Media Release 04/08/08: Judge Sides with CATs, Halts Herbicide Spraying

(Eureka, CA) A rushed state plan to spray herbicides on a noxious weed along the Eel River was shot down this Monday in Humboldt County Superior Court.

Judge J. Michael Brown halted the spraying – planned repeatedly for as much as 10 years – to kill purple loosestrife on state park land until a full environmental impact report is prepared under the guidelines of the California Environmental Quality Act.

The Eureka-based Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs) filed suit last year against the closed-door decision by the California Department of Parks and Recreation and the Humboldt County Department of Agriculture to use the herbicide imazapyr to eradicate purple loosestrife at more than 200 sites along 25 miles of the Eel River.

CATs argued that the spray program was not minor, posed significant impacts to the environment and failed to involve the public. An expert consulted by CATs also said that the plan could backfire and actually make the infestation worse.

"Rather than attempting an end run around California law, the state parks department and the agriculture commissioner need to seek a solution that will benefit the Eel River over the long run," said Patty Clary, spokesperson for CATs. "We look forward to developing a plan with input from the many people who care deeply about the Eel River."

The state and county sprayed the herbicide imazapr last summer shortly after issuing a Notice of Exemption that claimed no significant impacts would result from the eradication project. But Bernd Blossey of Cornell University, a national expert on the plant, said the project will fail because the infestation, known to be spreading in the area for more than six years, is already too large.

What’s more, Blossey added, the spread of purple loosestrife has been shown to increase when herbicides are used to check the plant’s progress.

Imazapyr – trade name Habitat – is toxic in soil for extended periods, affecting the ability of native plants to survive and compete with prolific purple loosestrife, according to toxicologist Susan Kegley in a declaration filed with the court on behalf of CATs.

"The ball is in the agencies’ court now," said Clary. "We hope they shoulder this responsibility and devise an appropriate plan to take care of the Eel River."


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