COOS BAY — The Sudden Oak Death Task Force will once again be appealing for funds during Oregon’s February legislative session, where they will ask for an additional $1 million to eradicate NA-1 and EU-1 strains of the sudden oak death pathogen.

After submitting plans to eradicate sudden oak death to the state, asking for $1.7 million in 2017, the state returned to the task force offering $700,000. That $1.7 million dollars is what the task force requires yearly, so throughout 2018 they will be asking the state for $2.7 million.

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Sudden Oak Death is devastating...and it's on the move

A dead tan oak, littered with holes likely from a woodpecker, stands among other trees along Alder Ridge Road outside of Brookings last July. The tree was killed by Phytophthora ramorum, commonly known as sudden oak death, in an area that is fully infested with the devastating plant disease.

The plan was designed to hopefully eradicate sudden oak death by 2019 provided the task force gets the funding it needs.

“This is probably the scariest thing we’ve seen as far as a pathogen effecting our economy,” Oregon State Rep. David Brock Smith said.

The scientific name of the disease is phytophthora ramorum. he NA-1 strain has been present in Curry County since 2001. In 2015 a new strain of the disease was recognized in Curry County known as the EU-1.

Phytophthora ramorum’s NA-1 strain infects tan oaks, which is where the name sudden oak death comes from. The EU-1 strain also infects tan oaks but can infect conifers like the Douglas fir. The Douglas fir is not only Oregon’s state tree, but a very important product to Oregon’s timber industry.

“The task force has said clearly that we want to eradicate the EU-1 strain and contain the NA-1 strain,” Association of Oregon Counties County Solutions Facilitator Mark Labhart said.  

Since the first case of EU-1 was noticed in 2015, the number of known infected trees has gone up at an alarming rate. According to state representative David Brock Smith one case was found in 2015, 22 cases were found in 2016, and 123 were found as of October 2017.

“The new strain which has morphed into what’s call EU-1 effects conifers species. It has killed conifer species in Europe and if it starts expanding its range and starts effecting conifer species it could cause a significant economic drain on Curry County and eventually Coos County,” Labhart said.

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Sudden Oak Death is devastating...and it's on the move

Randy Wiese, a forester with the Oregon Dept. of Forestry, holds a leaf with a darkened line along the center, an indicator to an infestation of Phytophthora ramorum, commonly known as sudden oak death.

If the EU-1 pathogen continues to spread, it could harm the shipping industry as well as logging since much of the timber products that come from in and around Coos Bay ship from the Port of Coos Bay.

Starting earlier this month, the Sudden Oak Death Task Force began an economic impact analysis to show the legislature how economically devastating sudden oak death may be if it’s not controlled and eradicated in a timely manner.

“We’re asking contractors to update the economic analysis that was originally done about five -or- six years ago that discussed the economic impact to Curry County and the state of Oregon. Because of the slow growth towards north towards Coos County and out to the east we need to get more factual information on what the economic impact is,” Labahrt said. 

Smith said a case of the EU-1 was found as far north as the Rogue River. Curry County is far from being completely quarantined, but there are some quarantine spots where high concentrations of sudden oak death have been found.

“There are certain products that now can’t be shipped out of Curry County. It’s mostly Nursery stock like rhododendron, which can also be infected with sudden oak death,” Labhart said.

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Sudden Oak Death is devastating...and it's on the move

Since the pathogen commonly known as sudden oak death was originally detected in southern Curry County in 2001, the quarantine area has expanded exponentially - from nine square miles to 515 - nearly 30 percent of Curry County.

Smith worked with Senator Jeff Merkley to create the Sudden Oak Death Task Force last year. Merkley is working in congress to get federal funding to combat this issue.

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