Invasive species panel hits deck running - Bonner County Daily Bee: News

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Invasive species panel hits deck running

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Posted: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 12:00 am

Task force must contend with tight deadline

SANDPOINT — Grappling with Eurasian milfoil is enough of a challenge on its own, but Bonner County's newly formed Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force discovered Tuesday it will be going up against another opponent — time.

The newly formed advisory committee will have fewer than 60 days to develop a plan for dealing with several thousand acres of infested waterways next summer, according to Brad Bluemer, the county's noxious weed supervisor.

Bluemer, a task force member, told colleagues the deadline for the county to submit its application for state milfoil-control funding is March 1, 2007, but the applications for the funding won't be available until Jan. 7, 2007.

"Our timeline is going to be somewhat short," said Steve Holt, a Bonner County landowner who represents the Panhandle Environmental League on the 14-member task force.

To compensate for the time crunch, Holt recommended the task force meet twice a month in the run-up to the Idaho State Department of Agriculture's grant cycle, a suggestion that was ultimately adopted.

The task force tentatively set meetings for Jan. 3, Jan. 17, Jan. 31, Feb. 14 and Feb. 28. Locations for the 3 p.m. meetings have not been determined yet.

The task force was appointed by the county commission last month to advise the board on dealing with Eurasian milfoil, in addition to other invasive aquatic plants and species.

The task force's composition includes those both for and against the use of herbicides, plus those with moderate views. There are also representatives from environmental watchdog groups, state and federal regulatory agencies, and the general public.

The task force appointed interim officers on Tuesday. John Monks, who operates a hydrological consulting business in Sandpoint, was appointed chairman of the task force. Phil Hough, president of the Kinninnick chapter of the Native Plant Society, will serve as vice chair and Kate Wilson, program coordinator for Idaho's Lakes Commission, was picked as the task force's secretary.

The task force plans to revisit its appointments and meeting routine after several months. The task force also agreed gathering input from the public is essential, but postponed a decision on exactly how citizens would interact with the panel during meetings.

The task force also touched on its goals and objectives. The 11 task force members that made Tuesday's meeting agreed they should limit their focus to controlling and preventing the spread of invasive aquatic plants and species, with emphasis on non-native milfoil.

Monks cautioned against an overly narrow focus to ensure emerging threats don't slip past. Prophylactic measures a few years ago could have kept Eurasian milfoil from gaining a foothold here, he pointed out.

"An ounce of prevention would have been worth the pounds of cure we're having to deal with now," said Monks.

One of the potential threats emerging in the West is zebra mussels, a mollusk which has already upset the ecological balance in the Great Lakes.

Task force member Ralph Day suggested the formation of a subcommittee this summer to size up emerging threats and develop measures to keep them from taking hold.

"I'd really hate for us to ignore some of the preventative things," he said.

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