Officials obscuring facts on Bandon Marsh mosquito infestation

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by Rob Taylor

The saga of The Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge & Mosquito Preserve is continuing to unfold as the people of the Coquille Valley are learning to live with what the US Fish & Wildlife Service is calling an “acceptable amount” of mosquitoes.

Of course, there are differences of opinion on the term “acceptable.”

The officials at Bullards Beach State Park, which is next to the Bandon Marsh, released this advisory in July, “US Fish and Wildlife Service has been applying larvacide to the Bandon Marsh since early May.  The larvacide has reduced the saltwater mosquito population significantly.  Due to the dry conditions this year the drainage ditches at Bullards Beach have been dry for at least a month.  As a result we have seen very few of our “normal” mosquitoes, but a few are present.  Coos County Health Department has traps set up at the park to monitor the mosquito population.”

What is “normal” and who decides those standards based on what evidence?”

It is true there are fewer mosquitoes than there was during last year’s infestation.  Nonetheless, some properties surrounding the marsh are still suffering “swarm levels” of significant proportions that did not exist until The Service pulled the tide gates on the Ni-les-tuna section of the marsh and flooded the valley.  Thankfully, the temporary suspension of the second phase of the planned expansion stopped the formation of 4500-acres worth of breeding ponds.

Beginning in the spring of 2014, certain parts of the city of Bandon has, and continues to experience, a small influx of mosquitoes, which is more than there were before the first phase of the expansion was completed.  The decrease from the previous year is due to the direct treatment of the infested area on the marsh, so the problem is somewhat managed, but it has by no means been eliminated.  According to the experts, the application of larvacides and pesticides could continue for the next 6 years, or indefinitely, depending on nature’s ability to produce enough natural predators to kill off the mosquitoes.

The government officials assigned with solving this dilemma have chosen to treat the symptoms, instead of curing the disease.  Dredging new channels combined with the expense of continuous vector abatement will eventually cost several millions in public funding.  Outside the marsh, the private sector is suffering infestations from previous fly offs and there is some concern among the professionals on whether there will ever be enough mosquito predators in the higher elevations of the valley to control the insect populations, which will permanently devalue the quality of life for those residents..

Alarmingly, there are different varieties of mosquitoes starting to appear in other parts of the valley and in the city of Bandon besides the summer salt marsh mosquito, the Aedes dorsalis.  The Service is blaming standing water on private property for these new bugs, but the fact remains, these insects were not present until The Service flooded the marsh.  No matter how they try to obscure the issue, the topic should be about solutions, not public housing for bats and mosquito magnets.  How many different species there are is hard to determine since the officials have only five traps actively collecting mosquitoes in the infested part of the county.  A PhD Biologist, who is also a member of the county mosquito committee, recommended at least fifty traps.  Is there a reason the officials do not want this data collected?

Ten leading American biologists in the field of vector abatement were asked in a phone survey if the Service’s Integrated Marsh Management plan would be effective for this specific situation.  Only six responded with “more than likely”, three said “maybe”, and one claimed that it would not be a good solution.  The same ten biologists were asked if diking the marsh and draining the swamp would solve the problem, and without hesitation, all of them said, “yes”.  All ten agreed that removing the standing water, is, and has always been, the most cost effective way to eliminate mosquitoes without having to use toxic chemicals on a perpetual basis and history has proven it.  Why has there been no discussion on using this established alternative?

The county’s inaction is the fault of the county commissioner in charge of resolving this issue, John Sweet.  Sweet had an opportunity to take the question to the voters, but refused to put it on the ballot.  He was late in forming the Vector Assessment & Control Advisory Committeeand once formed, he appointed members to the community who are sympathetic with the agenda of the USFWS.  It is no accident, nor surprise, the committee overwhelmingly decided to back Fish & Wildlife and support the agency’s IMM plan

Currently, Sweet is an incumbent desperately campaigning to retain his seat on the Coos County Board of Commissioners, which has proven difficult with an opponent as experienced and well respected in the community as Mr. Don Gurney, who is also running for the same position.

Mr. Gurney has openly stated that he would support a ballot measure asking the citizens of Coos County to determine how they would resolve the problem.  Integrated Marsh Management plan, or Dike the Marsh and Drain the Swamp, most voters would support the ladder and that is why Sweet refuses to use the power of the people to smite The US Fish & Wildlife Service.  Those same voters should support Gurney in November.

CoosCountyWatchdog.com is a virtual network of government watchdogs founded by Rob Taylor.

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