The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Diking commissioners address Islanders' concerns about spray


August 3, 2017

Rick Nelson

Dead grass and blackberry vines are some of the vegetation along Puget Island roads that were sprayed with herbicide for dike maintenance.

Commissioners from Consolidated Diking District No. 1 visited the Wahkiakum County Board of Commissioners Tuesday to discuss their vegetation management program.

Two weeks ago, Puget Island residents told the county board someone had sprayed herbicide along dike roads, killing brush and blackberries, and often, they added, the applicators had sprayed high into trees and well into private property.

County Public Works Director Chuck Beyer on that day identified the diking district as the applicator, and county commissioners said they would invite the diking board to a county meeting to discuss the spraying.

Diking Commissioner Philip Vik, accompanied by fellow Commissioner Tony Aegerter, on Tuesday explained that it has been a responsibility of the diking commission, since it was formed about 100 years ago, to keep the slopes of dikes free of brush and trees. Water can follow roots into the dike and weaken it, he said; the slopes of the dikes need to be clear so that people can inspect them and see what's going on. The preferred cover is healthy grass.

Most property deeds for property along the dikes give the district a 50-foot right-of-way for maintenance activities, Vik said.

The district this year hired a licensed spray contractor from Kelso, he said. The contractor was instructed to spray blackberries and woody brush as far as 20 feet off the roadway, to not spray grass and landscaped areas unless they weren't maintained, and to observe the county's list of properties whose owners don't want their roadsides sprayed. The contractor used an herbicide called Garlon.

"I drove around and I didn't see any violations," Vik said. "What's happened is that property owners don't always maintain their roadsides."

Little Island resident Dick McDonald expressed many of the concerns that had been raised.

"My objection is to the whole policy," he said.

He explained that his property is on the county no-spray list, and he lets his blackberries grow; he had hoped to pick 50 lbs. of berries this year, but the spraying will diminish the harvest. The contractor also sprayed walnut trees, and McDonald is concerned about the long term effect of the herbicide on the nuts and the blackberries.

He added that he doesn't understand the US Army Corps of Engineer's policy requiring what he called "naked dikes," for the Corps lost a suit in federal court brought by parties objecting to post Hurricane Katrina mandates that trees and brush be cleared off dikes included in Corps management programs.

County commission Chair Blair Brady had suggestions for both Island residents and the diking district.

"We're trying to look at ways it can be done in a friendlier manner," Brady said. "You (diking commissioners) could notify people; put an ad in the paper.

"You could periodically check with county weed control to be on the no-spray list," he said, speaking to Island residents, "and as long as you're within their rules, you'll be okay."

For further concerns, he suggested people visit diking commission meetings, which are held on the second Friday of each month, 6 p.m., in the Puget Island Fire Hall.


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