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Call to action: support water protections for Sonoma County vineyards

Email the Regional Board TODAY to support proposed protections for the Russian River

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) recently proposed a new program that would require most wine grape growers in Sonoma County to report data on pesticide and sediment runoff into the Russian River. Our river is listed officially as "impaired" due to sediment and environmental pollutants. It is the Regional Board's job to try to reduce these impacts. Wine grape growers are the only non-regulated operators in the watershed, and data on their impact to sediment and chemical runoff is a necessary piece of the puzzle. The program would require modest fees from grape growers to fund the data collection.

Predictably, the Farm Bureau is in strong opposition to the proposed regulations, stating that grape growers already have a program that ensures sustainability of all vineyards in Sonoma County. They are referring to "Sustainable Sonoma", which is a certification program based on self-reported information with no data to back up the "sustainable" claim. It's important to remember that there is no requirement to reduce or even look at pesticide use to be certified "sustainable" in Sonoma County. Every other industry that impacts the watershed in Sonoma County is required to provide data on pollutant releases to the Regional Board.

Email your letter NOW in support of the Regional Boards proposed program. Tell them it is important to hold grape growers to the same reasonable standards that all other local industries comply with.

Comments are due by 12pm Tuesday August 29th

Suggested Talking Points

*Thank you to Sonoma County's Russian Riverkeeper for providing us with original research on this proposed program.

  • In order to achieve clean waters for all (people, plants, critters), vineyards must be required to do their part by cleaning up their own pollutant filled discharges that are causing sediment, nutrient, and other harms to our waters.

  • As one of the last unregulated polluting industries in the North Coast Region, it is important that vineyards be held to the same standards as any other industry in the North Coast.

  • There are numerous mitigation measures that vineyards could be taking to reduce their negative impact to our shared waterways and it is time that these measures be implemented. It is also important that all vineyards be required to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability through robust monitoring and transparent reporting for all discharge areas.

  • I live in [insert tonw/city] and the [insert river/creek name] is extremely important to me. [Insert story of enjoying local waters]. Over the last [X] years I have observed sediment filled waters and runoff coming off vineyard properties in my area. I have also observed vineyards with bare dirt all over in the middle of the winter and rainy season, as well as trucks driving on wet muddy roads and pesticides getting sprayed. This is harmful to the waters I love and negatively impacts my ability to fully enjoy them.

  • The vineyard industry is working to weaken this draft permit so that they can continue business as usual at the risk of our shared water resources. Vineyards throughout our region have participated in various voluntary programs for years but these are not sufficient to protect water quality. Our waters continue to be impaired despite these programs and there has been zero monitoring or reporting to support industry's claims. Some vineyard properties are doing the right thing, but they are unfortunately in the minority.

To ensure the Regional Board’s duty to protect our waters and beneficial uses is achieved, we ask the Regional Board to take the following actions:

1. Require all vineyards sample and monitor for all turbidity coming off their properties.

2. Require all vineyards report their monitoring results to the Regional Board without

aggregation or anonymity.

3. Use the reporting data to require actual, effective adaptive management measures be implemented by vineyards to ensure progress towards water quality goals is achieved.

4. Incorporate more interim benchmarks throughout the order to help measure progress towards water quality goals and ensure timely implementation of necessary mitigation measures.

5. Draft an order that is to be implemented in a timely manner such that water quality

improvements are actually achieved.

6. Ensure any adopted order is enforceable for any violation of terms and that there are actual consequences for failure to implement measures that are necessary to protect water health.

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