

“This pest represents a new threat to the reliability of our electric system in Vermont and we will likely see an increase in hazard tree removal costs as we have to take down ash trees that are infested, and become dangerous, over time,” said VEC Manager of Forestry Sara Packer.

Packer also said the dying trees can pose a risk to landowners who could be tempted to take them down.

“Rotten trees are unpredictable and can be dangerous to cut down – the hazard becomes even greater when the tree in question is within striking distance of energized power lines,” said Packer.

VEC asks landowners who see dead, dying, rotten or declining trees of whatever species, which could threaten electric lines, call the utility so VEC can dispatch trained crews to evaluate and potentially remove the tree.

Once infested, ash trees can die within three to five years.

Ash trees comprise approximately five percent of Vermont forests.

There are no proven means to control EAB in forested areas, though individual trees can sometimes be effectively treated.

“Early detection and rapid response are key factors in treating and successfully managing EAB,” said Packer.

Packer adds it is important to “buy your firewood where you burn it and not transport wood, as the spread of this insect increases dramatically when people inadvertently move infested material such as pruned branches, firewood, timber or nursery stock to areas previously free of EAB.”

Landowners with questions are encouraged to contact their county forester.

You can find more information at vtinvasives.org.

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