Commissioner Wayne Dukes shared photos with the Board of County Commissioners of lead trees and other invasive plants along canals and marshland in Hernando Beach. The trees are all on county property, growing along the right of way and obscuring the water. Commissioner Dukes stated that property owners usually keep their yards mowed, preventing the trees from taking hold.
In a particular area of Hernando Beach, Dukes stated he has been monitoring the growth for the past two years and the plants were already four feet high and difficult to see through. Lead trees can reach a height of 16 feet.
The Board of County Commissioners has previously voted against purchasing sensitive lands since approximately forty percent of the county is under governmental control; however, since the wetlands and canals are affected by the lead trees, Commissioner Dukes proposed that the County consider purchasing these areas. Revenues specifically set aside for the sensitive lands could then be used to clear the invasive plants and maintain the properties. Currently, more than $6 million is available to improve county property.
Though Dukes voted for the gas tax increase, he would rather use that money for what it was intended to do. He stated he would not like to tell a resident, “Your road could have been fixed but I used it [revenue from the gas tax increase] to cut down some trees in Hernando Beach.”
Commissioner Nick Nicholson agreed that using sensitive land funds would be appropriate. He stated the residents of Hernando Beach needed help and the County should act “as fast as possible” and then continue maintenance to prevent regrowth.
Commissioner Diane Rowden stated she wanted to give the public time to discuss the issue, a sentiment echoed by Commissioner Nicholson. Since the agenda item was advertised as a discussion only, Deputy County Attorney Jon Jouben advised that the board should come to a consensus to come back for a policy modification. The use of ESL funds for invasive species removal is on the agenda for March 22nd.
Residents have contacted the commissioners regarding removal of the debris from their property, including the use of dumpsters for disposal of the trees. Assistant County Administrator Ron Pianta advised that residents could contain leaves and seed pods in trash bags, then place those out with their regular trash to go to the landfill. Contractors who remove larger trees may not be aware of the need to separate and contain the seed pods and leaves. The county is working with UF/IFAS to certify contractors, including tree removal companies, to remove the trees, handle the leaves and seed pods, and apply herbicide to prevent regrowth.
UF/IFAS plant directory - http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/plant-directory/leucaena-leucocephala/
Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s 2015 List of Invasive Plant Species http://www.fleppc.org/list/2015FLEPPCLIST-LARGEFORMAT-FINAL.pdf