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Some Doomed Andersonville Trees Could Be Saved After Ald. Harry Osterman Promises To Lobby State EPA

Joined by city and forestry officials, Osterman took neighbors on a tree walk to explain why some trees are in danger of being cut down.

Ald. Harry Osterman (left) and neighbors listen to a water management representative describe the excavation process for replacing water lines.
Jonathan Ballew/Block Club Chicago
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ANDERSONVILLE — After neighbors spoke up for huge trees doomed to be cut down in Andersonville, Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said he’s working to save some of them.

Osterman said he’ll go to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, asking for a reprieve for trees slated to be felled so century-old water lines underneath them can be replaced.

He’ll eventually need a variance from the Illinois Pollution Control Board to skirt environmental laws that determine how far apart water and sewer lines must be in order to avoid contamination.

“I want to exhaust the option of a variance to the umpteenth degree,” he said.

RELATED: 75-Year-Old Trees In Andersonville Could Come Down As City Replaces Water Lines — And Neighbors Aren’t Happy

On Monday, Osterman met with neighbors on Summerdale, Berwyn and Farragut Avenue. Accompanied by representatives from the city water and forestry departments, Osterman walked neighbors to every tree and had city workers explain the construction process and how each tree would be affected.

Trees that are considered Tier 1 (see list below) are scheduled to be removed by the Department of Forestry unless a variance is granted. In most cases, the Tier 1 trees have large root systems that are impossible for city crews to dig around.

But trees that are considered Tier 2 have a better chance of being saved. For Tier 2 trees, crews may be able to dig around the root systems. Those trees will be monitored by forestry officials following the project in order to make sure they stay healthy and won’t pose a risk of falling.

There are also ash trees that will be cut down because of the dreaded Emerald Ash Borer, which will cause the tree to die. In cases of ash trees, the city’s hands are tied.

Although neighbor Julie Wlach is not happy about the removal of trees, she said she has faith that Osterman is pursuing every available option.

“He’s always helpful,” she said. “I believe he will continue to listen.”

Wlach believes the environmental benefits from the trees far outweigh the risk of water contamination. She has been advocating for the city to pursue all available options — including a variance.

Osterman said the tree walk was important because it instills trust from neighbors about the project. He recognized that cutting down trees would anger some, but he hoped an open line of communication would help make the difficult decision easier to understand.

“I’m a big believer in open and transparent government,” he said. “I don’t want people to feel like all my decisions are made down at City Hall. It’s important to be out on the street, talking with them.”

Osterman reiterated that the variance option would be exhausted over the next week. But if the variance isn’t granted, the Tier 1 trees will have to come down.

Here are the impacted trees:

Tier 1 Trees

1410 W. Berwyn Ave.

1414 W. Summerdale Ave.

1420 W. Summerdale Ave.

1426 W. Summerdale Ave.

1436 W. Farragut Ave.

1438 W. Farragut Ave.

1470 W. Farragut Ave.

Tier 2 Trees

1416 W. Berwyn Ave.

1406 W. Summerdale Ave.

1438 W. Summerdale Ave.

1448 W. Farragut Ave.

Ash Trees

1428 W. Farragut Ave.

1460 W. Farragut Ave.

1410 W. Farragut Ave. (two trees)