Sebastian City Council Lifts Spraying Moratorium

City Manager Paul Carlisle
City Manager Paul Carlisle

On Wednesday, the Sebastian City Council voted 3-2 to lift the spraying moratorium to allow City Manager Paul Carlisle to test a non-toxic product called “Whack Out Weeds,” or “W.O.W.” for short under the guidance of best-practice methods.

However, before the Council vote, there was a discussion as to whether or not to allow for more products to be tested if W.O.W. didn’t work. The Council changed the agenda item following the discussion. Two Council members were against it.

Following a vote to lift the moratorium, the city was instructed to utilize Best Management Practices (manual harvesting, biological controls when feasible, and the limited use of pesticides in a safe, least impactful way) while testing alternative products.

Council members Jim Hill, Chris Nunn, and Fred Jones voted to lift the moratorium, but Mayor Ed Dodd and Councilman Robert McPartlan voted against the agenda item.

“I am not opposed to the City Manager’s use of the W.O.W. product, which is what he was asking for because it seems to be the less harmful of the available non-selective treatments. I am opposed to completely and fully lifting the moratorium until we have finished the Integrated Pest Management plan for water-borne pests,” Mayor Ed Dodd told Sebastian Daily.

A new Integrated Pest Management plan will soon be implemented into city policy.

Dodd said he agrees that the city should be highly selective when using non-selective herbicides, which can be harmful to human health.

“This is a very complex problem, and I think we had a good debate last night, and I will now fully support the decision by the Council. It was good to have the debate without distractions and in an adult manner,” Dodd added.

Councilman Bob McPartland didn’t vote in favor of lifting the moratorium because they changed the agenda item to allow other tests besides the W.O.W. product.

“I wasn’t against suspending the moratorium to test W.O.W., which was the original agenda item,” McPartlan told Sebastian Daily.

Mechanical & Manual Harvesting

Not everyone favors using a mechanical harvester to pull vegetation from the canals. There doesn’t appear to be one tool that can do it all without spraying.

According to Mayor Dodd, he’s read studies from IFAS at the University of Florida in Orlando, showing many cities using a combination of herbicides, manual (mechanical harvester), and non-herbicides.

Dodd said the mechanical harvesting they did at Hardee Lake created a bigger problem than it solved. He doesn’t believe that’s the only way to do it. He did say there are other manual harvesting techniques they will have to test.

Carlisle also explained that city crews with backhoes and dump trucks have been pulling vegetation manually in Sebastian, including Coller Creek Estates, where canals have been clogged from CR-512 to South Easy Street.

However, he said they can’t always get the equipment in other areas, and it shouldn’t be the only tool used to remove vegetation.

“To say all we’re going to do is ‘spray, spray, spray,’ that’s a misrepresentation of the facts. It’s always been a misrepresentation of the facts. We’ve always followed the guidelines regardless of what opinions may be out there, and we just need to be able to address some of these areas and get them back in shape,” Carlisle told the Council.

Councilman Fred Jones said the W.O.W. product showed to be equally effective as Roundup during past tests.

“The city conducted an application testing project at Friendship Park comparing W.O.W (Wack Out Weeds) alongside Roundup, where W.O.W showed to be equally effective. W.O.W is an organic herbicide. This product was also used in the Hardee Park section of Collier Creek and the Stormwater pond at Garden Club Park. Once again this herbicide proved to be effective in controlling many of the invasive aquatic species in these two test locations. W.O.W from EcoMight has been approved by the Parks Intergrated Pest Management Committee and the City’s Natural Resources Board,” Jones told Sebastian Daily.

Stormwater & Drainage

Dodd said the city is in the process now of spending a million dollars, mostly with grant monies, on a stormwater master plan. The new plan will identify low and high points of where the water flows. He also said another future project forthcoming is correcting the swales and ditches, which he is hoping to pay for by using additional grant monies.

By voting to lift the moratorium, the Council wants to get the stormwater system back into shape again to reduce flooding and drainage issues. They want to be able to manage the canals as they did prior to the moratorium.

Many canals are clogged with vegetation because they haven’t been maintained for several months after passing the moratorium. The ban on spraying without a plan to keep the canals clean was spearheaded by former Council members Damien Gilliams, Pamela Parris, and Charles Mauti.

“We’ve seen what 20 years did, but look what 10 months did to our canals and ditches. It destroyed them, and they are in bad shape after 10 months of not doing anything,” Councilman Chris Nunn said.

Dodd believes the moratorium was a mistake without having a plan to maintain the canals.

“I fully agree that the moratorium, without a plan to maintain the canals, was a major mistake,” Dodd said.

Councilman Jim Hill said lifting the moratorium on spraying the stormwater system will reduce the amount of flooding.

“This will help reduce the amount of flooding in the city and ultimately provide a better working system. When functioning properly, the stormwater system is designed to reduce the amount of pollutants entering the St. Sebastian River and ultimately entering the Indian River Lagoon,” Hill told Sebastian Daily.

Councilman Fred Jones said lifting the moratorium is what’s needed for the city to move forward.

“I believe that this is what’s needed for our city to move forward with making our parks, ball fields, and playgrounds safe for all of us. Now we can also move forward with clearing our canals of vegetation overgrowth with a non-toxic herbicide to help alleviate the flooding issues of the past few months,” Jones told said.

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About Andy Hodges
Andy Hodges was born in Annapolis, Maryland and raised in Jupiter, Florida. Andy has been a radio & TV personality since the 1980s. He has worked for WLIZ, WFLX-FOX 29, WIRK, WIXI, WKSY, WRMF, and WJNO to name a few. After spending 7 years in Atlanta, Georgia during the 1990s, Andy returned to Florida and settled in the small town of Sebastian in 2000. In 2005, he returned to the broadcasting news sector and eventually joined our news team in 2016 as editor in chief. Andy's family has lived in Sebastian for more than 45 years.