A civic committee approved a $1.3 million plan Monday to deal with the potential demise of the city’s ash trees.

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A civic committee approved a $1.3 million plan Monday to deal with the potential demise of the city’s ash trees.

Councillors approved the plan for this year but the price tag to combat the devastation caused by the emerald ash borer beetle could cost up to $90 million over a 10-year period.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Tell tale trails left by Ash Borer Beetles in a tree branch.</p>

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Tell tale trails left by Ash Borer Beetles in a tree branch.

"I don’t think there is anyone around the table who doesn’t understand the importance of our tree canopy to all Winnipeggers," said Coun. John Orlikow, a member of the protection, community services and parks committee. "To me it’s one of the most serious issues we face in Winnipeg right now."

City forester Martha Barwinsky said the $1.3 million will be directed exclusively to the 101,000 ash trees on public property — parks and boulevards — adding the city doesn’t have the staff or the financial resources to deal with the 256,000 ash trees on private property.

The plan essentially involves removing infected trees and treating the healthiest ones with insecticide.

"That is the most cost-effective means of managing the mortality of our ash trees," Barwinsky told reporters following the meeting.

While the emerald ash borer beetle has spread across North America, city officials only confirmed its presence in Winnipeg on Nov. 30, in the Archwood neighbourhood of St. Boniface — in Happyland Park and on Cote and Gareau streets.

Since then, the beetle has been found on other trees in the same area.

Winnipeg could lose the entirety of its ash tree population over the next 10 years, according to the city. That would wipe out 30 per cent of all boulevard and park trees, which are valued at $437 million.

During the larval stage the ash borer beetle feeds on the tissue below the bark of trees, eventually stopping the flow of nutrients and causing them to die.

The plan requires the city to hire a supervisor to oversee the implementation of the initiatives.

Barwinsky said forestry staff will determine which trees need to be removed and which trees can be treated with insecticide.

The treatments will be administered by the city’s insect control branch, she said, while the removal and disposal of the infected trees will be contracted out to the private sector.

The forestry branch doesn’t have the staff to deal with the ash trees, explaining that their focus is primarily on containing the spread of Dutch elm disease, she said, adding the city doesn’t have a plan to deal with the ash trees on private property and isn’t certain what impact leaving those trees untreated will have on the trees on public land.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca