Gravel removed from weed-free billA proposed statewide system to certify hay and gravel as being free of weeds no longer includes rock products. Lawmakers stripped the gravel pit provision from the bill after construction industry officials questioned whether it was necessary and was a step toward stricter requirements.
By: By Blake Nicholson, The Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — A proposed statewide system to certify hay and gravel as being free of weeds no longer includes rock products.
Lawmakers stripped the gravel pit provision from the bill after construction industry officials questioned whether it was necessary and was a step toward stricter requirements.
Mark Dougherty, membership services director for The Associated General Contractors of North Dakota, said gravel pit owners already are required by law to keep their property free of noxious weeds. He said there is no widespread call for certification of weed-free rock products in the state.
“Our feeling was that they were setting up a certification (system) where there was no demand,” he said. “Nobody is requiring — that I could find except for a couple of very unusual instances — (certified) weed-free gravel.”
Blake Schaan, a noxious weed specialist with the Agriculture Department, said some county highway departments, including Cass County, the state’s largest, and some townships want to use gravel that has been certified as weed-free.
Schaan said the demand for weed-free gravel is not near that for weed-free hay but the department wanted something “that would be usable statewide, as kind of a proactive approach.”
As for forage, “we get a lot more direct calls to the department, and that’s for sure what we wanted to save in the bill,” he said.
Rep. Phil Mueller, D-Valley City, the bill’s main sponsor, said it set up a voluntary process to provide for the certification of weed-free gravel. It was “not mandatory in any way,” he said.
Dougherty said that did not ease the fears of Associated General Contractors members.
“Our fear, if you set up a certification system, are you going to make it a requirement?” he said.
The state Department of Transportation, which owns some of its own gravel pits and hires contractors with their own sources, did not take a position on the bill, said Ron Henke, director of the agency’s project development office.
The proposed certification system was aimed at clarifying a law the Agriculture Department says is cumbersome, vague and possibly illegal.
Agriculture Department officials last spring stopped certifying inspectors, putting the responsibility for the program on counties. But the counties said they lacked the proper staff and only 10 of North Dakota’s 53 counties provided the service.
“With the absence of gravel certification in the bill, there is no official certification process now in place for contractors or those who might have a need for certified weed-free gravel,” Mueller said.
Schaan said anyone who wants certified rock products will need to go to county weed boards.
“They would have to provide some sort of documentation that the pit is in compliance with noxious weed law,” he said. “That’s really all they’re authorized to do.”
Dougherty said he believes that process will work. He offered as an example a contractor last year who was putting gravel on missile silo roads for the Air Force and was required to certify the rocks. The contractor reached the Ward County weed officer, who looked at the pit and told federal officials it was in compliance, Dougherty said.
“That satisfied them,” he said.
The bill is HB1270.