Nevada Irrigation District testing alternatives to current herbicide | TheUnion.com

Nevada Irrigation District testing alternatives to current herbicide

The Nevada Irrigation District has put together a working group to discuss vegetation management.

The topic has been the source of contention from some district customers, who say NID is poisoning its water by spraying the herbicide Roundup, which contains a substance that state officials have put on a list of potentially cancerous chemicals.

During a June meeting of the NID board of directors, the district said it uses Roundup to kill weeds along the berms and waterways of its canals. Those weeds, the district said, can pose public safety hazards, restrict water flows, reduce water storage capacities and reduce water quality, among other negative effects.

Customers proposed using alternatives such as goats, white vinegar, machine cleaning and hand cleaning to control weeds. NID staff said alternative vegetation management techniques are possible, but would likely cost more than spraying Roundup — a cost that would be passed on to ratepayers.

The district announced at that June meeting it would form a vegetation management working group in response to customers' concerns about adverse health effects from glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.

The working group is made up of 16 members, including individuals appointed by NID board members and representatives from local agencies, according to Susan Lauer, the district's communications specialist. Those agencies include the Nevada County Agricultural Commission, the Nevada County Farm Bureau and the Nevada County Resource Conservation District, among others.

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The group had its first meeting in August, when members made recommendations that will help the district develop an integrated pest management plan, according to Lauer. Amigo Bob Cantisano, the district's hired consultant, will help form that plan.

"NID is committed to developing an (integrated pest management) plan and finding ways to reduce the use of and risk from pesticides," Lauer said in an email.

Cantisano said a variety of options were discussed at the August meeting and the district has already begun testing alternatives to Roundup. The first test, he said, was done using an herbicide called Weed Zap, which proved effective at controlling vegetation.

District staff, with the help of Cantisano, will continue to test alternatives. Pinpointing the most effective option that doesn't extensively burden ratepayers, Cantisano said, could take a few years.

"I'm optimistic," he said. "I think we're going to figure this out."

Working group meetings are not open to the public, according to district staff. The group hasn't met since its first session.

The district has applied for a pest management research grant program through the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, according to Lauer.

"The grant would mean more money to do more work, including research and actions that might serve as precedents for other districts," she said.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.