Three Island towns have taken a first step toward restricting herbicide use after years of concern over the longstanding practice of spraying beneath power lines by the utility giant Eversource.

At their annual town meetings this year, voters in Tisbury, West Tisbury and Aquinnah agreed to back a home-rule petition initiative to regulate herbicide use.

If the petition is approved by the state legislature, any group seeking to apply herbicides in the three towns would first need permission from the board of health.

Tisbury health agent Maura Valley said this week that the petitions are necessary because the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources controls who can spray herbicides on the Vineyard and what chemicals can be used.

“Right now local boards of health have no authority to regulate application of herbicides,” Ms. Valley said. “We don’t have the right to overrule the state.”

Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel and the community group We Stand Together led the charge to get the petitions on the town warrants. Mr. Israel said he saw the petitions as the best move after bills that would allow local communities regulate pesticide use didn’t make it out of committee this year. The bills were submitted by Cape and Islands Rep. Dylan Fernandes and Sen. Julian Cyr.

We Stand Together member Keith Chatinover, a Martha’s Vineyard Charter School senior, said the group wanted to have every Island town vote on the issue, but the movement started too late to meet all the town meeting deadlines.

Herbicide use is regulated at the state level through the Pesticide Control Act, a law passed in 1978 that conformed Massachusetts to federal regulations outlined in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). It also granted regulation powers to the state department of agriculture, so applicators only need state approval to spray in and around Massachusetts towns.

Mr. Fernandes said this week that he and Mr. Cyr support the home-rule petitions and will file a bill once they are received. The petitions likely will have high hurdles to clear on Beacon Hill.

“Locals should be able to decide what chemicals can be sprayed on their lawns, estuaries oceans, etc,” he said.

Tensions have mounted for years between Islanders and Eversource over the practice of selective spraying to keep vegetation down around power lines.

Eversource claims the spraying is safe and the best method for eliminating tall-growing, invasive species. Critics worry about the effects on shallow Island aquifers and also the unknown long-term effects on human health.

Eversource does not plan to spray on the Island this year, but a five-year plan for continued treatment will start in the next few years.

One Island town has been successful in exempting land from the state pesticide law and placing regulation powers at town level through a home-rule petition. In late 2014, a ban on herbicide use in Squibnocket Pond initiated by Chilmark landowners was upheld after a long legal process that ended with a home-rule petition to the state legislature.

“Without these petitions, it essentially can’t be regulated,” said Matthew Poole, Edgartown health agent and a member of the Chilmark board of health.

Mr. Poole said he has concerns about the ability of town boards of health to properly regulate herbicides, due to the complex nature of the different chemicals involved. He said if the initiative is approved, it will be crucial for towns to find a knowledgeable person to help guide the decision-making process.

“I’m not sure how qualified or capable we are of adopting a regulation like this,” Mr. Poole said. “We just don’t speak this language at the local level.”

Though the Martha’s Vineyard Commission has no authority to regulate herbicide use by Eversource, commission executive director Adam Turner said the MVC strongly supports the home-rule efforts by the towns. He said he would prefer regulations be made at the town level and thinks it’s a valid approach to let the boards of health take charge.

“I have all confidence in boards of health,” Mr. Turner said. “I’m much more worried about Boston with all of the lobbying going on that decisions being made are way outside the sensibilities of the Island.”