Agriculture officials released a tentative spraying schedule Wednesday that indicates aerial malathion applications will end over 467 square miles of Southern California by May 14--only five days beyond a May 9 deadline officials promised last winter amid public outcry over the pesticide program.
The schedule represents only a preliminary outline of the May battle plan, and it could undergo significant revision in the next few days. Nonetheless, it demonstrates the state's resolve to stick close to a deadline announced with fanfare last March by state Department of Food and Agriculture Director Henry J. Voss.
"We wanted to put something out for the schedule, but we can't be really certain of it at this point," said Gera Curry, a spokeswoman for the El Monte-based eradication effort. "It's tentative, but as far as we know, this is it."
The state's scientific advisory panel, made up of five entomologists from around the country, was meeting in Los Angeles on Wednesday to discuss the strategic switch and is expected to announce recommendations this Friday. Voss will make a final decision on the spraying program.
Panel member Richard Rice said he was uncertain if the plan is feasible, but added: "There's still a lot of hashing to go. We haven't come to any decision."
Under the May schedule, the helicopter-borne spraying of pesticide would be ended by May 14 everywhere except the Riverside County community of Woodcrest and a portion of the city of San Bernardino. In those localities, where new outbreaks have been discovered, the aerial applications will come every week to 10 days for as many as eight weeks.
In other pockets of Medfly infestation, the pesticide applications will be replaced by a new tactic involving the release of millions of sterile flies intended to breed the fertile flies out of existence. In still other neighborhoods, officials believe eradication has been achieved and the steriles will not be needed.
The effort to wind down the 9-month-old helicopter campaign carries risks. Scientists advising the state have said that spraying is being phased out prematurely in some neighborhoods, a mistake that could wipe out progress made so far and lead to even more intensive spraying.
New Medfly discoveries also could throw the state's plan into confusion, and a summertime explosion of new Medfly activity indeed has been forecast by some scientists.
A timely example of the dilemma raised by new fly finds occurred Wednesday. Agriculture officials announced that yet another Medfly was trapped in Artesia. The fly was found within the current Downey spray zone, and Curry said the discovery could lead to the delay or abandonment of plans to end spraying there. No decision has been made, she said.
Over the last two weeks, agriculture officials have been scrambling to assure themselves that they could end aerial spraying by May 9 as promised.
The promise applied specifically only to neighborhoods infested in March, but officials had hoped to make it stick for the entire region. When Voss announced the deadline, he was depending on an abundant supply of sterile Medflies to throw into the effort. Voss said he expected a reserve large enough to also treat any new outbreaks.
Soon after Voss' announcement, however, Medfly outbreaks began popping up throughout the region, from Hancock Park to Woodcrest. So far, about 150 square miles have been added to the spray zone since the March announcement of a May 9 deadline.
The state's optimism also was shaken by production problems at the sterile Medfly breeding facilities in Hawaii. Agriculture officials have said they now expect to have just enough sterile flies to stop spraying in long-infested neighborhoods.
MEDFLY SPRAYING MAP: B2
PROPOSED MEDFLY SPRAYING SCHEDULE
\o7 Regions where aerial malathion spraying is scheduled to end (261 total square miles): \f7
LAST SQUARE AREA SPRAYING MILES Area 1: Brea/La Habra 4/30 26 Area 2: Downey 5/1 46 Area 3: Eagle Rock/S. Pasadena 5/8 47 Area 5: N. Hollywood 4/28 14 Area 6: Panorama City 5/7 16 Area 7: Rosemead 5/9 53 Area 8: South Gate 5/2 48 Area 13: Pomona 5/3 11
\o7 Regions where aerial malathion spraying is scheduled to end but release of sterile Medflies will continue (206 square miles): \f7
LAST SQUARE AREA SPRAYING MILES Area 2: Downey extension 5/14 11 Area 4: Glendora 4/30 18 Area 10: Irwindale 4/30 21 Area 11: Verdugo Hills 4/26 30 Area 12: Garden Grove 5/3 36 Area 13: Pomona extension 5/10 15 Area 14: Diamond Bar 4/26 10 Area 14: Diamond Bar extension 5/10 14 Area 15: Upland 5/4 30 Area 17: Hancock Park 5/7 11 Area 18: San Dimas 5/10 10
\o7 Regions where aerial malathion spraying is scheduled to continue (48 square miles): \f7
SQUARE AREA MILES Area 16: Woodcrest 14 Area 19: San Bernardino 34
SOURCE: California Department of Food and Agriculture