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Houdini, he isn’t

Eric Dunaway, 8, of Coupeville plays in the dunk tank during a break in watching the competition last weekend at the Highland Games in Greenbank. See more Highland Games photos on Page A11. - Brian Kelly
Eric Dunaway, 8, of Coupeville plays in the dunk tank during a break in watching the competition last weekend at the Highland Games in Greenbank. See more Highland Games photos on Page A11.
— image credit: Brian Kelly

Although Island County has a “no-spray” policy in place to control weeds along county roads, county workers have never completely abandoned spraying herbicides along county roads.

Crews are occasionally forced to “spot spray,” especially around guardrails and where vegetation may obstruct site lines for motorists, county officials said.

This month crews sprayed weeds along some South Whidbey roadways. County crews resort to some minor spot spraying when weeds can’t be controlled or if other methods of eradication are impractical.

“We have done spot spraying around guardrails in a couple of areas; at Bush Point near Shore Meadow, and some minor spraying along guardrails on Cultus Bay Road and Saratoga Road,” said Jack Taylor, superintendent of maintenance and operations for Island County Public Works.

“We tried another method, laying landscape cloth and covering with bark but the horsetail grew right through it,” he said.

It costs more money in labor to maintain roadsides without herbicides, but occasionally the alternative methods aren’t enough.

The county developed an integrated policy that includes mowing, hand pulling, the use of landscape cloth and bark, and biological infestation to control weeds.

Island County has not done widespread spraying since April 2002.

The labor-intensive “no spray” policy has cost the county more money. Expenditures for roadside maintenance have risen since it was adopted.

“We knew it was going to cost us more,” Taylor said.

All that manual effort costs money.

“It is very labor intensive to pull the weeds. And in some areas it is impractical and just doesn’t work,” he said. “But we are doing the best job we can.”

One of the problems Taylor says are the narrow shoulders along county roads.

“Mowing doesn’t help when vegetation encroaches over the fog line,” he said.

The most common roadside weeds in Island County are thistle of all kinds, horsetail and fireweed.

“These are considered nuisance weeds. The most common noxious weed found along roadways in the county is tansy ragwort.” Taylor said.

“We do a lot of hand pulling of tansy,” Taylor said.

Low growing grasses are promoted in the place of weeds.

Island County follows the guidelines formulated by the state Noxious Weed Board.

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