TRAVERSE CITY — Wind-felled trees recently caused hundreds of power outages across the Grand Traverse region.
Cherryland Electric Cooperative is trying to get ahead of such outages by more aggressively cutting diseased trees that could fall on its power lines, even those trees located outside Cherryland’s 30-foot right-of-way.
Cherryland’s targets include ash trees, victimized throughout Michigan by the emerald ash borer. The invasive beetle burrows into trees and lays eggs beneath the bark, where the larvae then move around and cut off the nutrient flow within the tree. Affected trees usually die in a few years and leave them poised to fall.
“Normally, when a tree dies it just breaks apart one limb at a time. While it’s unsightly, it doesn’t cause us as many problems,” said Jim Carpenter, line superintendent at Cherryland Electric. “What we’re having with the ash borer is, as the root decays the roots are breaking away too, so the entire tree is falling over.”
Cherryland cut about 500 trees since implementing the policy in June, Carpenter said. But an analysis of Cherryland Electric’s service area revealed around 6,000 of the so-called danger trees.
Once trees are cut into smaller pieces, they’re left on the property, which Carpenter said is to prevent the spread of the ash borer — a move that may be unnecessary, said a Michigan Department of Natural Resources official.
“It really doesn’t matter. The entire state is under the same quarantine classification,” said Dave Lemmien, the unit manager for the DNR Traverse City management unit in the forest resources division. “We can now move ash firewood or logs anywhere throughout the state.”
Cherryland Electric sends post cards to property owners two weeks before crews enter an area to clean out danger trees, Carpenter said. If property owners don’t want trees cut or want to use a different removal service, they have to contact the cooperative.
Consumers Energy also has a danger tree plan in which the company works with property owners when such a tree is on their property; Consumers also usually leaves the cut tree there, too, said Jon Hall, Consumers’ spokesman for forestry operations.