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Crews work to remove a tree from power lines following a severe weather event that ripped through the city in late July. The city’s efforts to cleanup are ongoing.

Issue:

The city of Ripon continues working to remove trees following a severe weather event earlier this summer.

The storm highlighted deficiencies in the city’s tree planting efforts over the last decade.

Background:

Severe straight-line winds that the National Weather Services estimates reached 80 mph blew through Ripon late in the night July 28 and into the morning July 29, downing numerous trees and power lines, as well as causing a city-wide power outage.

The storm caused no injuries or deaths inside Ripon’s city limits, but a Fond du Lac man died outside the city in a storm-related car crash. The storm did cause significant property damage.

Ripon’s Department of Public Works — with the assistance of Alliant Energy, Ripon EMS, police and fire — helped clear streets on July 29. It also received help from Green Lake County.

Last month, the Ripon Common Council approved an emergency disaster declaration by Mayor Ted Grant, which enables the city to apply for state funds, and a resolution authorizing application for a DNR Urban Forestry Grant to assist with storm recovery.

In addition, the Common Council also approved hiring Treeo’s Services of Menasha to remove about 140-storm damaged trees.

City Administrator Adam Sonntag explained that those trees are on city-owned parks and boulevards.

Status:

Since the beginning of September, Treeo’s Services has been working to remove those trees.

Sonntag said the “problem trees,” which posed a safety risk, were removed first and the company continues working down a prioritized list.

“It’s a work in progress yet, but they’re doing a really nice job,” he said.

Once all the trees are down, Bucklin’s Tree Service will begin grinding them into wood chips, Sonntag noted.

He said the city is still waiting to hear back from the DNR regarding the $50,000 Urban Forestry Grant, but is finalizing its application to the Wisconsin Disaster Fund.

The city is working with Fond du Lac County Emergency Management to apply for financial support from the Wisconsin Disaster Fund to help cover the costs associated with the storm.

So far, Sonntag said the city’s total damage assessment for the storm is $204,049.72. Those funds are broken down into three categories: Debris clearance, protective measures as well as roads and bridges.

“We’ll get everything submitted by the end of the week to Fond du Lac County for the Wisconsin Disaster Fund,” Sonntag said, noting cleanup is anticipated to be complete by the end of October.

What’s next?

Although the city doesn’t have any plans to plant new trees in 2021, Sonntag said the storm highlighted the need to be more proactive in tree planting efforts.

He noted that many of the city’s trees were planted in the 1980s and are dying as they have been impacted by emerald ash borers (EAB). EABs eat through trees’ water and nutrient-conducting tissues.

To assist in tree replacement, Sonntag said the city plans to apply for a second Urban Forestry Grant, which will include planting 25 new trees.

The city will conduct an inventory of its trees, create a management plan, remove EAB-damaged and hazard trees, as well as plant a diverse assortment of replacement trees, Sonntag noted. That process will take multiple years to complete.

“That’s where we need to be because then, when you’re responding to a storm, if you have an inventory, you can identify things much easier. Instead of looking at that old tree that may fall down, because of the storm, you cut it down before it dies,” Sonntag said. “... Planting is something we really need to get back to.”

Is there an issue you want us to update?

If you’re wondering about something that was in the news but doesn’t have a resolution, send your idea to:

Email: news@riponpress.com

Phone: 920-748-3017

Mail: 303 Watson St., PO Box 262, Ripon, WI 54971

Written By

Joe Schulz served as the reporter of the Green Laker in 2019 and 2020, before being hired as a reporter for the Commonwealth in October 2020. He is from Oshkosh and graduated from UW-Oshkosh in December with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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