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How will Buda move a 260-year-old, 425-ton tree?

Most people have experienced the headache of moving. But how exactly does one go about moving something that’s 850,000 pounds, roughly as heavy as 200 Chevy Suburbans?

That’s the predicament the city of Buda found itself in when it realized a 260-year old heritage oak tree stood in the way of its planned site for a new municipal complex at Main and East Loop streets.

After hearing outcry from the community and upon the recommendation of the Historic Preservation Commission, the council decided to spend $ 232,167 to move the tree elsewhere on the site, about 600 feet away. This week, that moving process is expected to begin.

Tom Cox, CEO and founder of Environmental Design, Inc., the Tomball-based company handling the tree relocation for Buda, explained how it will work.

How do you go about pulling a tree up from the ground?

Slowly and carefully. The process in Buda will begin this week and likely continue into the next day.

First, crews excavate a large area around the tree and create what is called a “root ball” by binding the tree’s root system in burlap, wire and plastic. Then, they insert a lifting platform by hydraulically pushing steel pipes underneath to create a grille. Two steel “super beams” are attached to both ends of the grille and secured with large chains.

“We developed the pipe-lifting platform and that allowed us to move trees that were in the million-pound range,” Cox said. “Over time, we have moved the biggest trees that have ever been moved on the planet.”

Environmental Design, which uses its own patented technique, has installed trees at the 9/11 Memorial site at Ground Zero and is working on moving tropical trees at the Panama Canal expansion site, Cox said. It has also done many projects in Austin, including on much of Rainey Street and the University of Texas campus.

How does the tree get from Point A to Point B?

A series of long, sausage-shape bags, which are made of the same rubber as a car tire, are placed underneath the pipes. Between six and eight of these 400-pound, inflatable bags are used.

The pipe grille is then attached by chains to an excavator machine that slowly pulls the tree along. As it rolls, the crew uses smaller backhoe trucks to “leap frog” the bags, taking out the bag in the back after it’s been rolled over and sticking it in the front.

Crews have already dug a shallow trench at the new site for the tree. Using more bags, the tree is positioned in its destination spot and the bags are deflated and removed. And as Cox says, “Happily ever after goes the tree!”

What are the chances the tree survives?

Very good. The survival rate of trees the company has moved is 98 percent, Cox said. It takes a couple years for a tree to get fully established in its new environment. The trees have to be monitored for their moisture level and given fertilization to make sure they thrive.

As with any with any pruning, transplanted trees are often healthier than other old trees because their roots have had a chance to regenerate and are shorter, meaning there’s less distance for water to have to travel, Cox said.

How long has this practice been around, anyway?

Tree relocation is nothing new. People have been uprooting and moving trees for millennia: Records from ancient Egypt show Queen Hatshepsut ordered an expedition to bring myrrh trees back from another kingdom, Punt, for transplant.

In the 1920s, William Randolph Hearst moved giant oak trees to make room for structures on the grounds of his castle in San Simeon.

Similar instances can be cited all the way until the ’70s, when the development of hydraulic techniques increased the capability for movement of larger and heavier trees, Cox said.

Can I go watch the magic happen in Buda?

You can, but don’t expect fireworks. Officials will have a spot for the public to watch from behind a fence, but the two-day process will move at a snail-like pace. You’ve been warned.

Rapid fire round

Oldest tree Environmental Design has ever moved? Bristle cone pines in Colorado that were more than 2,000 years old.

Largest tree the company has ever moved? 1.3 million pounds.

Farthest the company has ever moved a tree? On boat from South China to Dubai.

By the numbers

• 260 years: Age of the tree being moved

• 850,000 pounds: Weight of the tree

• 52 inches: Diameter of the tree

• 40 feet: Diameter of the root ball, the mass of roots and earth being moved

See how it works

A time-lapse video showing Environmental Design’s tree-moving technique is available at http://bit.ly/2jnKXOh

http://www.mystatesman.com/news/local/how-will-buda-move-260-year-old-425-ton-tree/BQf1k9AyEqgZV8bzL0wdNI/

Source: ONTD_Political

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