(Beyond Pesticides, March 7, 2008) A number of counties in California’s Bay Area have voiced strong opposition to state plans to aerially spray a pheromone mixture over areas where the light brown apple moth (LBAM) has been found. While the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) plans to begin spraying this summer, state legislators and county officials alike are taking steps to postpone or halt it completely.
By late February, Senator Carole Midgen had introduced a resolution to set a moratorium on aerial spraying in San Francisco and Marin counties. Assemblyman John Laird and others introduced a four-bill legislative package designed to ensure CDFA is “adequately prepared” for pest problems and public health is protected.
Since then, a number of city councils have approved a variety of resolutions to oppose aerial spraying. Santa Cruz County has filed a lawsuit to stop the spraying, the court hearing for which has been postponed until April 24 in order to complete paperwork. “The county just received the administrative record from the state,” said county spokeswoman Dinah Phillips. “We’ll be going through that with a fine-tooth comb. We’re trying to get everything ready before the spraying begins.”
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has signed on to Sen. Midgen’s resolution. “We haven’t seen this level of concern and debate since the medfly days of then Governor Jerry Brown,” said Sup. Ross Mirkarimi.
The Berkeley City Council notified the Secretary of Agriculture, during a presentation on the planned spraying, that it is planning a lawsuit, or to collaborate with other Bay Area counties on one. The Oakland City Council likewise unanimously approved a resolution to oppose spraying until a “reliable outside independent source verifies that there are no health effects.” According to Councilwoman Jane Brunner, “People are very pleased that we took such fast action.”
Even in Fairfax, where state officials have no plans to aerially spray for LBAM, the City Council has voted to request a moratorium on spraying over the Tiburon peninsula. “We need to scream to the heavens on this issue,” said Councilman Lew Tremaine. “The government is declaring war on the people of this community. We need to make sure this doesn’t happen.” Mayor Mary Ann Maggiore worried that strong winds would bring the pheremone to Fairfax from other areas. “We have no idea how much this might drift,” she said. “We’re strongly against pesticides here.”
CDFA is still accepting comments on its Environmental Impact Report. You can send yours in through March 14. Address your comments to Jim Rains, Staff Environmental Scientist, California Department of Food and Agriculture, 1220 N Street, Sacramento, CA 95814, fax (916) 654-1018, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The LBAM issue will be addressed next week at the National Pesticide Forum, held at the University of California-Berkeley. A Saturday workshop, “Taking the Lead at the Local Level,” will feature an informative presentation by Paul Schramski, state director of Pesticide Watch, followed by an informal discussion session on Sunday. For more details and to register for the Forum, click here.