Wine & Water Watch supports the efforts of the Maacama Watershed Alliance and Friends of Spencer Lane in their efforts to save their watershed and quality of life of their neighborhoods. Big wine continues the unsustainable march into groundwater depletion, habitat destruction and damage to precious archaeological treasures. Unpermitted events, working on the land before permits are approved shows distain to their neighbors and leaves a black eye on the industry. We urge your support at the hearing and/or writing letters to stop this ill conceived project that will impact the area and leave property owners high and dry. This needs a thorough review (unbiased, peer reviewed)of impacts conducted at times of lowest water levels to determine the truth of the situation.


Knights Valley, Sonoma County, CA – August 9, 2017


Over 9 months ago, an Appeal Public Hearing for the Knights Bridge Winery Use-Permit was canceled at the 11th hour by Sonoma County Counsel and did not take place.  A continuance was ordered after the Maacama Watershed Alliance and Knights Valley residents submitted letters to the Board of Supervisors on the impacts from the project’s groundwater pumping on downstream wells, Bidwell Creek, endangered salmonid habitat, and further damage to archeological resources at the site.


The Board of Supervisors, now the decision-makers on this project, will hear the appeal by Maacama Watershed Alliance and Friends of Spencer Lane in a Public Hearing, Tuesday August 22, 2017 at 2:10 PM


The Knights Bridge Winery project is proposed in the drainage basin of Bidwell Creek, tributary to the Russian River, in the county’s Marginal Groundwater Availability Zone.  This area of N.E. Sonoma County is a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone.  Adjacent to Knights Bridge Estates, neighbors repeatedly reported lower yields and water table to the County’s Permit and Resource Management Department.  The Board of Zoning Adjustments approved the project exceeding a water use threshold for water scarce areas despite Project consultants’ failure to contact neighboring well owners and well drillers or comply with General Plan Policy Guidelines.


Maacama Watershed Alliance (MWA), residents, farmers and ranchers of Knights Valley, and other public interest groups and government agencies have submitted studies and independent analysis on the potential impacts to natural resources from Knights Bridge Winery. “All question the assumptions of the developer’s consultants,” reported Craig Enyart, spokesperson for the watershed protection group.


The National Marine Fisheries Service and a county-ordered Peer Review of the project’s 2013 Hydrogeological Assessment found that groundwater pumping for the project may affect Bidwell Creek.  The Russian River tributary is home to State Endangered California freshwater shrimp, State and federally Endangered Central California Coast (CCC) coho salmon and federally Threatened steelhead.  Groundwater pumping has reduced the streams’ dry-season pools necessary for survival of species.


Land-use violations have occurred on the project’s properties before approval of the Use Permit.  Among these are riparian habitat removal, holding unpermitted industry events and wine tasting at the Knights Bridge Estates’ partner parcel which includes the 20’ public access road.  This parcel, excluded from the County’s environmental review, also provides water from 2 riparian wells to meet demands of winery parcel.  Whereas previous owners had farmed the same acreage on 3 existing wells, Knights Bridge Estates added 6 new wells since 2011.


Sonoma County’s ability to manage its limited groundwater supply and all vulnerable natural resources is determined by its decisions in land-use permitting.  It is only discretionary permits, like this winery Use-Permit, that legally require environmental review.  The Maacama Watershed Alliance thanks all the citizen groups and individuals, including growers in the wine industry, and agencies responsible for resource protection, who have submitted comments on the need for greater review of winery development impacts. The public continues to focus its efforts on demonstrating to their representatives that an Environmental Impact Report to study impacts is essential for this discretionary project. 


Public Comment is needed until the Aug. 22nd Public Hearing.  Written comment can be directed to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, the decision-makers on the Project at , and to Project Planner   Re: Knights Bridge Winery UPE13-0046

For information contact MWA P.O. Box 1226 Calistoga, CA 415-385-2385-direct

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