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Sandpoint balks at herbicides near beaches

Sat., May 19, 2012, 2:56 p.m.

SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) — City officials in Sandpoint in northern Idaho are declining an offer from the Idaho Department of Agriculture to apply herbicide in Lake Pend Oreille near city beaches to eradicate Eurasian milfoil.

The Bonner County Daily Bee reports that city council members decided that, even though the plan wouldn’t cost the city, putting herbicides in the water near where people swim is opposed by many residents.

The newspaper reports the City Council instead voted last week to approve a management plan suggested by the Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper group that involves manually removing weeds and using large black tarps that block sunlight.

“I think this is a chance for us to be self-reliant and take responsibility for the health of the lake,” Councilman Shelby Rognstad said.

The cost of the non-herbicide plan is between $40,000 and $53,000, depending on how many volunteers sign up. The Waterkeeper group is offering at least $10,000, and another $8,000 might become available through a grant.

“I feel that this is really your opportunity to take control about how aquatic invasive weeds are managed within the city’s jurisdiction using non-toxic, sustainable approaches rather than herbicides, which is the only option that the state is willing to support at this time,” said Waterkeeper Executive Director Shannon Williamson in public comments.

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.

Tom Woolf, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture, said the Waterkeeper plan could be effective at controlling milfoil in the Wind Bag Marina and Sand Creek areas.

“It will take time, it will take persistence and it will take money,” he said.


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