EDITORIAL: State doesn't need herbicides

Washington State Department of Transportation is battling against the tide of history in its stubborn effort to continue spraying herbicides along state highways.

Forward-thinking counties, including Island County, have stopped spraying poison along their roadways, opting instead for mechanical trimming and mowing. The cost is comparable, it’s better for the environment and, perhaps most importantly from the viewpoint of elected officials, it puts an end to the annual anti-spray caterwauling from the environmental community.

Spray opponents do get carried away at times, claiming a relatively small dose of herbicide spray can cause any number of disastrous and weird medical conditions and environmental tragedies. Regardless, their basic message is sound: It makes no sense to spray poisons along our roadways when cost-effective alternatives are available.

Ironically, the Department of Transportation lends support to the environmentalists’ cause with its newly introduced Whidbey Island Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Plan. This plan would stop

the use of herbicides near wetlands and other environmentally sensitive locations, which amounts to a concession that herbicides are indeed bad for the environment. In that case, don’t cut back, just stop. Island County did it a few years ago and our roads are as solid and safe as ever.

A state spokesman did make one telling point at a recent meeting. He noted that the amount of herbicides used along Whidbey Island’s two state highways is minimal compared to that sprayed on lawns and gardens by Whidbey Island homeowners.

He was right about that. Anyone who thinks the state should stop using herbicides should stop using herbicides themselves. The state should go out and buy some mowing machines, and the rest of us should head to the hardware store to buy a hoe.

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