Caltrans plans to spray chemicals along Hwy. 84

Patty Mayall of La Honda protests herbicide spraying

By Barbara Wood

Special to the Almanac

San Mateo County may have a moratorium on broadcast roadside spraying of herbicides, but that isn't helping some county residents who live along Highway 84 and were informed this week that the California Department of Transportation plans to spray herbicides along Highway 84/La Honda Road from the coast to Skyline Boulevard, a 15-mile-long swath, on Friday, Nov. 18.

Patty Mayall of La Honda says she was informed by Caltrans of the planned spraying on Tuesday, Nov. 15. She was told the chemicals to be used are Milestone VM and Payload, and that Caltrans could not say what time the spraying would occur.

"I don't consider this proper notification," Ms. Mayall said. "It's wrong that we're given two days. We need an on-road notification policy as part of our integrated pest management for this county."

Caltrans representatives did not immediately return calls or emails asking for confirmation of the spraying plans.

Brendan Thompson, an environmental specialist with the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, said in an email that he has asked Caltrans to postpone the spraying, both because rain is forecast on Friday and because the county report on vegetation management is due out next week.

On July 26, county supervisors Don Horsley and Dave Pine, the two members of the Board of Supervisors' Environmental Quality Committee, agreed to hire consultants to report to the county about how it can control weeds using as few chemicals as possible. Until that report comes back, the two supervisors asked that all broadcast spraying be stopped.

The vegetation management report is due on Nov. 23, and tentatively scheduled to be discussed at an Environmental Quality Committee meeting on Dec. 6 at 2 pm.

Mr. Thompson's email said "although we cannot prohibit Caltrans from spraying herbicide as part of their vegetation management program, the Caltrans Statewide Stormwater Permit requires 'application of herbicides in a manner that minimizes or eliminates the discharge of herbicides to receiving waters,' and that 'factors to be considered include timing in relation to expected precipitation events, proximity to receiving water bodies...' I recommended to Mr. Kwan that given the weekend rain forecast for the area, Caltrans postpone any plans for spraying this Friday; I also mentioned that any spraying occurring within 48 hours of a rain event could be considered a violation of their stormwater permit."

Ms. Mayall said she plans to ask the county to extend the moratorium on broadcast roadside spraying until the vegetation management report is brought before the entire Board of Supervisors.


Like this comment
Posted by Fred
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 17, 2011 at 12:41 pm

I would like to know more about the moratorium. Last Summer a SM county truck was spraying Round Up at 3am in the sidewalk cracks and roadside. They had lights, a noisy generator (which woke me up)and a man with a long hose attached to a following truck. This was confirmed when I asked them what they were spraying in the middle of the night. The residents were given NO notification, which is par for the course but ALWAYS surprises Supervisor Jacobs-Gibson.

Like this comment
Posted by Bruce
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 17, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Why not just cut the weeds. I'm one of those who likes to pick and eat blackberries that grow along the roadsides, but I had to stop after being informed about possible spraying.

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