The fight is not over, apparently.

For some county residents, it is not enough that the state backed down last year on plans to spray Santa Cruz County neighborhoods with pheromones from airplanes to fight the invasive light brown apple moth. Some residents still fear they could be exposed to chemicals used by the state or someone else to fight the moth or another pest.

So activists say they will ask the Santa Cruz City Council next month to pass an ordinance that would impose a blanket ban of "the bulk application of pesticides" by corporations.

The ordinance is being proposed in the hope it will stop any efforts by the state or a corporation to use any kind of pesticide in any form to fight the light brown apple moth or another future pest, said Dick Andre with the group People Against Chemical Trespass. However, the ban also could include farmers spraying their fields, said Andre, an Aptos resident.

Residents spraying their personal property would be exempted, as would the county's Integrated Pest Management program, according to the group's proposal.

"The citizens of Santa Cruz, as of other parts of the nation, have the right to freedom from interference in their lives and their property," Andre said. "On that basis, they should be the ones to decide if a government agency, or corporation hired by a government agency, can come around and start spraying stuff on them."

The proposed ordinance does not define "bulk" numerically.


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Leaders with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, however, insist they will only use techniques shown to be safe by an environmental report that is in-progress. Until that report is done -- it should be finalized in September, spokesman Steve Lyle said -- the agency is not taking any steps to eradicate the moth in Monterey or Santa Cruz County, per judges' orders.

And Councilman Mike Rotkin wondered how much the ordinance would really accomplish, as state decisions trump those made by the City Council.

"I don't understand how this would have any force of law, even if we did it," Rotkin said. "If they're looking for a symbolic statement, fine. It wouldn't be the first time I did something symbolic that has no hope of doing anything real."

The conflict arises from a distrust of the California Department of Food and Agriculture by many local residents after the state sprayed residential neighborhoods with a pheromone to fight the moth in 2007. The city and county sued, and Judge Paul Burdick ruled in Santa Cruz County Superior Court that spraying and other eradication efforts must stop until an environmental impact report is completed.

State officials later decided to stop aerially spraying urban areas for the moth statewide, instead spraying rural acreage only and releasing sterile moths. Ideally, those moths would stymie reproduction and thus lead to the demise of California's moth population.

However, none of those plans can begin in Santa Cruz County until the environmental review is done, Lyle stressed.

Meanwhile, the number of moths trapped in Santa Cruz grew to 26,335 this month, the highest number recorded and higher than any other county in the state. However, most moths have been trapped in residential areas and no damage has been reported to crops, Lyle said.

Contact G. Bookwalter at 706-3286 or gbookwalter@santacruzsentinel.com.