Deschutes County noxious weed fine moving forward

A $2,000 fine for properties with weed problems might take effect in July

By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin

Deschutes County is moving forward with a planned $2,000 fine for residents who refuse to clear harmful weeds from their properties.

But the fine probably won’t take effect until this summer. The county had hoped to speed up the implementation, setting the fine in county code in time for the spring growing season.

But the plan generated some push-back from residents about the speed of discussions and some details of the ordinance, such as how weeds should be washed out of farming equipment.

About 40 people attended a public hearing on the issue last month, with roughly equal numbers in favor and opposed to the fine.

County commissioners put their support behind it this week, voting in favor of the proposed $2,000 fine. But that vote was just preliminary; Oregon statute requires two separate votes by local governments that modify their county codes.

A formal vote is expected in early April. If commissioners approve it, the ordinance would take effect around July 8.

The county’s Weed Control District has mapped the locations of non-native plants since 2002, tracking more than 50 species that can speed up soil erosion and harm wildlife habitat.

But the county forester, who tracks the weeds, doesn’t have the authority to impose fines.

The threat of a fine should give weed-control efforts more teeth, county forester Ed Keith said. But he emphasized Monday that fines would only be a last resort.

Much of the noxious weed problems are confined to a handful of properties in rural areas, and forestry officials plan to keep working with residents to get rid of their weeds before a fine or legal action becomes necessary, Keith said.

“It will be a holistic approach,” he told commissioners this week.

Most county residents don’t need warnings to keep their properties tidy, Commissioner Tony DeBone said. Where cleaning up is an issue, he said neighbors are usually willing to step up and help.

“Weeds can be managed by the community,” DeBone said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, eglucklich@bendbulletin.com