County urges province to control weeds in ditches

County of Stettler wants the province to get busy weeding.

County of Stettler wants the province to get busy weeding.

Good growing conditions have produced a bumper crop of weeds. The county has been spraying along its roadways to keep weeds at bay, but the stubborn plants are sprouting in force along provincial highways.

County farmers have raised concerns about noxious weeds spreading from the ditches next to the province’s two- and three-digit highways. Council two weeks ago approved the motion to issue weed notices to the province.

That means Alberta Transportation now has until Aug. 2 to get its contract sprayers out to deal with the highways running through the county.

County spokesperson Niki Thorsteinsson said provincial weed spraying has become more of an issue in recent years.

“I think the government has had a lot of cutbacks. So what didn’t use to be an issue, for the last two or three years it’s sort of been creeping into an issue,” Thorsteinsson said on Monday.

“Our council just decided that something needs to be done now.”

If the province doesn’t deal with the weeds, the county will step in to spray and will bill the costs back to the government.

Provincial government belt-tightening is not only affecting weed control. The county isn’t seeing as much mowing in the ditches along secondary highways as well.

Quinton Beaumont, the county’s director of agricultural services, said the county was initially told earlier this year that because of government finances no weed spraying or mowing would be done in the municipality.

“The provincial government has really cut back on the amount of work they’re doing, especially in this part of the world.”

Later, the county was told one mowing pass would be made and the county had to pick June or August dates.

Rural residents have also been phoning the county with concerns about the height of grass along provincial routes. Besides hindering visibility, drivers worry the grass hides wildlife that might pop out of the vegetation to cross the road.

Alberta Transportation has responded by encouraging farmers to take out permits for haying along the ditches. Information is available online at www.transportation.alberta.ca.

A number of weeds are classified as noxious in the county including: Canadian thistle, absinthe wormwood, perennial sow thistle, white cockle, oxeye daisy, scentless chamomile and yellow toadflax.

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