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Judge to Rule on Bid to Halt Pest Spraying : Mexfly: The city of El Cajon wants him to block an aerial dose of malathion aimed at eradicating the insect.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An El Cajon judge said he would rule Monday on a request by the city of El Cajon that he halt the state’s plan to spray malathion over 16 square miles of the city.

The decision will come at a hearing at 11 a.m. Monday--just 10 hours before six helicopters are scheduled to take off from Gillespie Field to launch an aerial assault on the Mexican fruit fly.

The finding of three adult Mexflies near John F. Kennedy Park in El Cajon triggered the state’s plan to spray the area three times over four weeks. That is to be followed by release of millions of sterile Mexflies, so the fruit-eating pest can breed itself out of existence.

“My task is not an easy one,” said El Cajon Municipal Judge J. Michael Bollman, sitting Friday as a Superior Court judge. “I will make the decision that I feel is fair to the people of this county and to the state, in a manner consistent with the law.”

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In a suit filed Friday to halt the spraying plan, the city of El Cajon contends that the state Department of Food and Agriculture did not follow state law in deciding on the spray plan.

Department Director Henry J. Voss did not clearly state the scientific basis for declaring that a Mexfly infestation exists and for the specific spray plan he adopted, Deputy City Atty. Steve Eckis told Bollman during a one-hour hearing Friday.

Furthermore, it did not exhaust all alternatives to aerial spraying before adopting the plan, he said.

Eckis contended that these issues were not raised in several unsuccessful anti-spraying suits by Los Angeles-area cities over similar spraying for the Mediterranean fruit fly.

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“We do not seek a determination from you which would be in conflict with those of other judges at the trial court level,” Eckis said. “We seek a determination from you on what we believe are new and unique issues.”

However, the El Cajon suit also contains familiar allegations that the pesticide malathion being sprayed could harm both the environment and the public health.

“I think that the city of El Cajon is raising essentially the same issues that were raised by (other cities),” Deputy Atty. Gen. Roderick E. Walston said after the hearing.

“Every court that has considered those issues and listened to witnesses’ testimony has come to the conclusion that those fears were exaggerated and without foundation,” Walston said.

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In oral arguments before the judge, Walston denied that Voss’ formal decision was insufficient under the law.

As for the contention about other non-pesticidal alternatives, such as release of sterile Mexflies, Walston explained that it will take breeders four to six weeks to produce enough sterile Mexflies to flood the El Cajon area with them.

Technically, Bollman was being asked Friday only to issue a 10-day restraining order against the state’s spraying plan. Another court hearing would then be held on whether a permanent injunction should be issued.

If the judge were to issue even the 10-day order, he would be the only jurist to have done do so during a spate of lawsuits over the last year during the state’s anti-Medfly campaign in Southern California. The most recent denial came last week in Riverside.

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Also raised in the El Cajon suit was the issue of whether the least Bell’s vireo, a small bird on the federal and state endangered species list, would be at risk because of the El Cajon malathion spraying.

The bird nests in the Santee area, about 2 miles from the spray boundaries, and in the Sweetwater area of East County, said Barbara Bamberger, conservation coordinator for the San Diego chapter of the Sierra Club. The vireo feeds on insects, which are attracted to the baited malathion.

Walston said the state had set up the spray boundaries so there is a buffer between the spraying and the birds.

However, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups remain concerned, Bamberger said.

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Planning for Monday night’s spraying will go on as usual, in anticipation that the judge will rule in the state’s favor, said Don Henry, director of the Southern California spraying projects for the agriculture department.

Also Friday, county officials were searching for a site in which to house homeless El Cajon people so they won’t be outside during the spraying.


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