Caltrans sprays herbicides along Highway 84

Residents ask the county to help them stop the spraying

By Barbara Wood | Special to the Almanac

Residents of rural San Mateo County who oppose the roadside spraying of herbicides to control weeds were upset to find out recently that a fight they thought they had won in 2012 when the county ordered a stop to most spraying isn't really over.

On June 6, Patty Mayall, who lives off Highway 84 near La Honda in unincorporated San Mateo County, received an email from Caltrans informing her that the state would be spraying herbicides along 12.6 miles of Hwy. 84 on June 10 and June 11, between Highway 1 and where Old La Honda Road crosses Hwy. 84, east of the town of La Honda.

Ms. Mayall, afraid she was the only resident who was informed, had to scramble to notify other residents over the weekend.

If residents post "No spray" signs on their property, Caltrans will not spray in that location, Ms. Mayall said. "But how can people opt out from having their property sprayed when they don't know the spraying is taking place?" Ms. Mayall said. "Without on-road notifications posted by Caltrans, how can pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and residents avoid exposure?"

In addition to San Mateo County giving up the use of herbicides, many local jurisdictions, including Woodside, which maintains miles of rural roadways, do not spray herbicides but instead mow or manually remove weeds. Caltrans does not spray within the limits of any city, according to Caltrans spokeswoman Gidget Navarro.

"It is disturbing that the public's health, watershed, and residents' protests are not more important than the unnecessary use of toxic chemicals," Ms. Mayall said. "Mowing is most effective for all purposes, especially for visibility and fire safety."

Caltrans did post the spray warning on its website but not until June 10 at 2:34 pm, after the spraying was already underway.

The residents have asked members of the county Board of Supervisors to help them convince Caltrans to stop spraying in the county.

The residents may have believed Caltrans had stopped broadcast spraying of herbicides on roadsides because they had not been informed of any spraying since the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on March 13, 2012, to end the broadcast spraying of herbicides on county roads and in parks.

But the county has no authority over Caltrans, and Caltrans controls miles of roadside in San Mateo County.

After the resolution was passed, Ms. Navarro said the agency would spray along state highways "if we have issues such as weeds that are impeding safety devices, fire danger, site distances, noxious weeds, etc." She also promised Caltrans would give notice before a spray is applied.

That promise appears to not have been kept. On the Caltrans blog, which Patty Mayall says she did not know existed, there is a notice of spraying on Highway 84 in January 2014, which residents say they did not know about.

Ms. Navarro, who is the Caltrans public affairs information officer for San Mateo County, said that Highway 84 "was not sprayed in 2013 at all due to time constraints."


Like this comment
Posted by Patty Mayall
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Jun 14, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Thank you, Barbara Wood and The Almanac ! Caltrans' "notifications" for roadside spraying lack the most important information and the most important function : WHAT they were spraying which I later was told by Caltrans' Gidget Navarro was Milestone VM ; and TIME for residents on and for all who use Hwy. 84 to know of and to avoid the toxic exposure. Responsible Notification is ON ROAD visible signs posted at least 3-5 days prior to, during, and after herbicide applications. The best solution is to NOT spray and to just MOW which they have to do anyway. Caltrans needs to follow the lead of the SMC Resolution and stop spraying our roadsides !

Like this comment
Posted by Jennifer Heit
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Jun 14, 2014 at 11:05 pm

How frustrating it feels to have won the fight against spraying county roads only to have state roads sprayed.
Mow! Mow! Mow!

Like this comment
Posted by Anneliese
a resident of another community
on Jun 15, 2014 at 6:46 am

I thought we were done with this issue in 2012? Sigh.

Like this comment
Posted by Sue
a resident of another community
on Jun 15, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Spraying toxics just as more summer visitors and tourists travel Hwy. 84 to go to camps, beaches, and weekend lodgings--wow, what planning on the part of Caltrans. I'm sure the travelers have no idea of the potential risk to themselves and their pets.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2014 at 1:19 am

But the wild blackberries are still safe to eat, right?

Like this comment
Posted by Sybille
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 16, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Mow or get goats to eat the stuff. NO spraying!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Sheri
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 16, 2014 at 4:41 pm

There are many other ways to deal with weeds. Toxic chemicals should be a thing of the past in San Mateo county. Can our supervisors deal with the state on this issue?

Like this comment
Posted by Taam
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jun 17, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Mowing is very labor intensive, least effective and many grasses grow back if cut prior to going to seed. Mowing poses a fire danger by conducting heat from friction and poor spark arrestors. More harmful pollution comes for the exhaust of a Subaru than chemical intervention.

Like this comment
Posted by Rhea
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 17, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Caltrans broadcast spraying of herbicides on Highway 1 to La Honda was an unnecessary risk to the health of the people, animals and plants that live there. Mowing is a more appropriate and safe way of managing the situation. I hope that Caltrans will follow the progressive lead of San Mateo County and stop this unsafe practice!

Like this comment
Posted by Amy
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Jun 18, 2014 at 1:41 pm

I was at the hearing where it was determined that there would be no more spraying. What happened?!?! I live up on Skyline and am vehemently opposed to the spraying of toxins where I raise my children and my food. And the use of broadcast spraying is indefensible.

I would like some answers from Caltrans.

Like this comment
Posted by Signage
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Why don't the Residents put up permanent "No Spray" signs? Then Cal Trans couldn't do this sneak attack. I'd be really pissed.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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