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Mike Pasner: Let your voice be heard by NID on herbicides

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Mike Pasner

Nevada Irrigation District applies drip aquatic herbicides to 62 sites along its delivery system of raw water.

None of these toxins makes it into my organic farm’s irrigation system. I’ve farmed in Penn Valley for 31 years. This treatment to kill algae occurs once a month for the six-month irrigation season, April 15-Oct. 15. For the first 28 years, NID ditch tenders turned off my ditch box without fail on “poison day.” The last three years the liability to shut it off has been shifted wholly onto me.

The terrestrial herbicide used to kill weeds is sprayed on the banks, berms and water. This treatment is done before and after irrigation season.

NID maintains 450 miles of raw water conveyance systems, of which 350 miles of this system is treated with aquatic and terrestrial herbicides.

Shouldn’t we find alternatives to putting poison in water that is used by people, animals, and crops?

I’m still in the process of assembling maps obtained by the Public Records Act. It appears that approximately 50 miles of this 450-mile conveyance system are what NID calls “Randoms.” A Random is a natural creek.

Question: Is it legal to dump liquid herbicide into a natural creek?

Question: Are there enough weed blockages in a free-flowing stream to mandate herbicides?

NID is registered with Nevada County agricultural department for use of 23 chemicals. That is 216.18 pounds and 4,665.01 gallons of materials in 2016. Since there are 62 delivery points, I am worried that the concentration at these delivery points is toxic to livestock, fish and wild animals.

There’s no way a mountain lion should be drinking aquatic algaecides once a month. No one wants to eat beef that drank aquatic algaecides once a month.

Cutrine and Nautique are the aquatic herbicides applied above my farm. Many of these algaecides are high in elemental copper. This mix can be hazardous to humans, domestic and wild animals and fish. I used to see fish and newts in our ditch, yet I haven’t for many years.

Roundup Custom is sprayed on the banks, berms and water. This substance is labeled a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization and now by the EPA.

Nine of NID’s domestic water treatment plants are supplied by these conveyances.

NID’s Mission Statement: “The District will provide a dependable, quality water supply; continue to be good stewards of the watersheds, while conserving the available resources in our care.”

At a recent Maintenance and Resources meeting, I asked, “Wouldn’t a reduction in herbicide use be part of achieving this mission?” The answer was yes. In the 31 years I have farmed here, I have not seen a reduction.

After attending these meetings for years I have come up with a workable fix: resume cleaning the ditches with small excavators as needed. This was done annually for many years and only stopped three years ago. If the banks and berms need vegetation removal, goats are a good way to do it.

I have presented this theory to NID management and employees for many years. The only response I have received is, “It isn’t financially viable.” I believe it is! When you eliminate application equipment, human applicators, training, licensing, registrations, legal-testing requirements, herbicides and liability, it becomes a viable option. The liability aspect of this plan has not been analyzed. This represents a huge tab never itemized by NID. The use of these highly toxic substances in water and on land has to have a large liability.

NID has recently revisited requests for live-streaming video, and was placed on the its board agenda after a four-month, well-publicized battle. Thank you Nevada Irrigation District, for hearing your constituency! Later, in this same BOD meeting, NID adopted their new Vegetation Management Plan.

To wean NID off their herbicide use may take years. Like live-streaming, it will only happen when a sufficient number of concerned rate and taxpayers make themselves heard.

Please lend support and stay in touch with this effort at safeditches@gmail.com.

People are 96 percent water. Shouldn’t we find alternatives to putting poison in water that is used by people, animals and crops?

I am a local organic farmer. I’m not a chemist, a journalist or a cartographer. When something is wrong, it’s wrong to not fix it!

Mike Pasner is the owner of Indian Springs Organic Farm.

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