David Abbott, SONOMA WEST TIMES
A massive winery proposed by a Napa County winemaker near the crossroads of Highway 12 and Llano Road east of Sebastopol will now be subject to a full environmental review, but opponents of the project are still pulling out all the stops in hopes of stopping it.
The applicant, Joe Wagner, a second-generation vintner from the Caymus winemaking family, agreed to a full environmental impact report (EIR) early this month for his Dairyman project after receiving significant backlash from the community.
Opposition to the proposed winery and event center that envisions 500,000 cases of wine production a year, 250,000 gallons of distilled spirits, as well as about 60 events a year and wine tasting, became official at a Feb. 4 Sebastopol city council meeting.
Although the 68-acre property is outside of Sebastopol’s jurisdiction, council voiced opposition to the project and solidarity with members of the public that showed up in force once the winery application became public in late January.“
After (the council meeting), we met with a number of people and decided we needed to mobilize,” Ruben Weinzeg said.
To that end, Weinzeg joined a group spearheading the creation of Neighbors to Preserve Rural Sonoma County (PRSC), which is working in partnership with the Rural Alliance, a local grassroots organization “working to preserve the natural resources and rural character of Sonoma County.”
PRSC believes it has discovered a technicality that could throw a wrench in the works, as the winery will need to get an easement to cross the Joe Rodota Trail for access to the property.
The groups are encouraging the Sonoma County Parks and Recreation Department to deny the easement, citing precedence when the county denied an easement to Santa Rosa Junior College for a 20-acre parcel on Highway 116 to the north of Sebastopol that abuts the JRT.
That property now belongs to Sebastopol Independent Charter School, which is in talks with the county Regional Parks Department.But the Dairyman process is still in its infancy, as the EIR will take at least a year and has not even officially begun as yet.
Read more via: Winery proposal faces challenges from community – Sonoma West Times and News: News
Shepherd Bliss, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
Residents from throughout Sonoma County are meeting to strategize about challenging recent proposals for new and expanded wineries as event centers in rural areas. Meanwhile, the Napa County Board of Supervisors has scheduled a March 10 meeting to hear critics of winery over-development.
The huge Dairyman Winery and Distillery proposed for high-speed Highway 12 in the greenbelt separator between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa has been the main target of Sonoma County opponents. It is near the intersection of an already congested two-lane highway and the frequently-flooded Llano Road in the vulnerable Laguna de Santa Rosa vicinity.
Groups such as Sonoma County Conservation Action, Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, Sebastopol Water Information Group, Rural Alliance, Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, and Apple Roots sent critical comments on Dairyman to Sonoma County’s Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD).
Vocal Dairyman opponents include a former County supervisor, former mayor, former Planning Commissioner, and former PRMD planner. Environmental scientists, sustainability advocates, food farmers, concerned parents, and the maker of the acclaimed film “Russian River: All Rivers” have spoken against the Dairyman application.
Entrance to Dairyman Winery just east of busy intersection on Hwy 12
They oppose it on many grounds: congested traffic; water over-use, especially during droughts; blocking the popular Joe Rodota trail; damaging the fragile Laguna de Santa Rosa and its wildlife; zoning violations; chemical use that would pollute water, air, and land; and violating the Sonoma County General Plan.
Grape growers and the wine industry contribute many valuable benefits to Sonoma County. Most critics appreciate a good glass of local wine. But they advocate moderation when it comes to such proposals, contending that Dairyman is too big and in the wrong place.
Imagine tipsy tasters crossing the Joe Rodota Trail, full of bikers, skateboarders, children in strollers, walkers, and pets and then entering 60 miles-an-hour traffic. The application demands that Trail users “yield” to the winery’s many vehicles attending up to 58 events a year with as many as 600 people a time.
Read more via Sonoma and Napa County Residents Oppose Winery Over-Expansion.
David Bannister, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
World Wetlands Day is today, but why should you care?
We should all care because, in fact, the future of humanity depends on the world’s wetlands. Luckily, Sonoma County residents have worked hard for the last 25 years to restore and protect our own valuable wetlands: The Laguna de Santa Rosa.
Did you know these facts?
Wetlands filter and clean harmful chemicals and waste from water. Plants from wetlands can help absorb harmful fertilizers and pesticides, as well as heavy metals and toxins from industry. The laguna drains a 254 square mile watershed, which serves the residents of Windsor, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati, Sebastopol and the unincorporated community of Forestville.
