Josephine County Public Works controls vegetation along county roads to protect public safety, preserve the roadways against the deteriorating effects of uncontrolled plant growth, and prevent the spread of noxious weeds.
Protecting Public Safety
Brambles, vines, weeds, and brush that grow along the roadside can threaten public safety in many ways. Vegetation may limit motorists' ability to see hazards. Vehicles, pedestrians, animals, and hazardous objects can be screened by vegetation at intersections, curves, and driveways. Vegetation can also obstruct traffic signs. Vegetation can cause excessive accumulations of ice, snow, water, and debris on the roadways - all of which are potential safety hazards for motorists. Some court decisions have held that vegetation along the road is an unnecessary hazard to a motorist who runs off the road. By keeping road shoulders free of vegetation, Josephine County Public Works creates an area that is safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as, for motorists to stop in an emergency. Reducing the amount of vegetation along the road also reduces the fire hazards.
Preserving the Roadways
Vegetation on the road shoulders and ditches can prevent water from properly draining away from the road surface, shoulders, and ditches. This excess moisture causes the roadbed to deteriorate, and is one of the major reasons for road surface failures. Vegetation is removed to extend the life of the roads, and prevent costly repairs.
Eliminating Noxious Weeds
Many weeds that could threaten agriculture or native plants are brought into Josephine County by the vehicles that travel county roads. Eliminating these weeds before they have a chance to spread is important for farmers, foresters, and gardeners.
What kind of Program does the County have?
The Josephine County Public Works Department has an Integrated Vegetation Management Program for controlling roadside vegetation. Successful integrated vegetation management for roadsides is an evolutionary and on-going effort. It requires research, testing, evaluation, money, trained staff, and creativity. Such a program includes a variety of vegetation control measures such as manual, mechanical, biological, and herbicidal; either individually or in combination. It uses those methods which are cost effective, environmentally balanced, and meet the needs of the community.
How does the County control roadside vegetation?
Federally registered herbicide use is just one component of the Vegetation Management Program. Vegetation and brush is also removed manually and by saws or other mechanical means. The herbicides are used mostly on road shoulders while manual and mechanical means are used to remove other problem vegetation such as brush and trees affecting motorists' safety along roadside drainage ditches. Only herbicides approved and released by the federal government are used, with established precautionary measures.
Who is allowed to use the herbicides and how are they applied?
Josephine County Public Work requires that all herbicide applicators be licensed by the Oregon State Department of Agriculture. Applicators also regularly attend classes and workshops to learn the latest technology and to meet licensing requirements. Applicators work to minimize the herbicides' effect on the local environment. The herbicides that are used degrade over time and do not accumulate in the soil, water, or surviving plants.
Applicators rotate use of different herbicides from year to year to prevent plants from developing a tolerance for the materials. That means that lower concentrations of each type of herbicide can be used. Where erosion is a potential problem, applicators use selective herbicides that will not harm the grasses that hold the soil in place. All of the herbicides used by are available over-the-counter to homeowners and other private applicators for farm, forestry, garden, and other uses.
Must I allow the County to use herbicides on land adjacent to my property?
A property owner can request to have Josephine County Public Works restrict herbicide use on the road right-of-way fronting their property. However, owners must sign a written agreement which requires them to maintain the road shoulder, drainage ditches, and sight clearance areas free of vegetation at all times. The owner also assumes responsibility for any injuries to persons or property damage while working in the County right-of-way. When a property owner fails to control the vegetation, Josephine County Public Works will resume its regular maintenance operations.
Public Works will provide "Owner Maintains Roadside Vegetation" signs for property owners to initially install. Thereafter, the owner is responsible for maintenance and replacement, if necessary.