Sediment Release in Tributary of Salmon Creek Results in $38,000 in Costs and Penalties to Vineyard Developer

District Attorney Press Release, COUNTY OF SONOMA

District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced today that defendant Stephen Kistler has resolved a civil case with the District Attorney’s Office for a violation of Fish and Game Code section 5650.1, prohibiting the release of potentially harmful materials into waterways.

District Attorney Ravitch stated: "Land owners involved with construction must take care to avoid placing sediment in our creeks, which is known to harm fish and other riparian life."

On April 10, 2013, an employee of Mr. Kistler was running a pump to empty a reservoir for construction of an irrigation pond that was to occur on that site. The sediment-laden water leaving the irrigation pond turned the usually pristine Salmon Creek dark. Neighbors also noticed the change in the color of unnamed tributaries of Salmon Creek. The Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies, responded to the scene to investigate the cause of the pollution. The property, located at 147011 Bodega Highway in Bodega, was discovered to be the source of sediment which was pumped from a reservoir into the unnamed tributary of Salmon Creek causing the creek to look "milky." Kistler cooperated with the investigation.

The civil case was resolved by an agreement between the District Attorney’s Office and defendant Kistler. The agreement, filed with the court today, permanently enjoins Kistler from placing any material that may be harmful to fish and other riparian life into the waters of the state. Additionally, Kistler agreed to prepare a reservoir management plan, pay a civil penalty of $25,000 pursuant to Fish and Game Code section 5650.1, pay $5,000 in restitution that will go into an account to benefit riparian habitat in Sonoma County, and pay an additional $8,653.96 representing the investigation costs incurred by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Salmon Creek (and its unnamed tributaries) is home to Coho Salmon, as well as other sensitive riparian species. Sediment harms the growth and impairs survival of juvenile Coho and other Salmonids.

The civil case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Ann Gallagher White, assisted by District Attorney Investigator Lisa Chapman. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agent Nick Call, and Department of Fish and Wildlife Warden Tiffany Stinson, and Demitri Esquivel headed the investigation.

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