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Eye On Boise

‘Swimmers have drowned in it, boaters have lost boats’

Idaho water bodies are being taken over by a nightmarish monster, according to state Agriculture Director Pat Takasugi – as Eurasian water milfoil multiplies and its thick mats of plants fill the waters.

“Swimmers have actually drowned in it, boaters have lost boats, and fishermen, obviously you can’t fish in it,” Takasugi told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee this morning. “Fish can’t go in there, and other plants can’t compete with Eurasian water milfoil.”

His illustration was a picture of a tangle of the stuff in Lake Pend Oreille, but it’s not only there – it’s in much of the state, Takasugi said. A hunter recently told him “he was losing his decoys because Eurasian water milfoil was breaking loose and taking his decoys down the river,” Takasugi said. Worst of all, after the stuff is treated at great expense, it’s easy for it to come back. “It only takes a small segment of Eurasian water milfoil, three quarters of an inch long, to repopulate and grow,” he told lawmakers. Treated areas “have not proven to be regeneration-free the next year … So there’s no sure way of killing this thing.”

The noxious weed is even showing up in isolated ponds, Takasugi said, where it’s been spread by birds.

The ag budget request – and the governor’s recommendation – includes a $100,000 boost in general funds next year for noxious weed control, but that’s likely just a start.

Other news in Takasugi’s budget presentation: Field-burning is on the increase statewide. “We’ve found that with the rising cost of fuel, a lot of farmers have chosen to burn stubble,” he said. As a result, the state smoke management program is collecting more in fees than anticipated; the budget includes a request to spend another $72,100 in fees for the program next year.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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