Friday, June 10, 2016

Spartina: remote areas are frontline for this invasive noxious weed

Communications Office

Preparations are well under way for WSDA and its partners to resume seasonal efforts to eradicate spartina, an aggressive noxious weed. Spartina destroys migratory shorebird and waterfowl habitat, converts mudflats into solid spartina meadows, and negatively impacts the state’s shellfish industry.

Amphibious tracked vehicle
Before crews can start to hit the mudflats, shorelines and bays, a lot of maintenance for vital specialty equipment takes place. The first months of the annual spartina treatment season, which runs from May to Nov. 30, involves hiring staff, ordering supplies, planning where and when cooperators will work and how to report detections and removal of spartina. It also includes safety training.

“We’re maintaining and repairing amphibious tracked vehicles, air boats and outboard powered boats,” says Chad Phillips, longtime spartina program coordinator for WSDA. “You definitely don’t want to break down in the remote areas we’re working in!”

WSDA lead agency

WSDA is the lead state agency for spartina eradication, facilitating the teamwork of local, state, federal and tribal governments; universities, interested groups; and private landowners. Partners run from the Department of Natural Resources, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to The Nature Conservancy, local county weed boards and Ecology’s Puget Sound Corps crews. Multiple other groups are also involved.

Spartina marked with flag
The team approach has been successful. Spartina in 2003 infested 9,000 acres of Western Washington estuaries, particularly in Pacific County. Now, there remains an estimated nine acres spread mainly in the Puget Sound region, including in Skagit, Snohomish and Island counties.

Cooperators last year located and treated about 30,000 discrete finds of spartina plants. Once again, crews will search for new spots where spartina may have taken root, typically digging out small infestations and using approved herbicides when necessary on larger finds.

This year, we expect work crews to survey 80,000 acres of saltwater estuaries and 1,000 miles of shoreline in 12 counties. That’s 1,000 miles in often remote, difficult to reach terrain. Survey and eradication efforts will include Grays Harbor, Hood Canal, Willapa Bay, Puget Sound, the north and west sides of the Olympic Peninsula and at the mouth of the Columbia River.

Annual news release shows progress

Each spring we issue a news release on efforts to remove spartina from coastal counties. It’s sort of a report card on how the state is doing in locating and removing this aggressive weed. The trend to defeat spartina looks favorable as long as the state remains committed to continued spartina funding. Spartina could easily return and spread again if not kept in check.