MEDFORD — Removing the Gold Ray Dam from the Rogue River was supposed to ease a mosquito problem. Instead, it's unleashed a swarm of the biting bugs on nearby homes.
The Mail Tribune reports that officials are not sure how so many mosquitoes ended up hatching this summer — but they guess it was the result of the mass disturbance of water when muddy sloughs were drained from behind the old dam.
"It's one of the side-effects of a project like this," said Eugene Papineau of Jackson County Vector Control, which has used air and ground assaults on the swarms in recent weeks.
"Their dogs are getting bit up. Their children are getting bit up. They're not happy," Papineau said, describing the reaction of local residents.
"I'd say that's an understatement," said Don Colcleaser, who lives in the nearby Gold Rey Estates.
"You walk around the shady areas and you get eaten alive," Colcleaser said. "It's worse than anything I've ever seen. It's terrible."
John Vial, Jackson County's Roads and Parks Department director, said county officials thought they were draining a mammoth mosquito nursery. They had no idea it would trigger this swarm.
"We took the best mosquito habitat and sent it to the ocean," Vial said. "Frankly, we had a hard time believing it at first."
But, he said, "It appears our actions made it worse for a while."
Papineau says the same floodwater mosquitoes were present annually where Savage Rapids Dam spanned the Rogue near the city of Rogue River.
But when that dam was removed last fall in similar fashion to Gold Ray Dam, there was no mass hatch, he said.
Meanwhile, Jackson County spraying crews have been welcomed by local residents.
More aerial and on-the-ground spraying is expected next week, but it could be two or three weeks before these mosquitoes die off, Papineau said.
"Hopefully, it's just this year," he said.
Information from: Mail Tribune, http:www.mailtribune.com/