This year’s treatment season for spartina, an aggressive noxious weed, starts in June and will continue through November. The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) announced that survey and eradication efforts will take place in multiple areas, including 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.
Commonly known as cordgrass, spartina can disrupt the ecosystems of native saltwater estuaries. If left unchecked, spartina outcompetes native vegetation and converts ecologically healthy mudflats into solid spartina meadows. The invasive species destroys important migratory shorebird and waterfowl habitat, increases the threat of flooding, and negatively impacts the state’s shellfish industry.
An encouraging development in 2016 was the eradication of spartina from six sites. That brings the total number of previously infested sites now declared eradicated to 49, or 28% of all the spartina sites tracked by the program. The eradication effort has been effective over the past 14 years with the state’s infestation reduced from a high of more than 9,000 solid acres in 2003 to about five solid acres this year.
Since 1995, WSDA has served as the lead state agency for spartina eradication, facilitating the cooperation of local, state, federal and tribal governments; universities; interested groups; and private landowners. These cooperators last year located and treated over 44,000 individual spartina plants.
This year, project partners expect to survey more than 80,000 acres of saltwater estuaries and 1,000 miles of shoreline in 12 counties. WSDA and its partners will dig out small infestations by hand and treat larger sites with herbicides.
“Our goal is to eradicate Washington’s remaining spartina infestations and prevent re-infestation of previously cleared areas,” said Jim Marra, manager of WSDA’s Pest Program. “This effort has protected and restored many of the state’s most productive shoreline habitats. This summer the cooperators continue the challenging work of finding and removing the thousands of spartina plants remaining in the Puget Sound and along Washington’s coast.”
Go to www.agr.wa.gov/plantsinsects/weeds/Spartina to see progress reports on spartina control efforts.