Wetlands act as nature’s shock absorbers. Wetlands within river basins act as natural sponges, absorbing rainfall, creating wide surface pools that reduce the impact of flooding in rivers. The same storage capacity also safeguards against drought. The laguna is the largest tributary of the Russian River and acts as a holding basin, capturing floodwaters and helping ease its impact on the communities along the Russian River. When the river floods, the laguna can act as a huge natural reservoir, storing up to 80,000 acre-feet of water. For the residents of Guerneville, this can result in a 14-foot reduction in the height of the 100-year flood.
Wetlands provide sustainable livelihoods and products. 61.8 million people depend directly on fishing and fisheries for a living. Timber for building, vegetable oil, medicinal plants, animal fodder, and stems and leaves for weaving also come from well managed wetlands. The Laguna not only provides a protected habitat for critical species, but also serves as a site for human recreation: boating, biking, birding, exploring, etc.
The Laguna de Santa Rosa has been named as a wetland of “international importance” because of the rare and endangered plant and animal species found here, the biodiversity of our region — one of the world’s few diverse “hotspots,” and our unique vernal pool environments. We live in a special place — one recognized not just locally but internationally.
Work to restore the laguna has been spearheaded by the Laguna Foundation, which is now celebrating its 25th anniversary. We are housed in the Laguna Environmental Center which includes, in addition to our offices in a restored 140-year-old farmhouse, a multi-use facility that we call Heron Hall where we hold our public education walks, talks and classes, an outdoor education facility that includes a demonstration wetland, and our native plant nursery where we grow genetically appropriate stock for our restoration projects. We have a three-fold mission: Restoration, conservation science and education.
We do not do this work alone. In addition to our dedicated staff and tremendously hardworking volunteers, the Laguna Foundation partners with other agencies, local governments, Sonoma County Water Agency, the Ag Preservation and Open Space District and county parks on many projects.
Make 2015 the year you explored the Laguna. Currently (and running through Feb. 21) there is a beautiful art exhibit at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts titled “Wetlands: ever changing waters, land and life.” At Heron Hall we have a Laguna inspired art show from local artist Molly Eckler called “Celebrate the wild.” For more information, please visit our website at lagunafoundation.org.
Why should we care about World Wetlands Day? We can’t afford not to.
David Bannister is executive director of the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation.
via Close to Home: Can’t afford to ignore wetlands | The Press Democrat.
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Sebastopol City Council will be asked Tuesday night to approve an $89,200 contract to help update and enhance management of more than 80 acres of city-owned property known collectively as the Laguna de Santa Rosa Wetlands Preserve.
The goal of the new management plan, first and foremost, is to ensure adequate protection of sensitive wildlife habitat and other environmental resources that are central to efforts to preserve and restore the expansive waterway.
But city officials also hope to identify opportunities to better link to one another the six properties that make up the preserve with the city’s urban core and with potential users. Officials hope to create a more cohesive identity, perhaps aided by uniform signs and more trails.
“There are some connectivity problems and challenges with these different properties and how they can be knit together and at least identified in some common way,” said city Planning Director Kenyon Webster.
Additional trail development would fit nicely with ongoing community discussion about increased walkability and connectivity between downtown, the new Barlow commercial center and the Laguna Preserve. A multiuse trail on the east side of the channel, opened two years ago by Sonoma County Regional Parks, is very popular.
Read more via Sebastopol to consider Laguna de Santa Rosa contract | The Press Democrat.
Sean Scully, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
If you’ve ever littered in or around the Santa Rosa plain, there is a reasonable chance that the object you threw away is now lodged in one of several garbage-strewn accidental dams clogging up the Laguna de Santa Rosa.
And it’s causing serious headaches for nearby landowners, environmentalists, and county water officials.
“Eventually all that garbage that comes out of Santa Rosa, out of Rohnert Park, out of Cotati, that comes down Mark West Creek, winds up here,” said Mike Thompson, assistant general manager of the Sonoma County Water Agency, on Monday as he surveyed a series of cleanup sites along the Laguna near Guerneville Road.
via Laguna de Santa Rosa clogged by litter, debris | The Press Democrat.