County Board discusses pros/cons of tent caterpillar aerial spraying

by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer


Morrison County Commissioners approved by a four-to-one vote to authorize aerial spraying of tent caterpillars/army worms by Central Planes Aviation at a meeting Jan. 22.

“Morrison County holds the statutory authority to allow these operations within the boundaries of the county, so authorization to perform this type of work must be obtained in advance,” said County Administrator Deb Gruber. “When or where the work might be done depends on who hires Central Planes Aviation.”

The dissenting vote was cast by District One Commissioner Kevin Maurer.

“These caterpillars are a naturally-occuring phenomenon that occur in cycles,” Maurer said. “I don’t want to use pesticides when they might not be necessary because I believe they are a threat to water and public health.”

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources area forester John Korzeniowski described forest tent caterpillars as a natural defoliator.

“They ebb and flow, in cycles of up five to 10 years,” he said. “The last heavy outbreak was in the 1990s. Their primary host is the quaking aspen, but they can also be found on basswood and oak.”

Maurer has a degree in natural resources and is a nurse. “I struggle with the overuse of herbicides,” he said. “My wife is a hospice home care nurse seeing so many people with cancer. I believe that all the chemicals we use in house cleaning, with pesticides and herbicides, contribute to so many of our problems with cancer.”

“The caterpillars typically do not cause long-term forest damage,” Korzeniouwski said. “It’s not like Dutch Elm disease that wipes everything out. Spraying pesticide does not necessarily save the trees; it’s more for personal comfort and convenience.”

“People don’t want the leaves eaten off their trees, and the chemicals are federally approved,” Maurer said. “But just because it’s permitted does not mean we should approve it.”


Other business that came before the County Board Jan. 22, included:

• Approving 44 tobacco license renewals for 2013;

• Approving two tobacco license renewals contingent upon payment in full of 2012 real estate taxes by Herbie’s Bar and Polish Palace, both in Sobieski;

• Approving an exempt permit for St. Joseph’s Church of Morrill for an event March 3 in the parish hall;

• Approving a one-day on-sale liquor license for a Pine Grove Zoo event March 22, at the Falls Ballroom;

• Passing a resolution supporting the Minnesota State Legislature in authorizing a statewide user service fee increase of $1 per driver’s license renewal to maintain local driver’s license and state identification card service to the citizens of Morrison County. “The fee covers the cost of maintaining the office in the historic courthouse,” said County Administrator Deb Gruber;

• Authorizing the county to carry out cleanup of property in the Enchanted Lakes area where garbage is accumulating. “If the owner does not complete the cleanup, the county will do it when conditions are right, in accordance with the Morrison County Solid Waste ordinance,” said Public Works Supervisor Steve Backowski;

• Authorizing Backowski to negotiate gravel pit agreements with property owners;

• Authorizing Backowski to establish, place and remove spring road restrictions as necessary;

• Authorizing the Public Works department to advertise for seasonal bids for equipment rental, bituminous material, winter maintenance sand, gravel products, highway striping and calcium chloride application;

• Adopting a resolution supporting the development of the Camp Ripley Veterans State Trail under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, recommending that the top trail priority be the segment connecting the Soo Line Trail with the city of Little Falls;

• Adopting a resolution of support between Morrison County and the city of Royalton for the Safe Routes to School application, to make improvements to the sidewalk and trail system in Royalton;

• Appointing George Dehler to a two-year term on the Rich Prairie Sewer and Water District;

• Approving a letter of support for the restoration of historic funding levels for the Mississippi Headwaters Board; and

• Authorizing the submission of a letter requesting legislative intervention to maintain federal funding for the Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) program for Camp Ripley.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Morrison County Commissioners will be Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the board room of the County Government Center.