NO on mosquito ballot
troubling is the fact that the ballots must be voted before
the end of the June 21 public hearing.
Ballots have gone out
from Santa Cruz County's Environmental Health Department asking
Mid- and North County property owners if they wish to be assessed
$12/year/parcel to extend the boundaries of the Mosquito and Disease
Control Assessment District which currently operates only in Watsonville.
Approval of this district extension would raise over $800,000/year
for a condition that has not proven to be a significant threat here.
The tax could be increased up to 3% per year without a vote.
West Nile virus is spread
by infected mosquitoes and has claimed elderly people in New York,
the Gulf Coast states and southern California: areas where population
density and attendant loss of habitat for natural mosquito control,
(fish, birds, bats, spiders) has been lost.
The mandate of the Mosquito
and Disease Control Assessment is far broader than mosquitoes. The
County may utilize a wide variety of mechanisms without public oversight
to control "disease vectors" such as "rodents, stinging
insects, Africanized honeybees, and fire ants."
Mosquitoes form an integral
part of the food chain. Bats, avian flycatchers and some spiders,
for example, depend on mosquitoes for their sustenance. Control
of mosquitoes could affect the survival of these animals as well
as higher predators. Wholesale killing of mosquitoes could decrease
the number of animals dependent on mosquitoes for food and thus
result in no net reduction of the total mosquito population.
is the fact that the ballots must be voted before the end of the
June 21 public hearing on the issue. What then, is the point of
the public hearing if not to provide a way for homeowners to inform
themselves about the ballot issue?
The methods and chemicals
the District is authorized to use are not available for public scrutiny
and many, such as the use of mosquito-fish, pose a threat to native
wildlife if they should unintentionally end up in a creek or lake-the
mosquito-fish also eat young steelhead and red-legged frog larvae.
Sierra Club does not
see that a significant threat exists to county residents from West
Nile virus. Experience with the pathogen has shown that infection
rates drop off sharply after one or two years. The number of deaths
in the U.S. from West Nile virus has been one third the number killed
by tuberculosis or by accidental shootings. The number of cases
which cause long-term debility is also modest according to a fact
sheet posted on the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency website.
To date there have been no human cases of West Nile virus reported
in Santa Cruz County.
A successful human vaccine
is expected within 1 - 2 years for vulnerable residents. A vaccine
for horses currently exists. Santa Cruz County residents would be
better served by the restoration of impaired and lost habitat for
native mosquito-eating animals such as red-legged frogs, Western
pond turtles, salamanders, steelhead, avian flycatchers and bats
than by the wide-spread use of chemicals in our waterways.