Mosquito Control spraying resumes on Big Pine after sign-off from the feds

rmccarthy@keynoter.comJune 11, 2014 

The Florida leafwing is one of two butterfly species that had halted Mosquito Control spraying on Big Pine Key.

NORTH AMERICAN BUTTERFLY ASSOCIATION

Florida Keys Mosquito Control District spray trucks should be back on Big Pine Key this week, says Director Michael Doyle. 

The district and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put the finishing touches late last week on an agreement that more closely monitors Mosquito Control's use of adulticide dispensed as a fog inside the National Key Deer Refuge. Doyle said it's "very likely" spray trucks would be back in operation by as soon as today.

"We have to change all of our spray routes on Big Pine and we have tentative ones, but they need to be finalized. We just need to make internal maps that comply with the conditions in the permit," he said.

Fish and Wildlife barred Mosquito Control from spraying in mid-June last year due to concerns that it negatively impacts Big Pine habitat for dwindling Bartram's hairstreak and Florida leafwing butterfly populations. Both are candidates for the Endangered Species List.

The two agencies combined on a roughly 130-page environmental assessment outlining various alternatives to treat the refuge without affecting those species.

What they decided was that adulticide spraying would largely be restricted in "critical" and "occupied" butterfly habitat on Big Pine. That's where they could either reside or lay eggs. A 30-day public comment period for the assessment passed ended on April 10 with little resident response.

On May 30, Refuge Manager Nancy Finley released a statement endorsing a "decision in the form of a finding of no significant impact. That basically meant the deal was done, but Doyle said several final loose ends were cleared up last week.

"Mosquito management is challenging in the Keys and had to take into account a large diversity of issues in the ecosystem," Finley said. "This plan protects important federally listed species and their habitats but ensures the community's public health, safety and comfort."

Finley said the five-year plan balances the missions "of both the refuge and the district by allowing for a level of flexibility in Mosquito Control operations with site specific requirements based on natural resources concerns and environmental conditions."

Land purchase is finalized

Friday, the district closed on $749,000 U.S. 1 lot on Big Coppitt Key that will serve as its future Lower Keys headquarters.

Commissioners gave the go-ahead last month but were split on how large a building to construct and which district employees should work there.

The board eventually chose to build the maximum 4,200-square-foot office and approved Doyle's recommendation not to move the district's four-member Finance Department to the 107th Street office in Marathon.

The district's Lower Keys operations are now centered in a building on College Road on Stock Island owned by the city of Key West. The city isn't renewing the district's lease.

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