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Fort Myers Beach wants to dump herbicides

By Staff | Aug 7, 2019

Fort Myers Beach efforts to ban the use of a popular herbicide will go back for some additional tweaking but will advance to a second public hearing.

Fort Myers Beach Town Council wants to prohibit the use, if not the sale, of products using glyphosate. The phosphonate is found weed killers like Roundup and has been linked, in some studies, to blue-green algae blooms, which feed on the chemical.

Council was told it cannot ban the sale, but can regulate or prohibit use. Sales fall within the purview of state legislation.

“I want to make sure our wording is correct, because the state usually stops most local legislation on the usage of pesticides, which herbicides falls under. Are we confident in moving forward, do we have the legal footing without the state preemption?” Councilmember Joanne Shamp said.

Martin County is one of the most recent Treasure Coast areas to ban its use, and Fort Myers Beach wants to be a part of that mindset. Seminole is currently concluding an overall study of the same subject matter.

Fort Myers Beach has several options going forward, especially with the wording of the proposed ordinance.

One is to clarify its singular use and to remove language for pesticides from the town ordinance though, at the state level, herbicides and pesticides are classified within the same statute.

The town could petition the state to let local governments take over this type of regulation, but the petition route could take some time.

Council agreed unanimously to start the process and to begin reworking the ordinance’s language to leave out any ambiguous terminology not relating to glyphosate specifically. This does require several rounds of communication to see if state preemption is even off the table, but the board seems willing.

“We all agree that, given time, we can move forward on this kind of ordinance, it’s just going to take some non-serious rewriting and some communication with the governing bodies, I have faith this is a fight we’re all willing to take on,” Vice Mayor Ray Murphy said.

A 2009 Ohio Sea Grant study concluded Roundup and other herbicides containing glyphosate “may be contributing to the growth of harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.”

Glyphosate is a “phosphonate” – an organic molecule based on phosphorus, according to the National Pesticide Information Center. Phosphorus feeds blue-green algae blooms; there’s evidence, the Ohio researchers concluded, that “many cyanobacteria present in Lake Erie have the genes allowing the uptake of phosphonates, and these cyanobacteria can grow using glyphosate and other phosphonates as a sole source of phosphorus.” This has led many experts in Florida to agree on the caution of its use.

Several studies done here in Southwest Florida have concluded that yard and agricultural runoff has increased the amount of blue green algae in the Caloosahatchee.

The next reading of the proposed changes will be held on Aug. 9.

In other news:

Other items for the town council meeting on Monday included:

– Awarding Tom Myers and Dr. Leeroy Hommerding the Mulloholland Stewardship Award for outstanding environmental service in the community. Myers was president of the Matanzas Pass Preserver for 40 years. Dr. Hommerding was the driving force behind the Beach Libraries renovations and several dozen eco friendly and eco forward initiatives.

– The Mound House’s zoning language gas been updated to be more time specific. “Sunrise to sunset” has been addended to 6:30 a.m. to p.m, And council has removed the special exception for capping the amount of events capable of being held there per year, but still requires petition for certain uses: mostly acholic beverages.

– The audit has been received and the overall top facts are: Net position in 2018 $47,303,311 million. Cash equivalence went down by about $1 million due to infrastructure. Funding due from Governmental agencies was $1.2 Million, which has come in after the audit date.

– August 2019 has been redesignated as Children’s Learning and Vision Month.

– The council has moved to second hearing ruling for public use for street performers, tightening areas of use, but loosening definition of “hard location.”

– The proposed change of election date to November is being redesigned for wording included.

– Marine Task Force has been moved in support for further study.