Two Republican members of the U.S. Senate, Rob Portman and John Hoeven of North Dakota, are pressing the Air Force Reserve Command to allow the 910th Airlift Wing in Vienna to resume aerial spray missions on non-federal land.
They sent a letter last week to Lt. Gen. James Jackson, commander of the Air Force Reserve, asking questions about the delayed response to several communities in North Dakota that have asked that aerial bug spraying be done by the 910th through the Civil-Military Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) program.
They also want a status update on the legal review of concerns that caused the Reserve Command to halt spraying over city and county lands.
The concern is whether the Reserve Command has the authority to conduct aerial spray missions on non-federal land.
''Since this program was initiated it has successfully controlled mosquito populations in many states including North Dakota, Florida and Virginia, while also providing the 910th Airlift Wing the ability to train with chemical agents in a manner that provides valuable readiness training,'' Portman and Hoeven wrote in the joint letter.
Portman and Hoeven raised the issue after the Reserve Command approved a request from a county in Hoeven's home state to apply chemicals on federal land to control mosquitoes.
The communities in North Dakota asking for the 910th to do the spraying have agreed to defray the cost of the pesticide.
The lawmakers say allowing spraying on non-federal land is a win-win.
It would reduce the mosquito population, which reduces the risk of diseases they carry, like West Nile Virus. Also, allowing spraying on land that's not federally held provides the 910th, the only unit in the U.S. with the spraying capability, ''invaluable training for this important mission,'' Portman said in a news release.
Col. Robert P. Palmer, director of public affairs, Air Force Reserve Command at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, wrote an in email the Reserve Command is pursuing the ability to perform non-federal spray missions through the IRT program.
''In order to be an approved IRT program, the aerial spray activity must meet a valid unit training requirement, does not result in a significant increase in the cost of training and is not reasonably available from a commercial entity,'' Palmer wrote.
''Approval reestablishes valuable training venues for the 910th Airlift Wing and the civilian communities once again benefit from that training,'' Palmer wrote.
The Reserve Command directed the 910th in July to stop all fixed-wing aerial spray activities on property outside of Department of Defense installations and federal property, Palmer wrote, after it was determined during a review process that ''adequate authority'' to do the spraying outside of federally owned land was not clearly defined.