VESCO: Wine Industry tries to consolidate power with pro industry supervisors

Note: Only marginal lands are left to fill with water thirsty and pesticide ridden vineyards. Poor land use decision making has left us with dwindling water  supplies during a megadrought and dried up landscapes  that are fire prone.

“The time to protect our watersheds, the climate, and our woodlands from highly destructive and speculative industry special interests, is now.”

Approved vineyard with no realistic tree ordinance. Trees provide habitat, water recharge and oaks especially are a keystone species that support over 100 other species. The tree ordinance gets kicked down the road to support the winery owners, AGAIN.
Dear Supervisors:
Please accept these comments -for Agenda Item 47, as part of the record related to the County’s modification of County Code.  I have focused on three areas in this letter and have commented in detail on updates to VESCO before (please see comments in Board Packet).
For years, in order to begin the recovery of endangered species and other special status animals and plants adversely impacted by county land use decisions and policies, the concerned public has sought …
… opportunities to reduce the regulatory, time, and financial burdens to grape growers by streamlining the process associated with the replanting of vineyards. “ (Sonoma County Staff Report December 8, 2020).

Instead of moving these amendments forward, I urge you to address the long standing concerns with significant tree removal, endangered aquatic species, polluted run off in partnership with the Regional Water Board, and water diversions in late summer and fall, before considering relieving the so called regulatory burden on the County’s most prolific and wealth industry.

Some Proposed Amendments are More Harmful.
Not withstanding the assertion made  – “Any adjustments to VESCO were to not impact existing applicable environmental standards.  The proposed amendments accomplish the *Ad Hoc Committees purpose.”  (Sonoma …… woodlands and vegetation is one of the primary causes of over heating of critical habitat, pool filling, erosion and bank failure to name just a few harmful impacts caused by poorly regulated agriculture.
Russian River estuary.
Replants must respect the 200-foot set back requirements required of new vineyards.  Riparian areas destroyed under old practices and that contributed to the loss of species, must be restored not perpetuated. …
… – and past time, to require Sonoma vintners to incorporate the modern changes needed

Over one hundred acres clearcut, bulldozed in Russian River streams without permit and the DA is yet to move on charges almost 2 years in…… this is one of the two Reimers atrocities for wine grapes.

for the good of every one in the watershed.  We must implement the best science in an even handed away across all sectors.

Biological studies in addition to geologic and hydrologic analysis are fundamental to good planning and important to avoid contributing to harm to listed species and their habitat.  Independent peer review is a basic scientific principle that must be integrated into county planning and permit application procedures. All high impact activities must detail the potential or ongoing impacts in order that decision makers can make informed and fair choices.
3.  And finally, the extension of permits and periods of operation serve the land speculation interests.  In addition, such changes make more difficult any forward progress with respect to restoring the damage done -by past and many current practices, and efforts to make more sustainable this high impact industry.  As proposed, outdated practices can be locked in for 10-years despite any improvements that might be adopted.  The amount of time, the industry can sit on permits or intensely develop our watersheds is currently excessive insofar as, our streams are hot and polluted and our woodlands completely without protections from this industry, and climate change is making things worse.  Longer hotter summers if they are forecasted actually signal a need to slow down, take care, and reduce our impacts in our watersheds.
Conclusion This agenda item is not ready for approval.  In addition to reviewing my earlier comments in the staff report, the comments of California Native Plant Society must receive equal weight with the …… to survive increased impacts to our streams and rivers. The time to protect our watersheds, the climate, and our woodlands from highly destructive and speculative industry special interests, is now.
Thank you.
K. B.
*Note the Ad Hoc committee was spotted numerous times meeting before Gore & Hopkins back dated the committee to make it meet basic government regulations.