CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Nearly a year after county leaders told us they were requesting more money from the United States Army Corps of Engineers to help fight mosquitoes, that money has still not been paid to the county.
Now we're learning the county may never get that help. In short, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it's not their responsibility. They currently pay the county $300,000 to maintain ditches near the dredging dump sites. It appears that's all the county will get.
There's no doubt the dredging provides a huge economic impact to Chatham County, allowing massive ships to bring in millions of dollars in imports to our state.
The county thinks the dredging and subsequent dumping also has a negative impact.
"Those areas have the potential for being a large breeding area for saltwater mosquitoes," said County Mosquito Control Director Jeff Heusel.
The dump site near the Savannah River is indeed one of the largest mosquito breeding grounds in the county. However, the Corps doesn't agree that they make the situation any worse.
In a statement, Billy Birdwell, a spokesman for the Corps said: "Dry DMCAs, uplands and deep open water contribute less than the pre-existing open water and marsh they replaced. Overall, dredging has a negligible impact on mosquitoes."
The county's mosquito control director said the sediment they dump eventually dries up though.
"When that happens, you get cracks in those areas. Those cracks can breed mosquitoes," Heusel said.
The issue at hand is whether the Corps should be on the hook to pay the county. The Corps said they can't and won't fund mosquito control.
Birdwell added in the statement, "The Corps can only do what it is authorized and funded to do. The Corps has no authority or funding for mosquito control."
Ultimately, the county budget does allow enough funding to spray; they just want help. They're still negotiating with the Corps of Engineers.
"We have to do what we do. It would obviously ease the burden a little bit, but we're going to have to do the treatments," Heusel said.
For folks living in Chatham County—especially on the islands—the county help is necessary and appreciated.
"They're pretty bad sometimes," Yan Bailey said.
"It's been a really warm season and a warm winter so we are suffering out here," Jennifer Donnelly said.
So far, the county said nothing has been out of the ordinary this year.
An outbreak of these salt marsh mosquitoes could have a major, negative economic impact on a tourist city like Savannah. It's important to note though, that hasn't happened in a long time.