Legislators seek additional hearings on mosquito control permit

Twenty state lawmakers from legislative districts in Western and Eastern Washington joined in a March 1 letter to the Washington Department of Ecology (DOE) expressing concerns about language in a proposed update to the state's mosquito control permit. The legislators also called on the department to extend the public comment process on the proposal.

When there was no reply from the agency, 15th District Rep. David Taylor initiated a follow-up letter March 16, reiterating his concerns and those of his colleagues, and asking for a response.

The DOE held a hearing on the draft Aquatic Mosquito Control General Permit, March 9 in Moses Lake, but the agency planned no additional public meetings elsewhere.

“The Department of Ecology says it is conducting a 'full public process' on the proposed permit, but one public hearing in one city does not constitute what we consider a 'full public process.' It's our position that there should be a more inclusive procedure available to the citizens of Washington,” said Taylor, R-Moxee.

In their letters, Taylor and his fellow lawmakers requested that additional hearings be scheduled in other regions of the state, including Spokane, Okanogan, Yakima, Chelan, Clark and Whatcom counties. They also asked that the public-comment period be extended 30 days.

“The department says it wants to have the permit finished and ready to go in June. Even with that timeline, another 30 days to allow further public participation is not unreasonable,” Taylor said.

The 20 legislators have outlined two principal concerns with the draft permit and its potential impacts: The agency's definition of “surface water,” and a provision that would apparently preclude proactive spraying for mosquito control.

“Based on our conversation with representatives from the department, the draft rule defines surface water as Waters of the State, which is synonymous with Waters of the United States.  This is particularly troubling given the current movement in Congress to expand the definition of Waters of the U.S. to include virtually all surface water bodies. We do not agree with, nor support the use of this definition, and suggest the department utilize a definition which prohibits discharge to navigable water bodies,” the letter stated.

Taylor noted that while the insects are widely regarded as a nuisance, mosquitoes also are vectors (transmitters) of several viruses that can cause severe disease and even death in humans, including West Nile Virus.

Taylor said some Mosquito Control Districts are worried that the new permit the department is considering would impose overly restrictive rules, potentially barring them from spraying during the summer mosquito season.

“Based on the draft rule, it appears spraying could only occur after a clear and present public health danger is present. In other words, allowing reactive mosquito control and not proactive, preventive control,” said Taylor, adding that more flexible control measures could avert a serious outbreak of potentially life-threatening disease.

“One of the very basic functions of government is protecting public health and safety. Unfortunately, we believe the draft permit limits that protection because it would prohibit proactive control of nuisance mosquitoes before a public health emergency is present,” said Taylor in his March 16 letter to the department.

Some Mosquito Control Districts test for West Nile virus in mosquitoes once a week. The process requires about 28 hours to complete, including setting and collecting traps, completing lab tests and determining the results.

“At the height of mosquito season, a 28-hour delay in controlling vector mosquitoes could create significant public health concerns,” said Taylor. “We asked the department to revise the draft permit to allow control of both nuisance and vector mosquitoes, as long as application of the adulticide is consistent with label instructions.”

“As of March 16, Ecology had not seen fit to respond to our first letter. They set a March 17 deadline for written comments on the permit, and it appears that our request for a broader public review process has been disregarded, discounted or simply ignored. At the very least, my colleagues and I deserved the courtesy of a reply,” he concluded.

For more information, contact: Bill Taylor, Senior Information Officer: (360) 786-7074

###

Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov