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  • Reality bites: Bandon plagued by mosquitoes

  • BANDON — A mosquito infestation has residents buzzing about the restoration of the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge.
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  • BANDON — A mosquito infestation has residents buzzing about the restoration of the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge.
    The $10 million marsh restoration by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has created a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes in Bandon, The Oregonian reported.
    One boy was bitten so badly that he developed welts. A woman had to have her wedding ring cut off after her hand and arm swelled from bites. And a house painter said he has to don a beekeeper's suit to work outside.
    Stores have run out of repellant, and for the first time in its 14 years of operation, the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort sprayed insecticide on its golf courses.
    About 420 acres of marshes are being restored in the wildlife refuge that had been diked and turned into farmland. The restoration is creating habitat for salmon and shorebirds.
    Scientists have identified five species of mosquitoes also finding a home there, but they are associated with West Nile or other potentially dangerous viruses, said Nikki Zogg, the Coos County public health director. One species — Aedes dorsalis or salt marsh mosquitoes — accounts for 90 percent of the population.
    Zogg is not worried about a public health threat but says something has to be done.
    "It's causing a disruption in the quality in life and having a bit of an economic impact," Zogg said.
    Visitors have cut stays short, while residents have stayed indoors.
    "They've basically been held hostage this summer and kept in their homes," said Mary Schamehorn, Bandon's mayor. "It's a huge problem."
    Unlike many mosquitoes that are active at dusk and dawn, salt marsh mosquitoes bite during the day.
    After hearing from angry constituents, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., pressed U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials for a solution.
    "They told me they were looking into the problem," he said in a statement in July. "Three months later and well into the tourist season, the mosquito problem has gotten worse."
    He called for immediate relief and long-term action.
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife launched a study with Oregon State University scientists to seek a mosquito management strategy but that effort will go on for a year. In the short term, the agency drained a few ponds in the refuge about two weeks ago. Residents report that the problem has lessened in recent days but not gone away.
    A full solution has been entangled in red tape, because Fish and Wildlife doesn't deal with mosquitoes.
    "We're not experts in mosquito abatement," said Megan Nagel, an agency spokeswoman. "There's no precedent for FWS to pay for and do the spraying."
    Cash-strapped Coos County doesn't have a vector control agency, and any way, the refuge is under federal protection. The agency has to issue a permit before sprays can be used.
    For that to happen, the feds said they needed Coos County to declare a health emergency.
    Zogg said that would amount to an abuse of her power.
    So on Thursday, she issued a health advisory, warning residents about the mosquito problem.
    That got the federal wheels turning, said John Sweet, chairman of the Coos County Board of Commissioners.
    "The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife accepted that as a trigger to start their process towards permitting control measures," Sweet said Friday. "I'm hopeful that will happen next week."
    Once the county has permits, it will have a new problem: How to pay for abatement. U.S. Fish and Wildlife has said it won't dish up the dollars, DeFazio said.
    He's working on authorities in Washington D.C. and gone to the governor's office in Salem looking for help.
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