State transportation officials are making plans to remove thousands of trees in western Iowa that were killed by floodwaters this summer. Mark Masteller is Chief Landscape Architect for the Iowa Department of Transportation. He says crews have marked 5,500 trees to be removed.

That number could grow in years to come. “We think maybe there will be some that may die later on and aren’t showing symptoms yet,” Masteller said. Most of the trees are located along the Interstate 29 corridor between Highway 30 and Council Bluffs. Trees normally survive a flood, but this was no “normal” flood.

“Normally during a flood, the river is back in its banks within a few days or a week, week-and-a-half. This one went on for three-and-a-half months,” Masteller said. “Those plants just can’t thrive or survive without oxygen for that long.” The cost to remove the trees is estimated at $150,000. There’s a bit of good news. Most of the trees are unwanted volunteers and some posed a safety hazard.

“These aren’t all trees that the D.O.T. has planted,” Masteller said. “A lot of these are growing up in the fence row. They’ve been planted by birds and by nature over the years. So, they’re not necessarily desirable trees and they’re not always in the place that we would like them.”

The D.O.T. will put the tree removal project up for private bid in March. Masteller said new trees will eventually be planted.