Clear cutting for vineyards without permit…..

Martin Ray Winery is at it again. Neighbors are not happy!  This is a project that is clearing for vineyards ahead of the application process that would be necessary for a winery or structure (Use Permit) – so it hasn’t hit our “radar”.  No Use Permit is necessary for vineyards.  Since there is a wine processing and sales facility nearby – they may intend to use it.

However, neighbors are on full alert and trying to find out what can be done to preserve the waterway.  I don’t have information on how required setbacks are being protected, but hope someone at the county will know.Among others, Riverkeeper is “on” this and sent a letter (see below from Bob Legge) to Permit Sonoma asking for clarification.  Stay tuned on that. The Ag Commissioner’s office may have more knowledge than Permitting.   The North Coast Water Quality Control Board has been made aware of it. I know Senator McGuire’s office is paying attention to this project as well, but don’t know what is happening there.

This has relevance to expectations for VESCO’s protections, and the regulations being developed by the NCWQCB.


I am investigating some pre-vineyard clearing practices at the new Martin Ray Winery expansion site. Mr. Courtney Benham recently purchased and is now developing a 33 acre site at 2410 Laguna Road (see photos attached).

There are absolutely no sediment and erosion control Best Management Practices on a parcel that drains directly into the Lower Laguna De Santa Rosa.  I estimate the heavy soil disturbance at 3 acres or more currently.

Can you tell me what, if any, permits Mr Benham has applied for through the Ag Commissioner’s Office?

Can you recommend a contact at PRMD if this is under their jurisdiction? My understanding is that this will be developed as a “new plant” vineyard so I am eager to learn how your office deals with these and other issues (riparian removal on a blue water stream, heritage oak removal, etc.) 

Best regards, 

Bob Legge
Policy Director
PO Box 1335
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 433-1958