A lawsuit over herbicide applications has been settled amicably and Peninsula landowners, by submitting a consent form, can have spartina on their property treated free of cost for the next two years.

The lawsuit, filed last year against the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) by the Washington Toxic Coalition and the People for Puget Sound alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and improper administration of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which authorizes the application of herbicides to control aquatic noxious weeds.

"We're delighted we have reached an agreement," said Mary Toohey, the assistant director for plant protection with WSDA. "We will be able to continue with the spartina program."

The settlement states, "WSDA may continue to operate and coordinate programs to control or eradicate quarantine weeds and introduced spartina, knotweed, purple loosestrife and other noxious weeds for which WSDA has statutory authority or funding."

The WSDA agrees to develop a new NPDES general permit for herbicide use in lakes, which it has already begun to do. The settlement also calls for WSDA to pay the $50,000 in lawyers' fees for the two groups.

The second development will save landowners money.

Previously, landowners were required to pay 50 percent of the cost to treat spartina on their property. But for the next two years the state legislation, recognizing the threat of spartina, has authorized coordination between state agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fund the landowners' portion of the bill.

Waivers, which will allow the spraying of spartina by WSDA on private land, have recently been sent out.

According to Kyle Murphy with WSDA, a successful eradication program will require everyone's cooperation. The department is planning to begin aerial spraying along the Peninsula and Tokeland in 2006. Although the program is not mandatory, Murphy said the department was willing to work with landowners who would prefer mechanical means of removal, he said not using herbicides could hurt the eradication program. In addition, landowners who want to use mechanical means to remove spartina would not qualify for the program and would be required to pay 50 percent of the cost.

"The biggest thins is to get people to sign the waivers," he said. "The earlier the better."

And, according to Tim Wilson with the Noxious Weed Control Board, the designation of spartina may change to a B-designate category, requiring landowners to remove it from their property or suffer fines and penalties. He said the board will consider that decision next March.

"We want to get control of (spartina)," he said.

To find out more about the program or obtain a waiver, call Kyle Murphy at (360) 902-1923 or visit www.willapabay.org/~coastal/nospartina.

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