North Bay Bohemian – Letters to the Editor
I moved to Sonoma County in 1977 to attend Sonoma State University. Driving north on 101 on a Sunday, there were just a few other cars on the road. I recall the prune and apple orchards, the primroses covering the fences in quiet, rural neighborhoods. My adult life has been lived here, and I care deeply for the land and the progressive lifestyle. I have also enjoyed the wine country lifestyle. My daughter and friends work in the wine industry, but now I am in a moral quandary. In your Sept. 2 issue (“Coho vs. Pinot”), I read that in April of 2008, winegrape growers diverted 30 percent of the Russian River’s flow in Mendocino county alone and 25,782 steelhead trout died—fish that are our bounty, that feed animals and people, that are an essential part of the food chain. Is every glass of wine I drink a death sentence for something?
I vote no to a wine event center in Sebastopol. I vote no to wine event centers on coastal Highway 1. I vote no to using water for frost prevention. I vote yes to a county mandate that wineries must use sustainable practices.
EDITOR: Sonoma County’s scenic corridors have become a singular vista — grapevines.
Over the past 10 years, the land rush for winery applications and their accompanying permitted events have been approved incrementally by Sonoma County with no consideration for cumulative impact. These case-by-case approvals resulted in areas of overconcentration in the Sonoma Valley and along Westside Road in Healdsburg, causing negative impacts to road safety and rural character.
The Valley of the Moon Alliance’s study of current and permitted event facilities on agriculturally zoned land in the Sonoma Valley showed that permitted tasting and event facilities generated more than200,000 event-attending visitors per year. Our infrastructure cannot safely handle that many visitors.
Road safety also is a primary concern on winery-packed Westside Road. This rural byway has significant bicycle tourism and limited sight distance for stopping or passing given its blind hills and blind curves. Traffic often is often unbearable, and, if an emergency should occur, rescue vehicles would have a difficult time reaching the scene.
If these issues alarm you too, please attend the community meeting of the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department at 6:30 p.m. today at the Glaser Center, 547 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa.
Here’s another good example from my friend. I’m not sure if she ever sent it to E. Carrillo, but it was her intention.
As a long-time resident of Sonoma County, I feel concurrently delighted and disappointed with my neighbors, government and media. For years, Sonoma County has been the more beautiful and dynamic sister of Napa County, boasting all the bucolic scenery and unspoiled wilderness, along with the outrageous hospitality and world-class food and wine we’ve all come to expect from our “wine county.”
Recently, however, there’s been an unprecedented surge in wine tourism and direct-to-consumer wine marketing that’s increased wine tourism exponentially. My neighbors used to grow dry-farmed apples and now they grow wine grapes. I like wine, but the relationship I enjoyed with my neighbors in the past has been changed by the this new crop and what I call the “Graping of the land” currently under way in my neighborhood.
Grape farming technically doesn’t require irrigation. In days of old, French citizens grew the vineyards on the rocky hillsides because they knew those vines would fare okay up there in a dry environment, and the more important crops needed for feeding the people were grown in the robust soil on the valley floors. These days, however, vineyard developers are after the largest and most profitable yield from their land, so they irrigate their wine grapes at approximately 1400-1700 gallons of water per vine per season. This is deeply concerning to me in any year, but this year my neighborhood is suffering with the infamous drought, and it’s my feeling that water-intensive uses should be halted by the County Supervisors until sufficient water supplies for the people and animals who already live here can be guaranteed.
Along with invasive water usage, these agribusiness spray the land and plants with chemicals to stop everything from weed growth to mold growth without any regard for who is living or playing next door. I live next door to these chemical laced, water-hogging vineyards, and school children play next door to them. It is not a pretty picture.
In addition, these new neighbors erect tall fences that block wildlife from moving to and from water sources and safe corridors, forcing them to travel in dangerous paths along roadways. Recently, I read a newspaper article which featured a poor dead fawn cleaned off a road in my neighborhood. The author said the deer was a victim of the drought, but the old neighbors and I know otherwise. Are we expected to believe this fawn dropped dead on the roadway from thirst? No, that fawn died because it was blocked from leaving the dangerous roadway by the new 8 foot in fence surrounding the 48-acre vineyard.
This particular vineyard was established with absolutely no regard for wildlife access to the riparian corridor and the wildlife path that was supposed to be preserved according to the County rules on rural development. It’s not the fault of the drought: all the wild life pathways have been blocked, and the fawns are hit by cars because they are unable to find a way off the road.
It’s time for us to stop sticking our heads in the sand with respect to this type of agribusiness development. The California Water Board was here a few months ago threatening and issuing orders for water usage by the residents, but excepting the vineyards from conserving. This is absurd. Who do they think is using more water: a rural family on five acres, or a five acre vineyard with 20,000 grapevines on it? This doesn’t even account for water used for frost protection, which can use as much as 120,000 gallons of water on a five-acre vineyard OVERNIGHT!
I ask the Supervisors to take a look at what they are allowing to spoil the rural character of my neighborhood and stop it before the beautiful area I used to enjoy calling home is changed forever.