Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A feisty crowd of west county residents peppered state regulators Monday night with questions about why new water conservation rules aimed at saving endangered coho salmon do not apply to vineyards.
The rules, which took effect Monday, apply to the owners of about 3,750 parcels that rely primarily on private wells in four watersheds, including the areas around Dutch Bill and Green Valley creeks in west county.
“It’s so obvious who’s sucking the water out of the ground,” shouted one man in an audience of about 100 residents, asserting that there are dozens of vineyards in the Green Valley watershed.
Another man said the rural water-conservation measures approved by the state Water Resources Control Board last month are “doomed to fail because the main culprits are not included.”
“We’re dealing with the low-hanging fruit here,” a woman called out, referring to prohibitions on watering lawns and washing vehicles with no limits on irrigation of commercial agriculture.
The meeting at Salmon Creek School near Occidental was the first of five public sessions scheduled by the water board after it officially adopted the emergency regulations on June 17.
State officials said the drought has reduced summer flows in four coho-rearing creeks — including Mark West Creek north of Santa Rosa and Mill Creek west of Healdsburg — by 90 percent or more from 2010 levels.