C.W.A. / S.E.R.A. Projects

From December 1933 to December 1936 the Napa County Mosquito Abatement District (Napa MAD) was involved in numerous water management and reclamation projects that received both federal and state funding.  The Civil Works Administration (C.W.A.), the State Emergency Relief Administration (S.E.R.A.) and the Federal Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.), were programs that provided funds and oversaw proposed projects throughout the state.  Napa MAD submitted numerous projects to address levee erosion, drainage and flooding.   The majority of the work was in the south county marsh areas, with more than 13,000 cubic yards of excavation, 20,000 feet of hand ditching, numerous culverts and tide gates, and hundreds of acres of discing having been completed. S.E.R.A. funding was severely curtailed during December 1936, as well as in future years, resulting in Napa MAD and the local citizenry trying to find other means to complete both those projects in progress and future proposed projects.

Project #SLF1044-X (SLF-205)

Project #SLF1044-X (SLF-205)

  • Located at Calistoga, in Northern Napa County
  • Number of men employed 21.
  • The breeding areas were swamp and marsh spots caused by seepage from mountains and overflow from numerous geysers in a 530-acre area.
  • This area was considered important because Calistoga was a summer-resort city and the many types of mosquitoes were a serious obstacle to tourist travel.
  • The plan of procedure was digging ditches, and filling stagnant pools by manual labor.
The Calistoga Federal Pest Mosquito Control Project was started February 9, 1934 with funds provided by the Federal Government. Notification of available funding was released during December of 1933 with the stipulation that proposals and work had to be completed within the next three months. Unfortunately, all projects and funding were cancelled before March of 1934 resulting in only part of the Calistoga project having been completed. Napa MAD shortly thereafter prepared documents for resubmission of the proposed work under the State Emergency Relief Administration (S.E.R.A.). The work was never completed due to two work releases that had not been signed by a Mr. Carlenzoli and a Mr. E. Rockstroh. This project was later resubmitted as part of a countywide general project during September of 1936. Unfortunately, S.E.R.A. funds were severely cut during December of 1936, leaving the project unfunded and incomplete.

Project #SLF-101

Project #SLF-101

  • Located at Buckli Station, Southwest of Napa
  • Number of men employed 43.
  • The breeding areas were cracked ground, dead sloughs and ponds in a 2060-acre area.
  • This area was considered one of the primary breeding areas in Napa County.
  • It affected the city of Napa, Napa State Hospital, Mare Island and the surrounding farm territory.
  • The plan of procedure was ditching, lowering tide gates, filling water holes and cracks in reclaimed land.

Federal Assistance

Map from 1935 United States Dept. of Agriculture Study showing mosquito breeding areas and migration patterns affecting local communities, Mare Island Navy Yard and the Hamilton Airfield Army Bombing Base.

Both the federal government and the military were very concerned about the severe mosquito problems in the North Bay. Mosquitoes would sometimes reach such numbers that it would temporarily affect both Mare Island Naval shipyard and Hamilton Airfield.  Therefore, much assistance in the form of research and control was given to the North Bay Mosquito Abatement Districts.

Napa Daily Journal, 21 Feb. 1947

During the early years of Napa MAD operations there was one full time regular employee (Superintendent) and one consultant (Mr. R.E. Hackley with the Matadero Mosquito Abatement District) that were responsible for conducting mosquito control activities. The first regular, full time laborer, Mr. William Rusconi, was not hired until March 1, 1948.  Prior to this  time, seasonal laborers were used, being drawn from those depression era individuals seeking work or from those about to be released from the local County jail.  Because the District did not have much in the way of funds or equipment during the early years, farmers (e.g. Edgerly, Keller, Dutton, Almada, Acquistapace, Filippini, Stewart, Mini, and Cabral), boat operators and the County Equipment Pool were relied upon to perform most heavy equipment operations. Inspections, oiling, mosquito fish deliveries, hand ditching, public education, equipment maintenance and coordination of District activities were carried out by the Superintendent and the Secretary of the Board. Seasonal laborers worked primarily during the months of February through June, with intermittent opportunities for employment during the other months of the year.  The World War II years were a time of rapid turnover as well due to a shortage of available labor because of the war effort. Concerns about potential reintroduction and spread of malaria, as well as the reduced ability to effectively control noxious mosquitoes, resulted in instances when the Superintendent’s wife volunteered to drive the District’s truck to assist him with the mosquito control effort.

For More Early History Click Here

Historical Photos

Spraying of immature mosquitoes developing in deep ground cracks filled with water in South Napa County marsh areas – circa 1928.


District boat, September 20, 1928, purchased from the Navy for $75.00 in 1926 and modified by Mare Island Naval Shipyard. This boat was used to transport materials and personnel to mosquito breeding marsh sites that could only be accessed by boat. The District currently has many sites that are still only accessible by boat. Failure to control these mosquitoes would affect American Canyon, the Carneros area and the City of Napa.


Calistoga water treatment ponds circa 1932. Note the Districts 1928 Model A Ford. Mosquitofish were experimentally used at this site to control severe mosquito breeding with moderate success.

Calon Ranch circa 1936, looking west towards Stanly Lane (row of trees, top left) and Stewart’s Dairy (top right margin). Discing of cracked ground helped to prevent mosquito breeding that occurred in water filled cracks. The clay soils of South Napa County marsh areas are known for forming large cracks that can be many feet deep. These sites can breed both winter and summer Salt Marsh mosquitoes that easily travel more than 15 miles from their breeding sites.


Duke Estate, near Oakville, circa 1936. Demonstration of successful mosquito fish rearing to the meeting of statewide mosquito control officials, which met in Napa, May 9, 1936. The next statewide meeting of officials in Napa County occurred January 21, 2001.

Bell Slough, Duffy Ranch near Yountville, circa 1943. Clearing of dense brush and downed trees that was preventing good water flow to the Napa River and causing severe mosquito breeding. Both malaria and encephalitis carrying mosquitoes were found here.