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DOT cuts highway spray

Washington State Department of Transportation officials are touting their efforts to reduce herbicide use on the sides of the highway stretching the length of Whidbey Island.

The DOT has reduced the amount of herbicide used on Whidbey Island highways over the past three years. The DOT controls roadside weeds to improve driver safety and to protect roads.

Work crews applied 50 pounds of herbicide alongside Highway 20 and Highway 525 on Whidbey Island this year. That is down from 126 pounds in 2004. In 2003, workers applied 281 pounds and, in 2002, workers applied 362 pounds.

“At a community meeting in April of 2004, local residents asked us to continue to reduce our herbicide use on Whidbey Island,” said Dave McCormick, WSDOT assistant regional administrator, in a written statement. “As a result, we changed the way we maintain our roadsides on the island and have significantly reduced our herbicide use.”

Islanders following the DOT’s use of herbicide on the island applaud the state’s efforts, but are keeping a watchful eye to see that more is done.

Mark Wahl, president of Whidbey Island No Spray, said the numbers appear to show the DOT is committed to reducing herbicide use.

The group does have several other concerns about treatment of roadside vegetation.

Wahl said work crews still use chemicals to spray alder and evergreen shoots that appear near the highway. He would rather see workers remove them manually than spray from a truck.

He said group members are also concerned about spraying of guardrails and near critical areas. The chemicals often run off from the roadsides into the critical areas.

Wahl said he’d prefer the DOT to stop spraying altogether an find innovative and alternative means to maintain roadsides.

WINS continues to work with the DOT to come up with alternatives to spraying.

In addition to the reducing herbicide use on Whidbey Island, workers are busy restoring a portion of Highway 525 near Ledgewood Beach Road. Workers planted 2,300 native plants along a two-acre area north of Greenbank Farm. The new plants require minimal maintenance from workers.

“Last year we planted 2,000 native trees and shrubs at another location along SR 525 and it was extremely successful,” said Roadside Maintenance Manager Ray Willard. “Roughly 95 percent of the plants survived. We want to duplicate that again this year.”

To view Whidbey Island’s Integrated Vegetation Management Plan, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/maintenance/mgmt_plans.htm.

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