Beetle infestation changes the face of Alta

Friday, August 28, 2020
Ash trees in Alta that have been extensively trimmed due to the emerald ash borer infestation.

An insect which attacks and kills ash trees has brought changes to Alta over the past 3 years. Infestation of the emerald ash borer brought on by beetles has damaged hundreds of ash trees in Alta, and the city has been working to trim and remove the affected trees to stop the spread of infection.

According to Alta street and sanitation supervisor Brad Pedersen, about 18-20% of the infected trees have been removed, more than 50 trees so far, out of 330 that originally were scheduled for removal in the city right of way. “We have several years yet,” Pedersen said of the project.

The infestation, believed to have been brought to Buena Vista County and other Iowa counties on pallets from China, has taken a toll on Alta residents visually and on the city government financially. Mayor Kevin Walsh is concerned. “This seems to be ongoing news but I am not sure the average person realizes the impact the ash bore has had on our community,” he said.

“Trees on the south end of main street or in the city park will show just how sad this community is going to look when all the trees are finally removed,” Mayor Walsh said. “This is not only bad in this way but it is also a burden on our city budget that we wish we could spend the money elsewhere. Our city employees have had to cut back on some things they would normally do in the summer to take care of infested trees.”

The adult beetle that infects ash trees is metallic green in color and is about 1/2 inch long, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The city continues to pay three tree trimming companies and additional summer workers to help with tree removal and trimming. Pedersen informed Alta City Council that his department will continue to work hard through August and after.

The removed branches are being put to good use. Instead of dumping the branches, they are being used for firewood, Pedersen said.