Friday, July 21, 2006
ConsCom rejects purple loosestrife eradication plan
A state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) plan to use an herbicide on a patch of purple loosestrife at Great Brook Farm State Park brought a split vote at the Conservation Commission's July 13 meeting. In a 3-2-1 decision, the commissioners issued a denial of the application on grounds that the presenters had failed to offer an alternative approach as previously requested.
State proposes Roundup
At Project Manager Anne Monnelly's initial appearance on July 22, she had told the board that the invasive plant was threatening the health of the small pond near the ice cream stand. Her team was recommending that the ubiquitous plant be sprayed with an herbicide like Roundup, while protecting and supplementing what remained of the existing laurel and high bush blueberry, with compatible native species.
It was not the end result that the commission was questioning, but rather the method to be employed. They told her they have consistently opposed the use of herbicides and pesticides on privately owned property because of concern about harmful chemicals getting into wetlands and/or leaching into the groundwater on which Carlisle homeowners' wells depend. They had explained further that for them to approve the use of such chemicals on public land, near a popular wetland resource, would be difficult to rationalize. Monnelly had reluctantly agreed to a continuation of the original hearing to allow her team to consult further with their experts.
No effective alternative seen
At the second session, Monnelly was accompanied by two wetland biology experts from Lycott Environmental Inc., who said they had rechecked the research on loosestrife and had confirmed that alternatives mentioned by the commission had proven less effective, i.e.:
• Burning was not an option according to the Nature Conservancy.
• Digging them out would damage the bank and the habitat they were trying to preserve.
• Cutting and covering had proven to be useless.
Commissioner John Lee was doubtful that spraying could be confined to the loosestrife, and that, in the end, it could harm surrounding native vegetation. He considered this a serious concern, because it was inevitable that much of the loosestrife would survive a first treatment and return, thus requiring repeat spraying. The consultants assured him their team would be very careful, and that "done right, it shouldn't be a problem." They added that they might use the spray the first year but use either root removal or hand swabbing thereafter. Agreeing that the procedure would require continuing vigilance, they said the supervisor at the park had agreed to monitor the project.
Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard introduced a Superseding Order from the DEP reversing a ConsCom plan for a Carlisle resident to dig out loosestrife and also to remove silt, as proposed at Great Brook. On the other hand, the same reviewer had returned a DCR appraisal "with no comment." "I don't see the difference between these projects," said Lee. Agreeing, member Tricia Smith urged the commission to write and ask the DEP what the difference might be.
Non-chemical solution sought
Returning to ConsCom's original request for the applicants to propose a non-chemical approach, Smith again emphasized that Carlisle is dependent on well water and that ConsCom and other town boards have opposed the use of herbicides and pesticides [e.g. to control weeds on the Pedestrian/Bike walkways and other public paths]. Obviously unimpressed, the consultants insisted that professionals, with long experience say that this [the use of herbicides] is the best approach, and in their case, "Time is of the essence, because the loosestrife will be seeding soon."
Chairman Roy Watson reiterated the commission's specific request for a non-chemical solution, asking, "Do we treat the state differently from our own residents?" Commissioner Peter Burn mentioned the use of beetles at Plum Island, "It doesn't destroy them, but it keeps them in check." He admitted that he found the decision a tough one. Commissioner Diane Troppoli said she didn't like the use of herbicides but felt she couldn't deny the applicants, because no one, including the commission, had come up with a non-herbicidal alternative.
ConsCom vote splits 3-2
Finally Smith made a motion to deny the application on the grounds of failure to submit information on a non-herbicidal alternative. The motion carried, with Stringham, Watson and Smith voting to deny, Troppoli and Burn to approve, and Lee abstaining.
© 2006 The