LPOW outlines arguments in court filings

SANDPOINT — Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper filed its opening brief Monday in its legal effort to compel the Idaho State Department of Agriculture to adopt biological controls for aquatic noxious weeds.

The water quality advocacy group filed a petition for judicial review in 1st District Court in August after cooperative efforts to revise Idaho’s noxious weed rules, which currently prohibit biological control research and implementation, failed to bear fruit.

Waterkeeper is putting forth two main arguments in its opening brief.

One holds that the department misinterpreted the plain language of the noxious weed law while refusing to acknowledge its own goals regarding biological control. The other asserts that the state disregarded the group’s request to include all forms of biological control in its considerations.

The stated purpose the of the law is to “provide the statutory and financial means for the control of noxious weeds, wherever such noxious weeds occur in the state.”

The ISDA has argued that the group’s requests are contrary to the legislative intent, waterkeeper counters that the terms defined in the law clearly demonstrate that the Legislature “contemplated the use of a wide range of methods to combat invasive weeds, including biological control.”

The group further argues that the state is blatantly disregarding important components of its original petition, including the requests to consider a variety of biological control methods encompassing natural predators such as weevils, parasites or pathogens such as bacteria or viruses.

Waterkeeper contends the ISDA centered its denial of waterkeeper’s petition on the use of the milfoil weevil, which requires viable plant matter for its propagation while ignoring all other potential forms of biologic control that do not have the same requirements.

Based on those arguments, waterkeeper is asking the court to reverse ISDA’s decision to deny the original petition for initiation of rulemaking and to reconsider the group’s proposed amendments to the noxious weed law.

The state has not yet filed its opening brief and has until Jan. 4, 2013, to do so, according to court documents. Oral arguments in the case are set for Jan. 30, 2013.

Jeff Brudie, a 2nd District judge in Lewiston, is hearing the case. Waterkeeper is being represented by the Gonzaga Center for Law & Justice’s Environmental Law Clinic.

If the court rules in favor of ISDA, waterkeeper said it will not abandon its efforts to make biological controls a reality, including pursuing a legislative amendment.

“Our mission is to work in the public’s interest to protect the water quality of Lake Pend Oreille and its affiliated waterways. The community has spoken loud and clear that they want alternatives to herbicides, particularly biological control, included in the management strategy of aquatic invasive weeds. We’re counting on our state legislators to listen to their constituents and support the necessary changes,” Shannon Williamson, executive director of Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper, said in a statement.

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