City may oppose apple moth spraying

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San Francisco may join a growing list of counties protesting a state plan to aerial spray the Bay Area to control the spread of the light brown apple moth.

The non-native agricultural pest has been found in traps all across The City, according to state officials who attended a City Hall hearing Monday. They said the moths’ plant-eating caterpillars could cost California’s agricultural industry hundreds of millions of dollars if they spread to the rest of the state.

California Department of Food and Agriculture Program Chief Bob Dowell during the hearing said areas within 1½ miles of the traps would be treated with a range of anti-moth devices, including aerial pheromone treatments; pheromone- and insecticide-doused twist-ties; and parasitic wasps.

“If it’s within the radius, we’re going to treat it,” he said.

The department hasn’t decided which product will be sprayed in the fall as part of an effort to eradicate the moths, Dowell said.

The contents of the pheromone sprays will not be revealed for proprietary reasons, Dowell said, adding that such a treatment has never been attempted over a highly populated urban area such as San Francisco.

More than 600 people reported falling ill after Santa Cruz and Monterey counties were sprayed last year, Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment official Anna Fan said during the hearing. At the end of the hearing, before the Board of Supervisors’ Government Audit and Oversight Committee, city legislators recommended that the full board vote to adopt two resolutions that oppose the proposed aerial sprays.

One, authored by Mayor Gavin Newsom, is based on a letter he wrote to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, asking for the state to study the health consequences before proceeding with the moth spraying.

The second resolution, by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, directs the City Attorney’s Office to investigate legal options to help prevent the sprays.

The city of Santa Cruz filed a lawsuit against the state last year in aneffort to stop the spray; Richmond, Berkeley and Oakland have also passed resolutions opposing the state’s plan to spray aerially.

jupton@examiner.com

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