When Kathryn Sprigg was appointed to the Ocean Shores City Council last April, one of her first acts was to take on the issue of the city’s annual roadside spraying for control of weeds that send roots under the edges of asphalt pavement, thus helping break it apart.
Nearly nine months later, on Jan. 27, the council voted unanimously to ban the spraying by the city of herbicides containing glyphosate, which suddenly became controversial last spring in the wake of national news stories of jury awards connecting it with cancer.
For months, she couldn’t round up enough votes to get a proposed ban on the agenda, but said conversations with the public convinced her that a growing number of local citizens wanted it. In September, the council did approve a six-month moratorium on glyphosate spraying while possible alternatives were sought.
At the time, Ocean Shores Public Works Director Nick Bird explained that the city uses both pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides, with glyphosate — which often goes under the brand name “Roundup” — being an ingredient only in the post-emergent product.
“There are a number of alternatives, but we know they’re not as good. What we want to know is how they function in our environment. So, we’ll be looking on some of the options we can work with” for a post-emergent, he said.
Sprigg said she brought the topic up again during discussion of future agenda items at the Jan. 13 council meeting. She said she did not know if she had the votes to get it put on the agenda, but felt the effort should be made, with the moratorium expiring in March. Comments from other council members quickly revealed that the votes were there if the resolution she was proposing simply banned glyphosate and left it to future council action to decide how roadside weed control should be handled going forward. Council members Jon Martin, Steve Ensley and Eric Noble all said they would support that approach.
The council voted 7-0 to put the topic on the Jan. 27 agenda, when it voted 7-0 on in favor of the ban. It went into effect with the signature of Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler.
Sprigg said she was “very glad I was able to get one of the things that was a big part of my engagement with the public accomplished. That’s my job, to represent the people … and this is what more and more people wanted.”
She pointed out that the ban only applies to the city and city contractors spraying anything containing glyphosate on roadsides and other city properties. It does not apply to homeowners and private property, and it will not prevent direct application, not by spraying, by licensed professionals on noxious weeds, such as the local project done last year with scotch broom.
The mayor told The North Coast News, “I believe our next step is to see what other entities are doing … entities larger than us, with more staff” to be able to more deeply research the topic.
“There are ongoing studies and things we can look at,” Dingler said, adding, “ultimately we will need to decide this with council.”
She said of the original topic, roadside weed control, “I don’t know what we’ll do for next spring. We may have to talk about some interim move.” She noted that, during the Great Recession, the city omitted roadside weed control and “it didn’t do a lot of damage,” at least not in the short term.