Edmonton city council has voted to reinstate a helicopter program that combats mosquitoes for the 2021 season, days after its termination was announced.
The elimination of the aerial spray program was initially passed by council during budget discussions in the fall, in order to save about $1 million. Last Thursday, the city announced the termination of the program and, in doing so, that the mosquito population could increase by about 40 per cent in dense forest areas at the city’s outskirts.
On Monday, council approved a one-time increase of $507,000 to the parks and road services budget to restore the aerial mosquito program, using funding from the financial stabilization reserve.
Ward 5 Coun. Sarah Hamilton, who brought forward the motion to reinstate the program, said during the budget discussions council did not talk extensively about the program and the impacts cutting it would have, but Thursday’s announcement provided further information.
“Given how few people are going to be able to travel, or even spend time indoors doing alternate activities, I think that restoring this program, at least for this summer, might be a prudent move to preserve the livability and well-being of people in this city,” Hamilton said.
Mike Jenkins, the city’s pest control coordinator, told council the aerial treatment would occur about a week or so after rainfall when hatching is triggered and represents about 50 per cent of the efficacy of the program overall.
“The helicopters are still pretty precise,” Jenkins said. “They get down to only a few metres off of the surface of the water. They’re not broadcasting it far and wide across the whole environment.”
He said the other 50 per cent of the program is covered by treatment through the ground areas within the city and roadside ditch habitats that develop lots of mosquito larvae and have a high proximity to residential and recreational areas.
On average, $1.3 million per year is spent to combat mosquitoes, while the aerial treatment programs costs about $500,000 per year.
As Monday’s approval is only a one-time reinstatement, council will have to examine the program again if the city were to continue the aerial treatment in the future.