Community

Noxious weed program on the grow

t Kitsap County in never-ending war with killer plants.

That beautiful ivy-esque plant growing up and over backyard fences throughout the county very likely isn’t ivy at all. Especially if the the thick, hearty plant is thriving in the Central Kitsap area or on Bainbridge Island. It’s probably the dreaded knotweed, according to Dana Coggin, Kitsap County’s noxious weed control coordinator.

Coggin has found herself in a one-woman battle against knotweed — and its 11 friends listed among Kitsap’s “Dirty Dozen,” or the most invasive of weeds in the county.

While it sounds noble that a woman has waged war against 12 notorious characters, she pretty much has no other choice.

She’s the only person on the Kitsap County staff tasked with the arduous task of eradicating plants that grow where we don’t want them.

She also works closely with the county’s master gardeners to inform and assist the public in all areas of obnoxius — make that noxious — weeds.

Invasive weeds are those that were introduced as an oops or as an ornamental plant in a garden, then grow at either an alarming or uncontrollable speed. Coggin faces an uphill battle on more than one front.

In addition to Coggin being the lone staff member, the department — founded about three years ago to comply with a 1969 state mandate that all counties must enact a program to control noxious weeds — is running short on cash, as well.

She’ll take her dilemma to the public — and later to the Kitsap County Commissioners — at 7 p.m. on Oct. 8 at the Silverdale Community Center, where she’ll explain why the department is attempting to raise more cash by increasing the noxious weed assessment for property owners in Kitsap.

Currently, property owners pay a flat rate of $1.

Several scenarios are mapped out on the department’s Web page on the county Web site.

The first sees no change in revenue for the department. If there is no change in the assessment, the department won’t have enough revenue to make it through the 2009 calendar year.

Its efforts to educate the public on invasive weeds and how to combat them will also be severely hampered, the site states.

If the second scenario — a per parcel increase of 40 cents — the department could function through 2009 but the program’s funds “would dip below target fund balance in 2010,” the site states.

The final possibility, that the county commissioners increase the assessment by $1, would cover program costs through 2012 and would allow the department to continue its educational services to county residents.

While weeds are unsightly, the noxious weed issue is more than just an aesthetic one, Coggin said.

Knotweed is also aggressive and destructive, she said.

“We’re finding with the knotweed it’s moving into folks’ drain fields and actually destroying pieces of the drain field,” she said.

To sum up the damage Coggin has seen: “It’s really expensive.”

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