The Shawnee City Commission voted to defer action on possible removal of red cedar trees until a study could be completed by city staff to determine the best course of action.
Commissioner Linda Agee has been spearheading the campaign to begin red cedar tree eradication around Shawnee Twin Lakes. Through her efforts, Don Turton of Oklahoma State University came to speak to the commission previously. Turton explained that the red cedars do cause a lower stream flow rates for bodies of water.
He added, however, that it would be nearly impossible to determine what effects red cedar removal could have without an area-specific study.
Turton said also that the red cedar trees will continue spreading and will eventually impact the stream flow if steps are not taken.
Agee requested that the item appear on the agenda for discussion, along with a possible action to allot $2,500 toward removal.
Pottawatomie County Commissioner Randy Thomas approached Agee and agreed to assist with efforts by matching $2,500 from county funds. He also found someone who can be contracted to remove the trees for $75 per acre.
However, city staff recommended the commission not undertake the project due to cost.
“Staff is not opposed to this project,” City Manager Brian McDougal said. “We think the project is a valid project to do.”
However, the city budget is limited and McDougal recommended the project wait until more funding was available.
Agee encouraged the commission to move forward with the project to get started on conservation.
“It wouldn’t take a study to figure out how to get rid of 100 acres of red cedars,” Agee said, referencing the plan to partner with the county. “We can do something about this right now, without coming up with a comprehensive plan.”
Commissioner Keith Hall said he was reluctant to vote for any such measure without a
study being performed to determine if there would be an actual benefit to citizens.
“There is no correlation from the study that was by OSU to say that there was a return on investment,” Hall said. “I agree with [Agee] that $2,500 is not much, I just don’t think it’s going to save us $2,500 worth of water this next year.”
“It’s not proven – there’s not a proven amount of water that it’s going to put in the lake,” he said.
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Mayor Wes Mainord requested that the city staff come up with a plan to determine the best 100 acres of red cedars to remove.
Commissioners John Winterringer and Pam Stephens were also reluctant to vote for such a measure.
“We’re giving up a lot right here,” Winterringer said in reference to cuts to next year’s budget.
“I can’t justify spending the money without something more concrete – and a plan,” Stephens said.
Hall reiterated that he would like to see “hard facts” on how this could benefit citizens, including how many gallons of water could be saved with removal of the trees.
Agee moved to direct city staff to develop a plan for red cedar removal within 90 days, and moved to defer any decision regarding funding until after the plan was presented to commission.
The motion passed 5-2, with Agee, Mainord, Hall, and Commissioners Steve Smith and James Harrod voting for it, and Winterringer and Stephens voting against.