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Supervisors authorize Vector Habitat Remediation Program

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has authorized the implementation of a Vector Habitat Remediation Program intended to reduce or eliminate mosquito breeding areas not conducive to larvicide application.

The supervisors’ 5-0 vote March 24 also certifies that the Program Environmental Impact Report is in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act and adopts an environmental mitigation and monitoring program. The supervisors also authorized $500,000 of Vector Control Benefit Assessment revenues to fund the Vector Habitat Remediation Program while authorizing the director of the county’s Department of Environmental Health to initiate and conduct negotiations with land owners or managers for remediation programs. Contingent upon successful negotiations and a determination of fair and reasonable costs, the DEH director was also authorized to issue one-year grants of up to $50,000 per site on a non-competitive basis.

The county’s Vector Control Program is under the Department of Environmental Health. Its functions include early detection of public health threats through comprehensive surveillance, protection of public health by controlling vectors and exposure to vectors, and timely responses to customer service requests.

The California Health and Safety Code defines a vector as any animal capable of transmitting an agent of human disease or producing human discomfort or injury, so vectors include mosquitoes, flies, mites, ticks, rodents, bats, and other small insects and vertebrae. The county’s Vector Control Program identifies vector species, recommends techniques for their prevention and control, and anticipates and minimizes any new interactions between vectors and humans.

The county’s program is funded by a Vector Control District which levies a fee. Including a $5.92 voter-approved vector control assessment, the charge for a single-family home is $8.92 for the coastal region and $8.20 for the suburban and rural regions. The Board of Supervisors, which acts as the board for the county’s Vector Control District, reviews the assessment annually to determine if an increase is warranted; such decisions are usually made each July.

The county’s Vector Control District includes cities as well as the county’s unincorporated area. Its $8.7 million 2009-10 budget includes $4 million for salaries and benefits for permanent staff and seasonal workers, $2.4 million for services and supplies including larvicides, aerial applications, and outreach materials, and $1.4 million for the vector habitat remediation program.

In an effort to control West Nile Virus, the Vector Control District began an aerial larvicide application program to combat mosquito breeding sites. While the program was initially successful, its efficiency has decreased over time due to continued vegetation growth and accumulated siltation since surface application of larvicides is not effective if heavy vegetation does not allow the larvicides to enter the water.

The program authorized by the county supervisors will fund projects which reduce or eliminate breeding areas. Private or public land owners or managers would physically alter chronic mosquito breeding sites with the grant funding and would be responsible for managing and maintaining the altered sites using their own resources.

Both competitive and non-competitive grants will be issued. Non-competitive direct grants will address acute breeding problems identified by vector control staff, although such grants will be limited to projects which can be implemented at a low cost and without affecting sensitive environmental resources. Applicants for competitive grants must demonstrate that projects will be in compliance with land use regulations and applicable local, state, and Federal wetland and endangered species regulations.

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