Agencies planning boost of weed control
March 24, 2022
Local agencies are planning to boost efforts to control noxious weeds and invasive plants in Wahkiakum County.
A variety of agencies make control efforts, including diking districts, the Wahkiakum Conservation District, the Wahkiakum County Noxious Weed Control Board and the county road department.
However, at a workshop with agency representatives and the county board of commissioners, all agreed they would like to see the county's noxious weed program take on a larger role.
Conservation district Manager Darren Haupt said his group would like to see a year-round program that would compliment their efforts. He suggested the county's noxious weed program, which is now limited in scope and budget, could expand activities and include work such as spraying roadsides, surveying weed populations, working for other agencies, and working with land owners.
Control of knotweed is one project that could benefit from the county's program, Haupt said. Knotweed is so difficult to control, he explained, and it will return to areas that have been cleared. His agency, he added, is involved in knotweed projects in the Elochoman and Skamokawa valleys.
Funding is becoming available to support weed control, Haupt said. For example, the US Department of Agriculture is expanding its funding, and Washington State Department of Transportation is short staffed and willing to work with local agencies for weed control along highways.
Tony Aegerter of Consolidated Diking District No. 1 on Puget Island supported the proposal, adding that he'd like to see efforts to educate landowners about weeds and weed control and get them to be part of the effort.
County commissioners were receptive to the proposal.
"I think there would probably be interest in the work you could be doing," said commission Chair Gene Strong.
It would be important to bring the varied agencies together, he added. If there's interest, the commission would need to know potential costs and funding sources.
The county once had a vibrant weed control program, said Commissioner Dan Cothren, but after changes in staff, program efforts diminished.
"You got to stay on top of it," Cothren said. "I think we're dedicated to staying on top of this thing. Yeah, let's start researching this thing.
"My question," said Commissioner Lee Tischer, "is, ‘is there enough Andy (Lea) to go around?'"
Lea, the county's weed program supervisor, works part time in the position and operates a separate business of his own in the woods industry. His efforts are limited by budget and opportunity, and in the summer time, he is completely occupied. However, he said he thinks it's possible to expand the county program's scope.
"I can't speak for my board, but I think there's some support for increasing our effort."
The weed board, he added, meets quarterly, and its next meeting would be in July; perhaps they could have a special meeting to discuss possible expanded programs.
Lea suggested the groups could meet during the summer and continue discussions. Commissioners Cothren and Tischer suggested meeting earlier, toward the end of May.
"Let's keep connecting," Strong said, "so that when we come into budget time, we know where we're going"