PORT TOWNSEND — About two dozen people gathered along state Highway 20 on Monday, protesting the aerial spraying of glyphosate, a chemical used in herbicide.
Several of the activists dressed in costumes including a hazmat suit and raised signs to passing cars just south of Anderson Lake Road as they anticipated a helicopter Pope Resources confirmed was planned for the day to be used in spraying.
Details weren’t immediately available Monday evening on whether the helicopter application of herbicide took place Monday.
The group, a combination of the Jefferson County and Kitsap County environmental coalitions, is concerned the chemicals are getting into the watershed, namely City Lake — the source of drinking water for Port Townsend residents — and Discovery Bay.
“It’s absolutely unnecessary, but they are unwilling to listen to other possibilities and solutions,” said Wendi Wrinkle of Port Ludlow, who served as a Jefferson County commissioner from 2003-04 and was the first woman elected to the board.
Adrian Miller, the vice president for corporate affairs and administration for Pope Resources, said the company uses a variety of tools to ensure the chemicals do not get into the water.
One is the aerial spray, and another is applied with an individual who wears a backpack for more direct applications.
“The first part of applying herbicides is applying where they’re intended to be,” he said. “It’s the law, and it’s not helpful to us to allow chemicals to get into any water course.”
Pope Resources has permits issued by the state Department of Agriculture on land it manages through the Department of Natural Resources. They are for what Miller called a “narrow window” with a focus on weather and wind conditions at each site.
“There’s a reason we’re applying in August and not December,” Miller said. “The chance of precipitation immediately after application would be extremely low.”
Activists point to recent events, such as last summer’s disappearance of birds and insects, particularly near Eaglemount Farm, and suggest illegal chemical drift is occurring.
Ellen O’Shea, the head farmer at Eaglemount Farm, said thousands of her bees disappeared last year. Since then, she’s asked several of her neighbors to install testable cards on their property so they can collect potential evidence.
O’Shea said Monday evening that Pope’s planned spraying did take place that day.
“One year ago, we were in the same situation,” said Pam Keeley, a member of the Kitsap County Environmental Coalition. “We’ve put in over a year’s worth of work and our organization has grown to more than 900 members.”
They’ve kept a close watch over how similar jurisdictions have handled the spraying.
Kitsap County commissioners passed a resolution a few months ago to ban the use of glyphosate, stopping the North Kitsap School District from using it, Keeley said.
That also meant Kitsap County public works has discontinued using it for maintaining county roads and properties, she said.
The Bainbridge Island City Council recently passed a resolution to support an outright ban of aerial spraying, Keeley added.
O’Shea, who is part of the Jefferson County Environmental Coalition, said similar efforts are underway on the west side of Hood Canal. But she said she’s running into a roadblock.
“They won’t negotiate with us and give us the same deal,” O’Shea said of Pope Resources.
Miller said the notion that the company works through negotiations or special deals with organizations is false.
“We did have one neighbor who made an offer to us several years ago [at Anderson Lake],” he said. “He was concerned about aerial application and proactively offered to cover the cost between the two.
“We looked at that in terms of time and effort, and we did take that offer and split the difference with him [for backpack application].”
Keeley called it a “double standard.”
“It shows they have the capability to stop it in one place and go hog wild in other places,” she said.
Monday’s protest was located at the base of an access road to a timber area owned by Pope Resources that recently had been harvested. O’Shea said they were in the highway right-of-way within 60 feet of the centerline.
Lissy Andrews of Port Townsend stood on one end of a sign held on the other end by a Seattle woman who identified herself as Hogan.
“I’m really [upset] about the potential for our water to be poisoned and the killing of all the pollinators,” Andrews said. “They can do it differently; it will just cost them more money.”
Wrinkle said people in the county have been fighting the spraying for nearly 50 years.
“It started in the late 1970s, and we’ve mounted this battle since the early ’80s,” she said.
“I’ve been a community activist for 15, almost 20 years and was a formidable adversary of Pope Resources. I was a neighbor of theirs, and they have historically not been a good neighbor.”
Keeley said the Kitsap organization discovered a document through a public records request last year that showed the state Department of Natural Resources suggest to Pope Resources that they should subdivide a 331-acre parcel on a spraying application because anything larger than 240 acres would automatically trigger a State Environmental Policy Act review.
Miller said that’s misleading because it falsely suggests Pope Resources is attempting to wiggle itself around environmental policy.
“The issue was one of labeling,” he said. “The Department of Natural Resources’ request was not to subdivide but to label so they were two separate units.
“It was already subdivided when we applied.”
He added the Kitsap County Environmental Coalition dropped an appeal of the application.
“They were provided with a discovery request from the DNR asking to provide evidence to substantiate their claim, and they chose not to,” he said.
“It’s a complicated narrative, but I think anyone who has actually looked at the correspondence would arrive at a similar conclusion.”
Miller said Pope Resources uses the herbicide after the company harvests timber in order to help the seedlings they are legally required to plant to survive. The company also uses it to help control invasive and noxious weeds.
“In most cases, we only apply herbicide once in an area,” he said. “Our intent isn’t to get rid of all competing vegetation but to help the seedlings survive and thrive in that first stage of regeneration.”
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].