Bandon cranberry growers' concerns alter mosquito spraying

COQUILLE — Complaints from cranberry growers concerned about pesticides tainting their crops have prompted Coos County commissioners to adjust their plans for aerial spraying to control mosquitoes on the Southern Oregon coast.

The commission voted Wednesday to go ahead with plans to spray a granular pesticide on more than 300 acres of the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge to kill mosquito larvae.

But Chairman John Sweet says cranberry growers raised concerns that contamination from pesticides would make it impossible to sell their crops, which are about to be harvested. So the county decided to cancel plans for spraying a different pesticide to kill adult mosquitoes on 10,000 acres outside the refuge.

"Cranberry bogs are so prevalent in the area that it would take a large area out of the spray area," Sweet said. "State Parks also came to us. (Bullards Beach State Park campground) is full. They don't want spraying to take place over large portions of the park," he said. "There also was a lot of pushback from people who have organic gardens and other reasons against spraying. We thought we should pay attention to those people, as well."

Newly restored marshes on the refuge have been blamed for a massive infestation of mosquitoes around Bandon by creating large areas of stagnant water where mosquito larvae breed.

Conservationists also objected to widespread spraying of pesticides that can kill crabs, shrimp, crawdads and fish.

"We are very pleased they have pulled back," said Scott Black of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. "Spraying 10,000 acres with a toxic organophosphate, we felt was not going to help. And it would certainly harm wildlife as well as affect humans in the community."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has acknowledged that it never took into account the potential for mosquito problems when it restored the marsh, but will be working to limit mosquito breeding areas. The agency is paying for the spraying to kill larvae on the refuge.

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