Island voters reject mosquito pesticide proposal

Posted March 20, 2013, at 2:43 p.m.

CRANBERRY ISLES, Maine — Residents of this five-island town off Mount Desert Island have resigned themselves to another possibly buggy summer.

Last year mosquitos came out in force on the islands, which have significant wetlands on them, prompting one seasonal resident to petition the town to take action. Not only were the mosquitos considered a nuisance, but there were concerns about mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis.

Denise McCormick, Cranberry Isles’ town clerk, said Wednesday that she could not recall how many people signed the petition but that the proposal was to raise $25,000 to hire a firm that would survey the islands for possible treatment sites. Wherever that firm might find standing water that was serving as mosquito nurseries, she said, it would apply a pesticide known as bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, or BTI, that would kill the mosquito larvae.

On Saturday, however, the idea was shot down at the annual town meeting. Lobstermen, who make up a sizeable portion of the islands’ population of around 150, are wary of how the use of pesticides and resulting runoff might affect lobster in the surrounding coastal water and raised those concerns, McCormick said.

There have been cases in which pesticides are suspected of having killed lobsters in the ocean. A sharp decline since the 1990s in the lobster population in Long Island Sound off Connecticut has been linked to an application of pesticides in New York City. Across the Canadian border in New Brunswick, a salmon aquaculture company is facing charges after lobsters there were found dead a few years ago from a suspected pesticide application.

The vote on Saturday was 31 opposed to the mosquito pesticide application and six in favor of it, McCormick said.

In other town meeting business, voters approved an overall 2013 municipal budget of more than $2 million, which includes half a million dollars for education expenses for children in kindergarten through high school, according to the town clerk. Those education expenses include $100,000 in capital expenditures for the town’s two elementary schools for new sprinkler systems, a new roof, and other improvements.

Other expenses approved by voters include authorizing the town to spend up to $220,000 for a new pumper truck for the fire department on Little Cranberry Island and up to $87,000 for a new public toilet by the municipal pier on Great Cranberry Island. Those two capital expenses are the main reason why the town’s 2013 budget is about $250,000 higher than the 2012 municipal budget of $1,812,556, she said.

In elections, Charles Dunbar was elected to the board of selectmen, McCormick said. Dunbar is the first Bear Island resident to serve as a selectman since the town was founded in 1830, she said.

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