Discussion on Herbicide Spraying in the Laguna de Santa Rosa

Hello Patrons and Neighbors of The Laguna,

I hope everyone is having a good week and enjoyed their weekend. I’ve been slowly settling in to Sonoma County (moved here from VA about a month ago), and am continuously amazed by all that this part of the country has to offer.

First I want to apologize for taking as long as I have to give you a full response. This is my third week on the job, and it was very important to me that I learn as much as I could about this situation before responding. In this age of 24 hr news cycles and instant internet info, I think that thoughtful conversations and important information is often lost. Therefore, I felt a belated response was better than an incomplete and/or inaccurate one. Yesterday included 4 back-to-back 2 hr meetings, so my days have been quite full J Thank you for your patience and for allowing me the time to gather some necessary info.

I have attached a FAQs piece that primarily focuses on several of the specific questions that folks have asked, and also tries to give a brief intro/summary on The Laguna Foundation’s approach to invasive exotic management. I’ve put it in pdf form simply to help keep the info together and in-context, so that if it’s shared with others it can be read in its entirety rather than cut/pasted.

I understand that some of you have larger questions than the few we have tried answering in this attachment: should herbicide be used as part of the resource management toolbox, what place does biodiversity play in modern conservation, native vs invasive exotic species, etc. These larger questions are important and worth further discussion, but so hard to accomplish via email. So we’ve tried to at least start with some basic information about invasive exotic management and our use of herbicide.

I also want to briefly address the well-written suggestions by Robert Rawsom (in the below email), just to say that I very much appreciate the time and thought that went into his ideas. There are some interesting and valuable observations there – I’m going to take this one piece at a time and start with sharing the info in the attached FAQs. One of my next steps will then be looking more closely at Mr. Rawson’s suggestions.

Lastly, we are working on improved signage and communications regarding our invasive exotic management programs, including use and locations of herbicide applications.

I see this as the start of a dialogue, not the end, and welcome further conversation – as long as you continue to be patient with my desire for thoughtful, rather than speedy replies J

Thank you again for your interest, concern and dedication to local environmental issues.


Hi Judy and Karin,
Spraying cannot control the pepper weed problem in the Laguna. I say that with good science and about 40 years of wastewater pond treatment experience behind me. This includes working with (fighting): water hyacinth, pepper weed, duck weed, red fern, all kinds of algae, equisetum, and other water weeds.

In 2000 after the Barlow Apple processing spill in the Laguna, I treated a section of the Laguna between Occidental Rd. and Highway 12 bridge with IOS-500 Bacteria for three weeks with the help of Dairyman Jim Day, and with the approval of California  Fish and Game, and Regional Water Quality Control Board. We turned that section of the Laguna below the Hwy 12 Bridge crystal clear and observed a strong temporary habitat recovery (Otter, fish, birds, crayfish). This was temporary and ended after several months after treatment discontinued, due in large part to continued upstream carbon and nutrient loading. What has occurred in the Laguna in the last 75 years, is a massive accumulation of nutrients (Phosphorous and nitrogen), the removal of shade, the addition and accumulation of organic material, and hundreds of millions of tons of phosphorous laden sediment. This has created an almost end stage eutrophication of the South fork of the Russian River (Laguna). This shallow, slow, warm environment, full of nutrients, makes the ideal habitat for Pepper Weed. Spraying Poison kills the upper portion of the weed but it is never exterminated, and without removal the cleft over material allows the current years load of fixed carbon plant residue to accumulate, and the phosphorous and nitrogen in that plant residue and accompanying soil is conserved to support the next year’s luxurious growth. Drought conditions make this worse and reduce flushing of sediment and nutrients.
What can be done?
By far, the Best Solution is Dredging to increase water depth and remove nutrients. This can be followed by planting tall shade producing trees on the sunny side of standing water to cool it and deny light to algae, by modifying the albedo. This effect can be duplicated with Aqua Marine Shadow.  Then you need a continuing harvest strategy or promote the respiration of the year’s accumulated carbon at the same rate as it is being fixed. I am reluctant to mention my own microbial product, IOS-500 because it sounds self-serving, however the Laguna has an enormous amount of fixed carbon that needs to be burned up via respiration. That means a harvest strategy of some kind is needed to respire or remove the accumulated carbon. This can be bacteria, or physical mechanical removal, or introduction of animals such as goats that will eat the carbon. Perhaps there is sufficient economic value in the nitrogen or carbon content in the weeds to make harvesting financially attractive if the regulatory agencies don’t impose excessive impediments as they have done with Sonoma Compost.

