SANDPOINT — Strengthening a decision made last May, council members said thanks but no thanks Wednesday to state-managed herbicide treatments in recreational waters.
Members arrived at the conclusion after much public discussion, which included testimony from individuals both in favor and against the use of herbicides to combat weed infestations.
“I feel its important to continue our momentum in exploring alternative methods (of weed control),” said Councilman Aaron Qualls.
The decision followed an informal request from Thomas Woolf, aquatic program manager for the Idaho Department of Agriculture, for clarification whether or not last year’s decision affected all local recreational waters or simply the areas near Sand Creek and Windbag Marina under discussion at the time.
Council members determined that a new decision would be necessary for other recreational waters — specifically a proposed treatment area stretching from the Long Bridge to Memorial Field.
Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper executive director Shannon Williamson and program director Kelsey Brasseur supported the council decision to oppose herbicide treatments. They reported that the Waterkeeper office receives several calls and comments each week from individuals concerned over herbicide use.
“It’s important to emphasize that the city takes a stand for its people and waters and that it’s not just a sometimes-occurrence,” Williamson said.
Proponents also argued that herbicides might not be entirely effective or even necessary in areas with sparse milfoil infestation. According to Brasseur, contracted company Ace Diving reported that plant life was only about 25 percent weeds in the Windbag treatment area.
“Exposing recreationalists to herbicide residue is a high price to pay for a non-effective treatment,” Brasseur said.
Property owners in the proposed treatment region also attended to express concern over herbicide use. They also pointed out that many individuals used wells which drew from affected waters.
On the other side of the issue, resident and diver Christian Schwab indicated that while he hated chemicals, hand-pulling by divers was not particularly effective in his experience. That was backed by a letter read into the record, which stated that between diving, bottom barrier and herbicide treatments on private property, it was herbicides that were most effective.