News With Video
Los Cerritos Wetlands Whacked (PCH/2d-Westminster) Under Mosquito Abatement Notice From Greater L.A. County Vector Control District; Wetlands Advocates Duel (Again) With Anti-Mosquito Agency
|(February 10, 2006) -- Combining digital video with internet advocacy, veteran LB-area wetlands supporter and CA Earth Corps president Don May has emailed state and local officials dramatic video [link below] of a bulldozer-size, weed-whacker-type vehicle tearing out vegetation in the Los Cerritos wetlands area (east of LB Marketplace, near Studebaker Rd. @ Westminster/2d St.).|
Video source: CA Earth Corps
LBReport.com has learned that the operation (which spanned at least two days) began on February 2 and stemmed from a continuing mosquito abatement order issued in 2003 by the Greater L.A. County Vector Control District (GLACVCD).
GLACVCD says it sent the property owner, Bixby Ranch Co., a reminder notice on compliance and the property owner undertook the vegetation-removal measure to comply with GLACVCD's notice.
GLACVCD is pleased...but Mr. May and LB ECO-link chair Diana Mann and other wetlands advocates are seriously exercised...and a long-festering dispute between local wetlands advocates and GLACVD management now appears destined to come to a head.
Mr. May told LBReport.com that he and Ms. Mann planned to meet for lunch in the Marketplace area on Feb. 2 when they spotted the activity in the wetlands, raced home to grab photo and video equipment and captured the scenes...which left them fuming.
Tim Anderson, a nationally recognized naturalist and digital video whiz, created an internet distributable video...which included previously-shot scenes of wildlife observed in the same wetlands area.
Mr. May then emailed the video [link below] to CA Fish & Game Commission member Bob Hattoy on Feb. 5, cc'd to State Senator Alan Lowenthal's LB aide and LB Councilman Frank Colonna [in whose district the area is]. In sending the video, Mr. May wrote in part:
"This is winter; there are no mosquitoes, and they never have been found in this portion of the wetlands...This area...has been declared a wetland ESHA by Coastal Commission, who still retains Original Permit jurisdiction. Long Beach and the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy are enthusiastic members of a Los Cerritos Joint Powers Authority recently formed to acquire and protect this highly productive marsh. There is plenty of time for reasonable people to sit down to devise a strategy to control the mosquitoes without destroying the marsh."
GLACVCD Operations Manager Mark Hall told LBReport.com that the area had become overgrown with tule vegetation (bulrush, etc.) and the agency, property owner and CA Fish and Game had worked out a plan to bring the mosquito population down to an acceptable level while leaving enough habitat for the existing bird population. The plan involved removing tule vegetation choking off the pond while adding mosquito fish [fish that eat mosquito larvae] to help control the mosquito population.
"We don't have a problem with marsh and wetland areas as long as they're maintained," Mr. Hall said, adding "The issue arises when agencies encourage wetland areas without providing sufficient resources to maintain them."
Mr. May bristled at the response. "As a 'special district,' the Greater L.A. County Vector Control District has nearly unlimited power to levy taxes to pay for what they want done. Frankly I'm tired of hearing them try to blame wetlands supporters again."
GLACVCD's Hall credited the wetlands property owner, Bixby Ranch Co., for complying (at the firm's expense) with the agency's continuing mosquito abatement notice. "There's a window of opportunity to do this type of work to meet CA Fish & Game requirements [the birds' nesting season runs from roughly March 15 to Oct. 15] and if action isn't taken now, there could be mosquito problems in the spring and summer," Mr. Hall said.
Tim King with property owner Bixby Ranch Co. says the firm has no desire to create environmental issues and is "dealing with this as a public health issue since the [Greater L.A. County Vector Control District] indicates West Nile Virus is a potential issue and we want to ensure proper abatement is done. We're working with [GLACVCD] as well as with [CA] Fish & Game to do that and to make sure what we're doing is in compliance."
GLACVCD's Hall says that in 2005, the Seal Beach/Los Cerritos wetland area and a swath from SE Long Beach extending inland to El Dorado Park were hotbeds of West Nile Virus mosquito activity. In mid-2005, LBReport.com first reported that GLACVCD found a considerable number of the West Nile mosquitoes in an area generally north of the wetlands and south of the 405 freeway. LBReport.com was also first to report that GLACVD did ground fogging in the same wetlands area (late-June 2005) to reduce adult mosquitoes.
Video source: CA Earth Corps
Mr. Hall acknowledged that video of the heavy machinery removing the vegetation "could be very dramatic," noting one of the machines "floats on the water, grabs the vegetation and removes it by its roots so it won't return."
However Mr. Hall stressed, "The machine doesn't dredge the area. It's not digging any deeper or altering the bottom. There is some disturbance of mud but that settles back in."
To view the video for yourself, click here. [Caveat: large file, may require lengthy download. Source: CA Earth Corps.]
Relations between GLACVCD and CA Earth Corps have been rocky for some time. GLACVCD officials acknowledge that they view wetlands and similar projects as potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes carrying diseases with human health impacts, a concern amplified by the 2004 arrival of West Nile Virus which can bring chronic neurological problems and in rare cases death. [An elderly ELB LB woman bitten by a WNV-infected mosquito died in the area of Clark/Wardlow died in 2004.]
Last year, a GLACVCD official told us that the agency isn't necessarily opposed to wetlands but believes government agencies that promote them ought to ensure resources to deal with mosquito abatement at the same time. Vector borne diseases harm and kill people...and a GLACVCD staffer once remarked to us that the lowly mosquito may be responsible for killing more human beings than all wars combined.
Wetlands advocate May says he has no love for mosquitoes or the West Nile Virus and adds that enlightened wetlands management policies would do much to address mosquito issues. He says it's unfair to blame wetlands advocates for mosquitoes when mosquito control agencies themselves can raise their own revenues.
Mr. May says that as Feb. 10, he hasn't heard back yet from Fish & Game Commissioner Hattoy, state Senator Lowenthal or Councilman Colonna but adds "We have the merits on our side...and after what happened at the wetlands this time, the issue simply has to be dealt with once and for all."
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