DOBSON — The Surry County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution opposing the growing of Arundo Grass in North Carolina, a plant that some biologists have called “one of the top 100 most invasive plant species.”
During a Commissioner’s meeting Monday night, Commissioner Eddie Harris made the motion to pass the resolution after a passionate presentation to the board.
It passed unanimously, with some commissioners commending Harris for his forward thinking.
Harris said Wednesday that he has some experience with protecting the county’s natural resources after serving for 12 years with the county’s Soil and Water Conservation District board.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of issues related to this, and have worked with farmers and landowners who are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year fighting invasive species,” he said. “It’s just a tremendously expensive proposition to deal with these invasive plants.”
The issue arose after the Oxford-based North Carolina Biofuels Center proposed growing the plant on a mass scale, saying it is a cash crop that can be a prime energy source for the state because of its volume of plant material.
But opponents like Harris say the potential damage to the environment isn’t worth the risk.
“Everyone from forest service officials to North Carolina State, including farmers and landowners, are fighting this and I think it’s time to say enough is enough,” he said. “We don’t need to roll the dice on this. It will get out of hand and once it’s out of control there’s no stopping it.”
Arundo grass is native to Asia. It can grow as much as 10 inches a day, Harris said.
“It forms these thick, dense stands that are almost impenetrable by other plant species or even wildlife,” he added.
Harris called the species “extremely invasive.”
“It’s especially dangerous along waterways like estuaries, rivers, streams, gullies and ditches,” he said. “It completely shuts out any sort of naturally-occurring native species.”
California has spent around $70 million combating Arundo Grass, and Harris said it’s “completely out of control” in Texas.
“It can sprout from roots nine feet deep and burrow under roadways to infest adjacent land,” Harris said.
According to the commissioner, the risk is far from worth the reward.
“What (the N.C. Biofuels Center) is wanting us to do is roll the dice on our landowners and farmers, when in reality it will end up costing us much, much more than they can ever hope to gain from growing this plant,” he said.
“It’s bad news. That’s about all you can say about it,” Harris added.
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.