By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The City of Oshawa is looking to reassess it’s tree canopy after it was decimated by the emerald ash borer.
Brought to the community services committee, city staff are looking for $200,000 to be put into the 2018 budget in order to pay for aerial imagery of the city’s tree cover in order to not only get a sense of the health of Oshawa’s trees, but also inform future spending decisions.
Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, an urban tree canopy also has a series of perks that can save the city big cash in the long run, including assisting with storm water management and flood reduction, cleaning the air, and reducing energy costs along with their impacts on climate change.
However, in recent years, the Oshawa tree canopy has been hit hard, not only by the emerald ash borer, but urbanization, extreme weather events like the 2013 ice storm and hotter than normal summers have all had a significant impact on the local trees.
A study done by TD Economics in 2014, estimated that Toronto residents are provided with $80 million worth of environmental benefits and cost savings annually from trees alone. It broke down to approximately $8 per tree.
“An up-to-date, detailed inventory will assist Forestry Services to make informed decisions and to respond to weather events and infestations,” states a city report. “Depending on the level of detail of the imagery, there may be other opportunities or uses for the images with respect to asset management that will be considered in the future.”
With that said, the city definitely has their work cut out for them as according to a 2012 report on the ash borer, the city is still set to incur hefty costs due to the removal and replacement of trees.
That report estimates that 600 trees will need replacement this coming year at a cost of $600,000. That number will jump to 800 in 2018 at a cost of $800,000 and increase to $1 million and 1,000 trees in 2019.
In total, between 2012 and 2021, tree replacements due to the EAB is expected to cost over $5 million.
The aerial images can be completed with an 85 to 95 per cent accuracy rate, which city staff have deemed acceptable for their plans, which also includes finding any trees that may need to be cut down to avoid a public safety risk, information the city currently does not have.
For Mayor John Henry, he was looking for the aerial scan to do a bit of double duty by assessing not only the trees, but also the impacts of invasive phragmites, an reed-like plant that has taken root around the city, and in Oshawa’s Second Marsh. He also suggested that the drones could perhaps do more than just assess the plants.
“There has been success in other places where they’ve used aerial spray to deal with phragmites,” he said.
The proposed investment will go to council at their regular meeting on Sept. 25 for a final decision.