Mary Callahan, PRESS DEMOCRAT
A new program targeting 1,500 commercial grape growers in Sonoma and Mendocino counties and designed to improve water quality in local creeks and rivers is drawing criticism from members of the agricultural community.
The draft rules include reporting requirements, annual fees, well and groundwater monitoring, ground cover requirements and restrictions on wintertime operations that growers deem excessive.
Vineyard operators and agricultural representatives say the costs and mandates are overkill for an industry that is already working to reduce sediment runoff into waterways and protect fish habitats.
Small growers are especially likely to suffer because “their margins are really small, and the proposed permit is going to create costs that are significant to them,” said Robin Bartholow, deputy executive director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.
But staff of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board say the soil disturbance and chemical use in many vineyards, as well as potential disruption of riparian plants needed to shade fish habitat, can degrade water quality in creeks and rivers.