NOAA scientist to review Clallam County herbicide plan

PORT ANGELES — An ecotoxicologist will review a Clallam County proposal to deploy herbicides in the battle against noxious weeds.

Commissioner Mark Ozias announced Tuesday that a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientist will conduct an independent review of a proposal to allow spot spraying of herbicides such as Roundup along county roads.

“And she’ll be able to do that in time for the public hearing in January,” Ozias reported at the business meeting.

“So, really good news.”

Commissioners then called a Jan. 10 public hearing on a proposed ordinance to add an “integrated weed management” chapter to the county code.

The ordinance would allow herbicides as one of several ways to combat noxious weeds in road right of ways, parks, gravel pits and other county property.

The Jan. 10 hearing will begin at 10:30 a.m. in commissioners’ chambers ( Room 160) at the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St., Port Angeles.

State law requires Clallam County to control invasive plants such as tansy ragwort, poison hemlock, butterfly bush, knotweed and scotch broom in its 1,050-acre-road right of way.

Unlike most jurisdictions, Clallam County does not permit herbicide spraying on roadsides.

Commissioners heard nearly three hours of public testimony on the ordinance and draft roadside weed management plan in a public hearing Oct. 18.

About two-thirds of the speakers supported the ordinance.

Others were vehemently opposed to herbicide spraying, citing health and environmental concerns.

Darlene Schanfald of the Olympic Environmental Council submitted a petition with about 100 signatures from those who were opposed to herbicide spraying.

Schanfald, who described the proposal as a “poison plan,” suggested that commissioners seek a third-party review before voting on the ordinance.

Ozias reported in a Nov. 21 work session that the environmental groups that Schanfald had suggested for the independent review had not responded to his inquiries.

Cathy Lucero, Clallam County noxious weed coordinator and architect of the roadside weed management plan, suggested a review from NOAA or the state Department of Ecology.

“Either route would have been good with me,” Lucero said in a Wednesday interview.

NOAA scientist Bonnie Shorin, who has worked on Lake Ozette sockeye salmon recovery, agreed to review the weed management plan — and the types of low-toxicity herbicides that could be used in the field — at no cost to the county, Lucero said.

The draft Integrated Roadside Weed Management Plan has already been vetted by more than 40 experts from local, state, federal and tribal agencies; environmental groups; and foresters.

“My idea was to get as many comments, or suggestions, as possible,” Lucero said.

Lucero added that the weed management plan would “never be perfect” and would “change every year” as the county works to fulfill its legal mandate.

“As conditions change, the work is going to change,” Lucero said.

“As we get the weeds out, we’re going to get the native plants back in.”

Commissioners decided Nov. 21 to hold the public hearing in January to avoid the holidays and to allow Commissioner-elect Randy Johnson to weigh in on the issue.

Johnson, who has been attending commissioner meetings and work sessions, will replace soon-to-be-state Rep. Mike Chapman at the end of this year.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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