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Group wants weevils used to battle milfoil

SANDPOINT – A North Idaho water quality watchdog group has filed a petition for judicial review seeking to force the Idaho State Department of Agriculture to include biological elements in efforts to eradicate Eurasian milfoil.

Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper filed the petition Tuesday in 1st District Court.

The group wants to revise Idaho’s noxious weed rules that prohibit biological control so weevils can be used to control milfoil that has invaded the Pend Oreille watershed. The state agency prefers using herbicides, diver dredging and bottom barriers.

“We can’t afford to sit back any longer and wait passively for the changes that need to occur to emerge on their own,” Shannon Williamson, executive director of the nonprofit, said in a statement. “We need to be proactive, advocate for what we know is a viable solution to aquatic weed management and make biological control a reality for Lake Pend Oreille.”

Milfoil usually grows in water less than 20 feet deep and can eventually reach the surface, forming a dense layer that can entangle swimmers and hinder boats. Idaho and other states have spent millions trying to eradicate it.

The Agriculture Department last year rejected a Waterkeeper research project that involved collecting weevils on native milfoil, growing them in aquariums and then releasing them into the water to expand the weevils population. However, that plan was blocked because state law prohibits transporting viable plant fragments unless they are going to be destroyed.

Waterkeeper officials said they filed the petition after repeated requests to the state to revise the rule.