How the Pollinator Project Evolved

In April 2007 a 25-mile No Spray Project was granted by ODOT after an outpouring of community opinion against highway herbicide use. Our group sought support from local elected officials and prepared a report about the human and environmental impacts of ODOT’s herbicide applications on Hwy 101 in our county. We took the report to a meeting with the governor’s natural resources policy advisor, who in turn called the director of ODOT asking him to meet with us and “see what you can do for them.”

We met with the director and proposed that all of Hwy 101 in Oregon to be herbicide free. After consulting with his staff the talk turned to the area from Lincoln City to Florence, and we finally ended up with a 25 mile no-spray pilot project.

Every year or two we had to go back to ODOT to request keeping the project. After the second year we could see that certain invasive weeds like tansy ragwort were detrimental to the project, so we volunteered to assist ODOT by hand removal of invasive plants. Our volunteers went far beyond what ODOT might have done with herbicides, and removed large infestations of Scotch broom especially near the bridges by Waldport and Newport, which significantly improved the appearance of the highway along with regrowth of native plants and wildflowers in the years after herbicide use was stopped.

ODOT kept a record of the cost of doing the extra work of grading shoulders to prevent ponding of water. They also included the cost of cleaning ditches and culverts, even though that had not been done in at least 20 years. We disagreed with their computations and the actual cost of the pilot project remains unresolved.

As we were approaching ten years of keeping the project going, ODOT wanted to resume herbicide use, saying that pilot projects never last more than 10 years.

We went back to the county commissioners with a new proposal, a pollinator protection corridor. The ODOT director was invited to the coast for a meeting with the commissioners and local mayors about the highway. We presented our proposal which would allow us to plant additional native shrubs along the 25 miles and supplement them with flowering perennials which would help beautify this area as well as support native pollinators.

The director said yes to a corridor and allowed his staff to shape the final plan. They reduced the area where we could plant to 19 small sites along the 25 miles. We continue to plant at these sites and help with removal of invasive weeds.

Thistle in bloom
Close up of honey bee on purple aster flower