‘Do something’: County residents plead with commissioners to stop glyphosate spraying

Pope Resources plans to aerially spray clearcuts across county

Posted 8/14/19

This time of year, the limbs of orchard owner Mark Jochems’ apple trees are laden with fruit.

But as the prime apple season approaches, Jochems is worried that aerial spraying of herbicides could kill production of apples and pears on his two-acre orchard south of Port Hadlock.

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‘Do something’: County residents plead with commissioners to stop glyphosate spraying

Pope Resources plans to aerially spray clearcuts across county

Posted

This time of year, the limbs of orchard owner Mark Jochems’ apple trees are laden with fruit.

But as the prime apple season approaches, Jochems is worried that aerial spraying of herbicides could kill production of apples and pears on his two-acre orchard south of Port Hadlock.

“I’ve got one tree that’s produced 650 pounds of apples before,” he said. “Last year I had 2,970 pounds. That’s a ton and a half of apples.”

With well-established trees that he’s owned since 1993, Jochems sells his apples to Finnriver Farm and Cidery where they are turned into a multitude of flavorful ciders.

In June, Pope Resources, which owns and manages about 69,000 acres of forestland on its Hood Canal Tree Farm in Kitsap, Mason, and Jefferson counties, clear cut the timberlands neighboring Jochems’ orchard. Now, they might aerially spray the land with glyphosate and Jochems is worried about the drift of those chemicals landing on his apple trees.

On Aug. 12, he stood before the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners and asked: “Do you want to drink glyphosate in your cider?”

“I’m probably 30 days away from being sprayed,” he said. “Can I in good conscience sell those apples to Finnriver?”

Jochems was one of 10 members of the public who spoke at the meeting Aug. 12. This followed the Aug. 5 meeting, in which more than 20 members of the public spoke out against the aerial spraying of herbicides by Pope Resources.

“We don’t have anyone to help us; all we have is our voices,” said Ellen O’Shea, a farmer from Eaglemount Farms in Quilcene, and one of the founders of the Jefferson County Coalition to Stop Aerial Spraying.

After clearcutting in June, Pope Resources announced it would be aerially spraying sections of its Hood Canal Tree Farm, releasing 16 maps that showed areas to be sprayed in Jefferson County, including clear cuts near Tarboo Lake, Anderson Lake, Eaglemount neighborhoods and others.

The maps indicate areas labeled “Helicopter Site Preparation Units.” Here, sites will be sprayed with a combination of imazapyr (½ to 1 quart per acre), glyphosate (1 to 3 quarts per acre), sulfometuron methyl and metsulfuron-methyl (2 to 5 ounces per acre) and vegetable oil (½ to 1 quart per acre).

Other areas are labeled “BPMAJ,” which stands for “Back-Pack Site Preparation Units,” which would spray a combination of triclopyr and basal oil.

Jochems’ orchard is adjacent to a property that is labeled for helicopter spraying, which includes glyphosate.

“This stuff takes leaves,” he said. “It will immediately wilt the plant.”

Glyphosate is found in the common weed killer, Roundup. It kills hardwoods, like apple trees, Jochems said.

Concerned about the health of his apples, Jochems contacted Pope Resources, writing to them to ask that they get in contact with him before spraying.

“They are by law required to physically contact at least a week before spraying,” he said. “They have sprayed that area twice before, but it was fertilizer.”

With a history in forestry himself, Jochems isn’t against the clear cutting next to his property. But he does want to know how much they are going to spray, when they are going to spray and what they will spray.

“It’s not my trees,” he said. “I have mine, they have theirs. I’m not going to say the clear cut is ugly, it’s just part of the process. But I’m retired and my apples are an important part of my income.”

Last year Jochems made $1,500 from selling apples to Finnriver. He dedicates the money he makes to paying his property taxes, which as a small farm owner are approximately $3,500, he said. Tree-killing chemicals could ruin his operation.

In Kitsap County, vocal residents have helped put a stall on the spraying of herbicides.

On Aug. 10, Pope Resources announced it would postpone permitted herbicide application in Kitsap County south of Hansville after “hearing extensive concerns from the public.”

A public community meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 10 at the Greater Hansville Community Center to discuss aerial spraying.

“We heard loud and clear the community’s concerns about our proposed application,” said Adrian Miller, director of administration and corporate affairs. “As members of this community, we thought it would be best to take a pause and have a thoughtful and direct conversation with our neighbors before any potential application.”

Now, Jefferson County residents are hoping the Board of County Commissioners will help them do the same.

“We voted for you and you have to protect us,” said Gail Chatfield, a precinct committee officer with the Jefferson County Democrats, during the public comment period at the commissioners meeting Aug. 12.

Commission chair Kate Dean, who helped found Finnriver Farm and Cidery (the farm being partially named after her son, Finn), expressed her agreement with members of the public. But even though the Coalition Against Aerial Spraying is hoping commissioners will enact a moratorium on all spraying of herbicides and pesticides in the county, it isn’t that simple, Dean said.

“We can’t do this alone,” she said. “We need to have a strategic approach to better protect ourselves.”

Kitsap County Commissioners passed a resolution in June that prevents county staff from spraying any kind of glyphosate on county property and right of ways.

Currently, Jefferson County Department of Public Works does not do any spraying of glyphosate, said Matt Stewart, head of the roads department.

“There are occasions when we have weeds growing through cracks in sidewalks and threatening roads,” Stewart said. “In those instances we use a mixture of vinegar, salt and dish soap.”

Even though there is no resolution against spraying in the county, commissioners said they are working on talking with various groups, including the Marine Resources Committee, the Port Townsend City Council, and the Department of Natural Resources to decide how to combat Pope Resources.

But for residents who are scared of the possibility of being being exposed to glyphosate, which Washington State University researchers recently found increases the chances of health problems like birth abnormalities and prostate, kidney and ovarian diseases, the answers weren’t enough.

“You’ve got a couple big enemies to go against,” said Tom Thiersch, a county resident. “But if you don’t start it’s not going to happen. Do something.”

Comments

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Justin Hale

Find out when they are going to spray, hang blotter sheets/paper around the parimeter of your property and after the spray have that sheet tested by a lab, presence of herbicides should be a slam-dunk lawsuit against the sprayer and the company that hired them. Class action law suit?

Thursday, August 15