Commissioners swat mosquito control district

Rob Lewis, president of the Island County Smart Growth Coalition, equated the proposed mosquito control district to a hangover during a public hearing Monday about forming a county wide mosquito control district.

It looks like the county will avoid this hangover as the commissioners wouldn’t even vote to approve an election date.

“I can’t believe the public would vote for it,” said Commissioner Mac McDowell.

Island County Health officials wanted to form a mosquito control district to prepare for the anticipated migration of West Nile Virus — a disease that is spread through mosquito bites.

Tim McDonald of the Island County Health Department said that the West Nile Virus is an emerging health problem. There have been 277 deaths nationwide since 1999.

It was standing-room only as people swarmed into the commissioners meeting room at the Law and Justice Center to comment on mosquito control.

Many attending the meeting argued that the threat West Nile Virus poses is miniscule and that the powers of the district would be a greater threat to public health and people’s rights.

Laurie Keith, president of the Whidbey Island No Spray Coalition, countered later in the meeting that more people die from the flu each year than from the West Nile Virus.

She argued that the $75,000 needed to run an election could be better used for education efforts.

The proposed election for a mosquito control district would have voters to decide on two measures. One would form the district and the other would approve a one-year, 10 cents per $1,000 levy to approve the district.

People attending the meeting argued that the structure of the proposed district would have too much power over people’s property to deal with a perceived threat.

“A mosquito control district could wind up like a hangover. It’s too easy to get, too hard to get rid of and while you’re suffering through it, all you can say is ‘what was I thinking,’” Lewis said.

He added that the virus doesn’t pose a serious enough threat to form an agency and that the county should just monitor the situation.

The powers of the control district would have allowed spraying crews to enter private property to survey and eradicate mosquitos.

“No paternalistic agency has a place in our backyard,” said Melinda Gladstone who came from Camano Island to attend the meeting.

According the the Revised Code of Washington which outlines the structure of a mosquito control district, workers could enter property, without hindrance, to search for mosquito breeding grounds, to abate the mosquitos and to see if a property owner is complying with the rules of the district.

Still others at the meeting questioned the use of pesticides.

Lori Oneal of Clinton said that the chemicals used to protect public health have damaged peoples immune system in the past. She highlighted the use of DDT and Malathion in the past.

McDonald said that the proposed district would emphasize the use of larvicides such as a naturally occurring bacteria and would have a minimal public impact.

The state department of health mosquito-borne disease response plan states that the use of adulticides is the last line of defense in controlling mosquito population.

There were several in attendance that did support the district.

Bill Stipe of Greenbank said that he gets bitten up to 30 times a day during the summer. He also attested to the effectiveness of larvicides.

There were several others who supported the district, however, the majority of the people who commented opposed its formation.

After a couple hours of listening to public comment about the district, it took a couple of minutes for the commissioners to decide not to go forward with the district.

Commissioner Mike Shelton said that he does see the potential threat of West Nile Virus, but it’s not enough to justify forming a district and Commissioner Bill Byrd agreed.

“This wasn’t unexpected,” McDonald said.

He added that the health department is moving forward with an educational program to inform the public about how to prevent mosquito breeding, the proper use of larvicides, and the state laws concerning mosquito control.

Roger Case, Island County Health officer, said he got a lot out of the public meeting and will use some of the information in forming their education plan.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at or 675-6611.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 22
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates