Gage County is continuing to address concerns of noxious weeds, resulting in an improved score from the state.
The County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday heard the 2018 noxious weed report, presented by Paul Moyer with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
In 2018, Gage County scored 2,940 points out of a possible 3,400. The score is an improvement over 2,870 in 2017 and 2,558 in 2016.
Moyer said one of the biggest concerns for Gage and other Nebraska counties is an increase in phragmites weeds.
“It used to be that we’d see it strictly on the river systems and waterways,” he said. “We’re really starting to see it any place it’s damp or wet. It might be in a crop drainage, it could be in a road ditch. The problem with this plant is it doesn’t disintegrate quickly. The old stalk will begin to lay down. It will literally block the flow of water. What we’ll see is a lot of flooding and blocking up of water.”
Moyer works with Gage County’s weed superintendent to reduce the number of noxious weeds, which compete with pasture and crops, reducing yields substantially. Some noxious weeds are poisonous to people, livestock, and losses resulting from noxious weed infestations can cost residents millions of dollars due to lost production.
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Moyer added that enforcing violations is up to individual counties, which have a few options.
“After the landowner has been notified, they have 15 days to comply,” he said. “If they do not, you can start assessing a fine of $100 a day up to 15 days for a maximum of $1,500. That’s one way you can get some action. The other way is a 10-day notice.
"After 10 days if a landowner has refused to comply with the control then you can do a forced control, which means you can hire a contractor to go out and spray, shred or chop, whatever you need to do to get those weeds under control, then send that bill to the landowner. If they refuse to pay you can assess that to their taxes.”
In most cases, landowners correct any violations and remove noxious weeds. Officials also recognize that some weeds are tough to get rid of, and acknowledge when owners try to remove them.
“We have some open files that we feel need to be addressed to be controlled better,” Moyer said. “That being said, some of these plants are difficult to control. We understand that. Some of these plants just don’t go away with one control effort. If we see adequate control for two or three years and see the landowner taking that initiative to spray, or whatever they’re doing, even though the weeds are still there we will close the file because we see they are making an effort.”