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State sprays to boost Douglas-firs
by MATTHEW NASH
Between Aug. 27 and Oct. 18, the Department of Natural Resources plans to spray and kill weeds on more than 1,200 acres from Joyce to Brinnon to increase production of its planted Douglas-fir and cedar population.
Tentatively, about 234 acres of state land near Sequim would be sprayed, specifically off Autumn Road in Blyn, Johnson Creek Road in Sequim and Palo Alto Road in Blyn.
Drew Rosanbalm, assistant region manager of the Olympic Region for the Department of Natural Resources, said they’ve planted about 770,000 trees on 1,927 acres in the area and 1.36 million trees across the North Olympic Peninsula over the past year.
However, one Sequim resident, Dr. Don Kanter, opposes any spraying of glyphosate, a generic weed killer, near his home on 27 acres overlooking Sequim Bay.
“I feel a sense of responsibility to give this property to my children and them to my grandchildren in the same condition that I bought it,” Kanter said.
“If I end up with glyphosate in my well, I can’t sell this home in good conscience and I sure don’t want my family drinking the water.”
He is asking that the agency cease spraying in his area so that it can review the chemicals it intends to spray. In a letter to the agency, Kanter said it is “relying on out-of-date safety information concerning glyphosate, which consists of publications issued by an industrial manufacturer, Dow Chemical, in 2004 and 2008.” He goes on to say that the agency is required to review its chemicals used on state lands annually.
Rosanbalm said the Department of Agriculture lists the chemicals permitted for use in spraying and it’s updated annually.
Kanter, a retired pharmaceutical research director, said the agency’s property is about 7,000 feet from
Sequim Bay at 1,700 feet elevation and with the right amount of rainfall the chemicals could go into the water.
He’s asked other adjacent home-owners to sign letters to stop the spraying and to contact their state representatives.
“Ideally I would like (the agency) to delay the application and do an updated safety evaluation on the chemical and find some alternative solutions,” he said.
Hand pulling vs. spraying
Rosanbalm said the department plans to meet with Kanter to discuss his concerns in person before formally replying to him through a letter.
The spraying contract being signed for approval depends on that conversation, he said.
In 2010, the agency sprayed weeds by air but found it too costly, so for the past two years they’ve turned to ground spraying, Rosanbalm said.
With spraying, the agency’s goal is to kill competing vegetation like blackberries and salmonberries.
As for health concerns, Rosanbalm said there isn’t a threat to humans.
“We do post signs to let people know at access points to not enter or pick berries for two weeks,” he said. “That gives them plenty of time.”
Kanter offers alternative solutions to spraying such as hiring students to pull out the bushes manually or bringing in environmentally conscious volunteers.
Cost is the issue, said Rosanbalm.
“We wouldn’t be able to afford it,” he said. “It’s not going to eradicate it either. It will just come back.
“(Spraying) goes into the roots. To come in and hand pull Himalayan blackberry is just about impossible.”
He said the agency’s goal is for the trees to have time to grow and outcompete the bushes, which will come back.
If the agency does spray, Kanter plans to test his property’s water before and after spraying occurs to see if there’s an impact and if he has a case for possible legal action.
In his letter, Kanter asks for a review of the hydrology for the spray site above his property.
Rosanbalm said they maintain a 25-foot buffer from visible water when spraying.
The agency’s contract states workers are to stop spraying if winds exceed 12 mph, the temperature is less than 40 degrees or more than 85 degrees, or rain causes water to run down stems of target plants, or the agency’s representative determines spray conditions unsuitable. They also are to refrain from applying herbicide to the agency’s designated buffer area.
Rosanbalm recommends residents sign up for the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Sensitivity Registry, through which those with issues with weed killer and other chemicals can be notified before spraying occurs.
People must sign up annually, but doing so requires the agency spraying to contact those who register.
The list does not add a buffer or prohibit the spraying agency from spraying.
“We have someone on the West End who is sensitive,” he said. “We just contact her and she goes somewhere for the day.”
Kanter and other adjacent landowners in spray zones were contacted by letter as a courtesy, Rosanbalm said.
To sign up on the sensitivity registry, contact the WSDA Pesticide Compliance at firstname.lastname@example.org, 360-902-2073 or 877-301-4555.