Walla Walla company gives federal moth program a home

A USDA effort to control apple moths in California will use shelters built by Reiff Manufacturing of Walla Walla.

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As Reiff Manufacturing employee Chris Jimenez, right, watches a semi-trailer is backed underneath a 10-foot by 40-foot fiberglass building made by the company. Jimenez was driving one of four forklifts used to raise the 12,000-pound shelter so it could be loaded on the truck for transport to Moss Landing, Calif. (May 5, 2010)

WALLA WALLA -- An apple moth control program in California has found a home thanks to a Walla Walla company.

Or homes, to be exact.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture project to control or suppress the light brown apple moth, an invasive pest, is using prefabricated shelters from the Reiff Manufacturing company. The buildings will be used to raise millions of moths, which will be sterilized and released to non-successfully mate with wild moths, thus cutting the population.

"This was a way to set up the program a lot more quickly," said Gregory Simmons, program coordinator. The 10-foot-by-40-foot shelters made by Reiff provide large, environmentally controlled chambers that can easily be set up and easily cleaned out, he said.

Right now, the program is centered in California "because that's where the pest is," Simmons said. The aim is to produce several million moths a week. The insects will be sterilized with radiation, then released where populations of the insects are found. The technique could be applied elsewhere in the world as well.

Reiff will supply six shelters for the program, which is based in Moss Landing, Calif., just north of Monterey. Two were shipped earlier this year, with the first arriving in January, and three more were shipped last week. A fourth is due to go out this week, said David Reiff, general manager.

Constructed of fiberglass, each shelter weighs about 12,000 pounds. "By comparison, a concrete shelter would be eight times heavier," he said last week as employees prepared to ship one Wednesday morning. Each unit has electrical, plumbing and other fixtures built in, ready to be hooked up when it arrives on site.

Loading the shelters for transport is fairly straightforward. Four forklifts positioned at each corner lift the building up and a semi-truck driver backs a flatbed trailer underneath. The shelter was then lowered and, with a few careful adjustments, is solidly in place for its trip to California.

A fire that occurred in a building at the company April 12 did not slow manufacture of the shelters.

"Due to the diversity of products the company fabricates it has been able realign workload and continues to operate in a profitable manner," said Steve Reiff, company president.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.

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