California Assembly Bill 99 (AB-99) would provide local control over pesticide use on state highways.
At present, Humboldt and Mendocino are the only counties in California where Caltrans does not use pesticides (like RoundUp) for routine roadside vegetation management. Many local municipalities including the majority in Sonoma County have voluntarily stopped using chemical weed control; the state has been slow to follow suit. In west Sonoma County, the only roads where pesticides are still used are CA-116 and CA-1. These are 2-lane rural roads that run directly past homes, businesses, bike routes, bus stops, and the sensitive ecosystems of the Laguna de Santa Rosa and Bodega Bay.
Roads are some of our most public spaces. Even though we might not put roads in the same category as a public park or trail, nobody can avoid them and many people use roads on a bike or on foot. It can be a disastrous situation when you encounter a Caltrans spray truck on your way to work or school. Caltrans routinely sprays on weekends and provides no notifications.
In February 2022, an avoidable exposure incident along CA-116 left dozens exposed to a toxic cocktail of RoundUp (glyphosate, Gallery (Isoxaben), and (Dimension Ultra (Dithiopyr and Toluene). These pesticides are known human carcinogens (Proposition 65), highly toxic to aquatic life and fish, and known marine pollutants (Source: Manufacturer Safety Data Sheets). Caltrans provided no recourse to the impacted community members and would not agree to provide notifications or discontinue spraying on weekends. Sonoma County government including the Agricultural Commissioner's office has no control over Caltrans' operations.
Enter AB-99. This Assembly Bill would give control back to county governments and allow communities to have a say over synthetic pesticide use on state highways. Assemblymember Damon Connolly's inspiration for this bill comes directly from our experiences here in Sonoma County, as is clear from his press release. Thank you to everyone who showed up at our events and signed our petition, our voices have been heard! Sonoma SASS looks forward to continuing leadership on this important issue that has now expanded statewide. Please consider making a donation to support us in this effort.
At Aquis Cafe last weekend, Assemblymember Connolly noted the work Sonoma and Marin Counties have done to stop pesticide use in most public spaces...except state highways. He is dedicated to expanding toxic-free roadways to interested counties throughout the state.
Specifically, AB-99 would "require the department [CALTRANS] to develop and adopt a statewide policy to discontinue roadside spraying of herbicides and synthetic pesticides in each county where the county board of supervisors has adopted a resolution that opposes the spraying of herbicides and synthetic pesticides in the county, except where no alternative vegetation management practice is feasible or during a state of emergency".
AB-99 would open up huge potential for roadsides to be an asset rather than liability. Roadsides are prime locations for providing critical habitat and wildlife corridors. For example, "Pollinator Highways" are a proven non-toxic alternative to roadside spraying. They are common in numerous climate zones throughout the United States and have been shown to improve wildlife habitat, reduce water pollution, sequester carbon, increase farm yields, and reduce road maintenance costs. Imagine how beautiful our roadways could be...AB-99 is the first step.