Once you have open water in the Laguna, it should be treated during the low flow summer months when it is stagnant using 1-3 PPM  of non-toxic (0 toxicity units chronic three species bioassay) Aqua Marine Shadow FDC Blue to prevent algae from replacing the Pepper Weed. This is important to maintain adequate oxygen levels, and prevent nutrient cycling, and pH fluctuations that are lethal to fish. I can provide a food grade source of Aqua- Marine Shadow.  Nancy Vaitkevicius <nancy@bioremediationinternational.com>
Any other chemical approach is a waste of money, and if it is a standard chemical herbicide approach like Roundup, Rodeo, 2-4-5T, Silvex, Atrazine, Telar, Diquat, or any of the other cute names they use to make these toxic poisons sound safe. At one time I held pesticide application licenses for in five categories including aquatic, Residential, food, and commercial. Poisoning the Pepper Weed will not work! The die off will only serve to continue the next year’s weed problem while poisoning the earth, our food chain, and our bodies with herbicides and their metabolic breakdown products. These things are Teratogenic, carcinogenic endocrine disruptors that have serious generational impacts, cause infertility, secondary sexual changes, in man and animal alike.

Dredging is possible to accomplish, and the Army Corp of Engineers could pay for dredging if there were a non-profit organization or legitimate government municipality or agency with the stomach to take on the administrative task. Little Graton CSD obtained 4.2 million from FEMA Cal EMA and dredged its ponds, built a flood wall and storm water diversion retention. It can be done.
Please forward.
Bob Rawson
Dear All,

I agree…the signs need to maintained, not taken down…..the label on Telar says that it can stay present in the environment for 2 years.

This is whom to call:
Discussing the many aspects of this decision and of the Pepperweed issue might be a challenge via email and social media, so I invite anyone who would like to offer suggestions or ask more questions to contact me directly. My name is Kevin Munroe and I’m the new Director of the Laguna Foundation – I both welcome and appreciate further dialogue! You can reach me at 707-527-9277, x.103. I’d love to learn from folks about any conservation concerns they may have, and look forward to talking with you.

Kevin Munroe | Executive Director

Thanks, Judy.

Unfortunately, it’s not true that the trails are only unsafe for a day or two. The half life of Telar is one to 3 months, depending on weather, with a median half life of 40 days. Four times the half life of a substance is what it takes to consider it “gone.” For Telar that’s 4 to 12 months. So taking down the signs leaves the public at risk.

Her response sounds good, but is really more public relations than solid reality.

Edward Willie, Pomo artist and permaculturist, has a deeper outlook: I am 100% against chemical warfare. For one thing it addresses the symptom not the cause of issue. The issues are disrupted ecosystems, lack of wise tending practices, ignorance of nature’s healing practices…and more.  And not to mention the lack of knowledge or education of the long term effects of the chemical.  I would say that energy should go to replanting a plant that they would deem acceptable among the pepperweed to slowly push it out.

The Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides suggested a variety of other strategies, including grazing by goats, which of course can’t be used this year because of the spraying. NCAP also noted that “the Laguna Foundation revisit their selection of Telar XP for use in a wetland area. Misuse of the manufacturer’s instruction will make them legally accountable for any negative impact the herbicide might have on the area’s ecosystem.” Telar XP is not supposed to be used in wetlands, and saying that they only applied it in the “higher” areas really doesn’t cut it for an internationally recognized wetland.

I sympathize with the dilemma the Laguna Foundations folks are facing, but it’s essential that they take poisons out of their tool box.


My friend sends this message
in response to the Laguna
spraying…she’s on the Board
of the Foundation.


Dear concerned Group,

I just met with our new ED Kevin Bacon here @ my house and we had a great discussion about this very issue.  This decision was not made without researching several alternatives and herbicides and  consulting scientists and researchers.  The trails are clearly marked with terrifying signs with a scull and crossbones and are only unsafe for a couple of days so the signs very well could have been removed by now.  This decision was made because these exotic invaders have no natural predators here and are choking out our native plants.  Kevin can be reached @ (kevin@lagunafoundation.org) If you have any questions or concerns he would welcome your contact.

Warmly, Ellen

I think the best people to contact about the use of Telar XP in the Laguna would be Brent Reed, Restoration Projects Supervisor (brent@lagunafoundation.org) and Wendy Trowbridge, Director of Restoration and Conservation Science Programs (wendy@lagunafoundation.org). As Kevin Monroe and I talked about the difficulty of dealing with invasive species, pepperweed, he kept referring to Brent and Wendy with the implication that they have decision making authority.

I’m going to contact OAEC, Edward Willie, and NCAP (Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides) for their view on dealing with pepperweed and the safety and duration of Telar. I’ll let you know what they say.


p.s. For those of you who missed our conversation at Judy’s, I talked about being shocked to discover by chance, seeing some warning photos posted by a Facebook friend, that the Laguna Foundation has sprayed Telar XP (which is not supposed to be used in wetlands) along Laguna trails. I had sent an alarmed email to the Education Director, and received a reply from new Executive Director Kevin Monroe, asking to meet with me. He’s open and enthusiastic and “kept awake at night” by issues of herbicides and invasive species. I’m waiting to hear from him exactly where the spraying was done, so I can avoid those places for the duration of the summer.

Barbara and Claire expressed an intention to raise their concerns with the Laguna Foundation. Please let me know if you’d like me to send you updates as I learn more. And if you contact the Laguna Foundation folks, please let me know what you find out.