SANDPOINT — Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper officials are putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to keeping herbicides out of local waters.
According to executive director Shannon Williamson, the organization is offering the city $10,000 from community donations to help take the sting out of costs associated with non-herbicide treatments for a Eurasian Watermilfoil infestation.
“This is really the community’s donation,” Williamson said, later adding, “We’re hopeful that we can work with the city to put together a long-term management plan that doesn’t involve herbicides.”
Waterkeeper officials are offering the management plan and donation to the city as an alternative to an herbicide treatment proposed by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. The plan uses a combination of diver dredging, the manual removal of invasive species, and bottom barriers, large black tarps that block the plants from sunlight and eventually kill them. Williamson said that without volunteers, the management plan will cost around $53,300. Volunteer labor will likely lower that number to $40,140.
The promise of an initial $10,000 should soften that financial blow somewhat. In addition, the group is aiming to acquire another $8,000 grant and will undertake fundraising measures to help as much as possible.
Nevertheless, the decision will likely be a tough one for City Council members when they examine the issue at their regular meeting this Wednesday. Although Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper is offering financial assistance, the Idaho State Department of Agriculture will apply herbicides at no cost.
“I feel the council members have been very interested in researching all the different options out there,” Williamson said.
The issue boils down to a disagreement between Waterkeepers and the state department over whether or not herbicides are safe for the environment and humans.
Williamson said studies have linked triclopyr, the principle chemical in the herbicides, to several health conditions. In high concentrations, it causes eye and skin irritation in humans. Tests have shown kidney damage in rats and dogs, reproductive problems in rabbits and rats, inhibited neurological activity and tumors in animal subjects.
On the other hand, state officials say the low and diluted chemical dosages needed to kill off invasive species shouldn’t have an effect on anyone using the lake. Neither should it impact the wildlife or ecosystem. Triclopyr has difficulty permeating human skin, and in the case of ingestion, usually declines to undetectable levels within 48 hours. The herbicide residue is typically dissipated from water in one to two weeks.
Council members aim to make a decision one way or another 5:30 p.m. this Wednesday at City Hall.