By Barbara Wood
Special to the Almanac
Residents of rural San Mateo County have one less thing to worry about this spring, since the California Department of Transportation has joined the county in agreeing on a moratorium on all broadcast roadside spraying of herbicides along Highway 84/Woodside-La Honda Road until at least March 13.
Ray Kwan, Caltrans roadside vegetation manager, said in an email that "no spraying will be done before March 13th" on Highway 84. "As of now," he wrote, "no decision has been made whether to spray after March 13th."
The decision comes after Caltrans sparked public ire in November when it broadcast sprayed herbicide along a 15-mile swath of Highway 84, despite protests from nearby residents and county and Bay Area officials who were worried that the herbicides could get into the local water supply.
San Mateo County imposed a moratorium on spraying in July 2012, when supervisors Dave Pine and Don Horsley, the two members of the supervisors' Environmental Quality Committee, asked for consultants to report on how to better manage roadside vegetation.
The Vegetation Management Report was presented in January to the environmental committee and will go to the full Board of Supervisors at its March 13 meeting.
In the meantime, rural county residents have formed a group, Just Say Mow, which hopes to convince the county to mow roadside weeds instead of spraying them with herbicides.
Patty Mayall, a La Honda area resident who has led the fight against spraying, said the group is gathering signatures "to encourage the Board of Supervisors to … end broadcast roadside spraying, and to mow the roads as they do now -- just once a year with the existing budget."
The group is gathering signatures at www.change.org under Just Say Mow.
In June 2010, the Board of Supervisors voted to try to reduce the use of pesticides (herbicides are considered a pesticide as the plants they kill are unwanted) by using integrated pest management techniques in all county operations. They cited concerns about water quality and the effects on wildlife, including some endangered species.
Among the 315-miles of county-maintained roads that were viewed and analyzed as part of the Vegetation Management Report are many in the Almanac circulation area, including Alpine Road, Sand Hill Road, Whiskey Hill Road, La Honda Road, Old La Honda Road, Kings Mountain Road, Canada Road and Skyline Boulevard.
Half of the county roads are currently mowed only with no herbicide spraying; the other half are sprayed, with some sprayed and mowed.