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Watertown tree damage from ice storm not as severe as 1991, 1998 storms

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City Planner Michael A. Lumbis says the obituary list for trees destroyed by the Dec. 21 ice storm could have been much longer.

Mr. Lumbis, the city’s senior planner who oversees the city’s street tree advisory board, said damage from the ice storm could have been much worse and doesn’t come close to the number of trees that died as the result of ice storms that hit the north country in 1991 and 1998.

Since the recent storm hit, Mr. Lumbis has been driving around Watertown so he can complete an inventory of the damage to city-owned trees, although he still must survey trees in Thompson Park and other city parks.

“It’s not as bad as 1991 and 1998,” he said earlier this week.

Compared to several hundred that died in each of the two other ice storms, 29 city-owned trees in city margins — the area between the street and the sidewalk — were either severely damaged or destroyed, he found.

Those trees have been so severely damaged that they will have to be removed this spring, Mr. Lumbis said, adding that he expects that number to increase to about 40 once he gets to view the damage in city parks. He has no idea how many trees on private property were damaged.

It will cost about $7,500 to replace and then plant new trees this spring, Mr. Lumbis said. He found that smaller trees with 12-inch diameters — containing a series of lower limbs — were hit the hardest, not older, larger trees, he said. About half were Ash trees. A good pruning program helped prevent worse damage, he said.

After the 1991 ice storm, the city put together Tree Watertown, the city’s tree advisory board, as a way to improve the city’s tree population. Since 1994, about 6,000 trees have been planted by the group.

Delayed because of last week’s snowstorm, city Department of Public Works Crews plan to start making a citywide sweep next week to pick up remaining debris creating the most dangerous situations. DPW work crews do not want residents to put tree limbs, branches and other debris in the right-of-ways, or street margins, because it would create dangerous situations.

Most of the debris, including in backyards, will be picked up in the spring.

Meanwhile, Sackets Harbor, Alexandria Bay and Cape Vincent ended up with worse damage, officials said.

In Sackets Harbor, six trees planted during the past five years will have to be removed because they were split in half, said Kelly E. Reinhardt, chairwoman of the Sackets Harbor Tree Committee.

“It’s much worse than Watertown,” she said about damage in the village of Sackets Harbor.

Her father, Lonny L. Reinhardt, the village’s Department of Public Works superintendent, said he hopes to have a forester from the state Department of Environmental Conservation come to the village to help decide what to do about other trees.

Mr. Reinhardt said between 30 and 40 percent of the trees in the village sustained some kind of damage, noting the 1 to 1 inches of ice was just too much for trees to take.

On Tuesday, highway officials from Jefferson County, villages and towns met to talk about having ReEnergy Holdings LLC’s Black River biomass facility become involved in using fallen tree limbs and other debris as fuel for ReEnergy Holdings LLC’s Black River biomass facility on Fort Drum.

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