Solution to Problem Leads to Other Worries in Presidio

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

PRESIDIO--What do you do when you find a solution that ends up turning into an even bigger problem?  Folks in Presidio found out the hard way, when their attempt to control one thing, got way out of hand.

The original problem started with an over population of salt cedar trees along the Rio Grande River.  Faced with trying to find a solution, officials never dreamed the tool they were using to fight them, would go after something else.

"Basically three different ways to get rid of salt cedar, mechanical means, chemical means or biological means," Presidio City Administrator, Brad Newton, said.

Planting salt cedars was a project of the U.S. Department of Interior back in the 1930's to provide erosion control along the Rio Grande border.  But apparently, someone wasn't thinking too far ahead of the initial plan.

According to Newton, "They didn't bring anything that would limit the trees expansion, so (the trees) pretty much took over the riverbanks in all the western rivers in the United States.

The salt cedars have created a bottleneck along Alamito Creek, which affects the levy system. Clearing them out would solve that and one other problem too.

"Of course, there's a Homeland Security aspect of it too.  People could cross the river and hide in those salt cedars and go undetected by border patrol," Newton said.

The federal government went with the biological approach, bringing to the area a beetle with an appetite for these and other trees, which according to Newton, brings us to problem number two, "The bugs have been very, very successful.  However, they have migrated over to the athel tree, that's sort of a shade tree of this part of the country.  They have them in everybody's yards.  If the trees die, people are worried the limbs will break off and fall on their house and their property, or it's a fire hazard."

Newton says residents could get rid of the bugs themselves, it would just take repeated applications.  According to scientists, as the food supply dies out, the beetle population will too.  Right now, that's little consolation for worried Presidio residents, who are seeing less trees all over.

"I think it's beyond the fear factor for the residents.  The concern is, if the bugs kill the trees, how do we get rid of the massive trunks that they have? " Newton said.

Unfortunately, there's little the city can do to help or keep the problem from getting worse.  Newton says it's pretty much between the property owner and the USDA.  Some have contacted the federal government asking for help to either get rid of the dead trees or help save them.