The first industrial vineyard in the area, Wild Diamond Vineyard, is trying to establish itself on a mountain top directly on the border of the 6,000 resident community of Hidden Valley Lake, just east of Middletown. In response to more than a year of neighbor advocacy, Lake County agreed to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) before approving further vineyard expansion or construction of winery, tasting room and event center facilities.
At the August 11, 2016 Lake County Planning Commission hearing on the Wild Diamond Vineyards Project biologist Steve Zalusky gave a detailed account of how SHN Engineers and Geologists, the consulting firm that prepared the Draft Environmental Impact Report, misused his work. The Commissioners and the firm’s representative, Mark Chaney, didn’t respond (the latter sat with his back to those testifying for most of the hearing).
Below are some questions that may need to be asked of the various responsible parties (contact info follows):
1) Do the various parties believe or dispute Steve Zalusky’s account? Do they believe fraud has occurred?
2) Will Wild Diamond defend/fire/sue the consulting firm?
3) Will the county move forward to approve an EIR prepared by a firm that has essentially been accused of fraud, letting it remain as the author of the study?
4) Does the county believe that sections of the EIR other than Biological Resources may be inaccurate or fraudulent?
5) What stance does the consulting firm take? Do they stand by their work? Did they do the botanical survey that Steve Zalusky said had to be done in July (which it is now too late to conduct this year)?
Audrey Knight, Senior Planner, Lake Co. Community Development Dept., 707-263-2221, audrey.
Mark Chaney, Principal Environmental Scientist, SHN Consulting Engineers & Geologists, Inc., 530-221-5424, mchaney@shn-
Robert Bowling, owner, Wild Diamond Vineyards, LLC, 305-895-3035, blachance@
Tina Wallis, attorney for Wild Diamond Vineyards, LLC, , 707-526-4200 (Voice mail ext. 141), firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Steve Zalusky said his name had been stripped out of his preliminary report (before it was used as a final report). However, he is listed in Section 9.0 “EIR Preparers” of the Draft EIR.
For more information, and a link to a YouTube video of the hearing including Steve Zalusky’s testimony, visit http://www.hvlwatershed.org.