By Harvey Rice
Galveston, TX (April 27, 2009)- Hurricane Ike may have killed an estimated 31,000 Galveston trees on private property and an additional 11,000 on the city right of way that will probably have to be removed for safety reasons, the Texas Forest Service said. The Forest Service estimated the cost of removing the trees from the public right of way at $706,000, based on Federal Emergency Management Agency estimations.
Michael Merritt, Forest Service Bayou Region urban forestry coordinator, said most of the trees are either dead or dying and will probably need to be removed. “As they start to deteriorate and decay, they can cause some real safety problems,” Merritt said.
The estimates are based on a two-day survey conducted last week by the Forest Service, the Galveston County AgriLife Extension Service, and master gardener volunteers. The team surveyed 9.5 miles of trees, recording those with 50 percent or less of canopy. Merritt said those trees were likely dead or dying.
Although the study was not designed to estimate the number of dead private trees, surveyors also noted every dead tree visible on private property, Merritt said. He said the number of dead trees on private property could be higher.
“Without doing a real survey on private trees, I don’t want to hazard a guess as to whether it’s more or less” than the estimate of 31,000, he said.
With city revenue in tatters after Ike struck on Sept. 13, Galveston asked FEMA to extend the deadline that fell at midnight Sunday for 100 percent federal payment for debris removal, Galveston Senior Project Manager Justin Bowling said. FEMA spokesman Dan Martinez said the request is being processed and a decision is expected soon. U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn sent a letter last week to President Barack Obama asking him to have FEMA extend the deadline for Texas.
Merritt said that removing the trees was an emotional issue for many residents who urged that the trees be given longer to recover. “I understand that, and with some trees it might be possible to save them,” he said. “But with some it’s not possible, and it’s a public safety issue.” Roger Johnson, city parks superintendent, said the city would try to save as many trees as possible. “My advice is to wait as long as possible and not cut down trees,” Johnson said.
He said he would cut no trees until consulting with the Forest Service.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s estimated cost for tree removal (Source: Texas Forest Service):
1-6 inch trunk: FEMA won’t pay to remove
7-12 inch: $40
13-24 inch: $120
25-36 inch: $195
37-48 inch: $250
49 inch plus: $325
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