Jamie Viera of the TNRD made a presentation to Mayor and Council at Tuesday night’s regular council meeting regarding the TNRD’s Invasive Plant Program. 

The program allows  TNRD member municipalities to opt into the program on an ongoing annual basis, and to provide assistance in management and control of invasive species which pose a threat within the region. 

The program originally launched in 1976 in order to fund knapweed control on private ranch lands. Since then, the number of invasive plant species has increased, and their impact is no longer considered a strictly rural or agricultural issue. 

Some species, such as Japanese Knotweed are not yet widespread within the Interior, but are in other areas of BC such as the coastal areas and Lower Mainland. 

Knotweed is an extremely problematic plant, and in the UK where it has taken a firm hold, people may even have trouble securing a mortgage on properties known to be affected. 

Knotweed damages infrastructure such as paved driveways and house foundations, in some cases even growing through exterior walls. 

Afflicted septic systems can be damaged to the point that they need to be replaced. According to Viera, a hotel in Clearwater had to replace their septic system at which time it was discovered it was infested with Knotweed, which had caused it to fail. 

Giant hogweed, which has not yet been found in the TNRD but is located in other areas of BC, can cause severe blisters and even first- or second-degree burns. 

Hoary alyssum is prevalent in the TNRD, spreads easily through contaminated hay and is poisonous to horses. 

“I’ve had a number of calls from community members to say they have burdock or whatever other weeds are around, and we don’t have a program, internally, and a lot of our (City) staff were calling your (TNRD) staff to be told we can’t do anything about it… so it’s nice to see this coming to this point,” said Mayor Brown at the end of the presentation. 

City CAO Sean Smith noted that, should the City opt into the program, it would “dovetail” well with the ‘Good Neighbour Bylaw’, which also deals with unsightly properties and weeds. However, there is currently no structure as for how the weeds are dealt with within the Bylaw, and that the problem could become worse if, for example, the weeds were cut down to satisfy the unsightly portion of the Bylaw, but then increased in spread. 

“It really gives us the ability to approach enforcement in a more consistent way that doesn’t feel really punitive on landowners,” said Smith. 

“So that’s one of the advantages to it, is that we actually think that we’ll be able to, with a program like this in place, provide a lot more education and information, but also direct people to a meaningful resource.” 

Residents who have invasive plants on their property and want help eradicating them are entitled to Land Owner Assistance through the program. 

This includes:

  Rebate Program – financial support is offered in the form of rebates to landowners that hire certified applicators to manage weeds on their property. Depending on the weed species, landowners can qualify for either a 50% rebate or 100% rebate towards the cost of weed control. Rebates can be applied for on an annual basis. The maximum rebate is based on property size (either $1,500 or $3,000). 

– Sprayer Loan-Out Program – the TNRD has a fleet of spraying, seeding, and fertilizing equipment that is available for free loan–out to people who have the expertise to perform their own weed control. The equipment is available for loan-out for up to a week at a time. 

– Biological Control Program – the TNRD provides biological control agents to private landowners free of charge. TNRD staff and contractors collect and redistribute biological control agents (insects) to help slow the spread of select weed species. The biological control insects are available for release on both private properties and public land within the service area (subject to insect availability). 

– Private Land Consultations – landowners can take advantage of the free land consultations where invasive plant specialist visits properties (by request) to assist with weed identification and the development of a weed management plan. 

The starting tax contribution for Merritt, as a city with a population over 5,000 and under 50,000, would be $20,000 with the maximum contribution not exceeding more than 4.5% of the total budget. 

The City will deliberate joining the TNRD Invasive Plant Program at a later council meeting.