SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Legislation Filed to Restore Public Comments for the State’s Pesticide Spraying Program


January 17, 2015
Saturday PM

(SitNews) Juneau, Alaska - Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka) and Rep.Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) have pre-filed a bill to restore a public process to state pesticide spraying programs and add protections for fish habitat and drinking water. The bill is the result of grassroots efforts in Southeast Alaska where at least eight municipalities, including Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, and Haines, along with three tribes and the Prince of Wales Community Advisory Council, have passed resolutions or written letters asking for restoration of a public process or opposing pesticide use altogether.

This effort was mobilized in opposition to major revisions made in March 2013 to regulations governing pesticide spraying by state agencies, including the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. The new regulations eliminated opportunities for public comment and allowed spraying to take place following nothing but DEC approval of a statewide general permit and notice in a local newspaper. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Kreiss-Tomkins and Ortiz, would restore many of the public protections removed by the 2013 regulatory change.

“The people and economy of Southeast Alaska revolve around our watersheds,” said Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins. “We believe the public deserves protections and a public process before pesticides are sprayed along public highways and in watersheds, and that’s why we’re introducing this legislation.”

The proposed legislation, which also covers herbicides, would require the Department of Environmental Conservation to find that pesticide spraying near fish streams and drinking water sources would pose no harm. Current regulations only provide this enhanced level of protection to pesticides applied directly to water.

“Alaskans expect the fish they catch and wild food they gather to be free of contaminants,” said Rep.-elect Ortiz. “This bill returns the state to a more cautionary and publicly vetted approach that will better protect the safety of foods Alaskans enjoy every day.”

Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


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