San Mateo County work crews will no longer spray herbicides indiscriminately on the coast to kill off roadside vegetation and will instead switch to using mowers, according to a board of supervisors decision on Tuesday.
The new action caps a groundswell of concern raised on the Coastside over the last six years about the health and environmental consequences of the widespread use of toxic herbicides. The switch to mowing would affect more than 24 miles of rural roads along the Peninsula coast, but would exempt Half Moon Bay Airport.
“It’s historic what the supervisors did,” said Patty Mayall, a La Honda resident who helped rally support for ending roadside spraying. “The community has not backed down on this … and this is exactly what we were all hoping for.”
Under the former management plan, county public works would repel roadside weeds primarily through “broadcast” spraying – driving trucks to spray herbicides along the road shoulder. Public Works officials would use lawn mowers for certain spots on the Peninsula, but they preferred using herbicides, saying it was safer and more affordable.
The new plan approved by the supervisors completely ends broadcast spraying and limits the use of herbicides only for use against invasive weeds.
In his report to the supervisors, County Public Works Director Jim Porter anticipated the switch to mowing could introduce some new problems. Wide-scale mowing would cost about $60,000 more in labor, he estimated, and certain road areas could end up with blocked drainage and cracked asphalt.
Supervisors unanimously approved the action.