Many people would call the spread of phragmites along Nebraska lake shores, rivers and streams, particularly in the Republican and Platte Basins, as noxious. It is among several invasive, non-native species narrowing river channels, using large volumes of water and harming recreation and wildlife habitat.
Now, it's officially noxious. Last week, Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, designated phragmites as a noxious weed in the Republican River Basin. The designation boundaries cover four natural resources districts - Upper Republican, Middle Republican, Lower Republican and Tri-Basin NRDs.
Those NRDs and other agencies, including weed management areas, weed control authorities and resource conservation and development districts, are working together in an attempt to control invasive weeds in the basin. LB 701, the state water law passed this spring, authorized $2 million a year for two years to for riparian vegetation control. The first year's efforts are in the Republican Basin.
Most landowners along the river are cooperating in allowing the agencies to attack the problem, which also includes saltcedar. Saltcedar has a statewide noxious weed designation.
The designation of a weed as noxious ordinarily requires landowners to control them. If they fail to do so, local weed districts have authority to control the weed and assess the landowner for the costs.
Mitch Coffman, with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, says landowners will not be charged for the noxious weed control program along the Republican River. However, the regional designation of phragmites as a noxious weed permits those entities to conduct the control measures without landowner approval, he says.
The following weeds are designated as noxious weeds statewide: Saltcedar, Canada thistle, leafy spurge, musk thistle, plumeless thistle, purple loosestrife and diffuse knapweed.
If you have questions about the phragmites designation, contact the Nebraska Department of Agriculture's Noxious Weed Program Manager at 402-471-6844.