Our Opinion: An overdue compromise on Stockbridge Bowl treatment
It may have taken far too long, but a reasonable resolution appears at hand for managing Stockbridge Bowl's invasive weeds (Eagle, "Concession seen as 'crucial' to ending herbicide dispute at Stockbridge Bowl," July 16.)
At issue is the use of the herbicide fluridone to treat an infestation of invasive Eurasian milfoil that has choked the lake, which is owned by the state and managed by the town. The Stockbridge Bowl Association sought the use of fluridone to combat the perennial weed problem, which has wreaked havoc on lakegoers' recreational enjoyment of an iconic Berkshires body of water. The town's Conservation Commission, however, had stubbornly opposed the use of fluridone, a common herbicide that had been used elsewhere without issue and was approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The Conservation Commission's objections cited potential harm to some native species within the bowl's habitat. In lieu of the herbicide treatment, a mechanical harvester has been used to remove the invasive weeds — an expensive and intrusive process that is more maintenance than treatment and, at best, partially effective.
This fluridone fight led to what seemed like an intractable conflict over how to best manage the lake — which ironically led to the milfoil's further propagation to the detriment of the Stockbridge Bowl.
What made the tiff particularly frustrating was that a potential solution has been on the table for some time: Test the fluridone in a small portion of the lake, and if it's effective and safe at that scale, use it to treat the entire body of water. It's a common-sense plan that the Eagle's editorial board has backed for some time — saying that "action is overdue" as far back as February 2019 — and it's the backbone of the compromise reached recently between the town's Conservation Commission and the SBA. The compromise signaled earlier this week would see the application of fluridone to two areas of the lake designated by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Applying the herbicide to the whole lake would then hinge on the DEP's assessment of whether there is sufficient regrowth of native species in those test areas.
Compromise is a beautiful thing, even if this one is a case of better late than never. Stockbridge is a town known for its sometimes intense local politics. Nevertheless, it should not take years of dispute and a trip to Superior Court to come together on basic and essential responsibilities like maintaining the Stockbridge Bowl. If there's a lesson here, it's that compromise is almost always possible — even when it's far overdue.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.