Saturday, September 23, 2023

New Water Quality Requirements Proposed for Vineyards in the Russian and Navarro River Watersheds

The following is a press release issued by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board:

A farm truck parked alongside a vineyard in Hopland [Picture by Matt LaFever]

The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is inviting public comment on a draft order that proposes new requirements for vineyards to safeguard water quality. The requirements, which could be modified after public comments are received and reviewed, will be considered for adoption by the North Coast Water Board later this year.

The Proposed General Order for Waste Discharge Requirements for Commercial Vineyards, or draft vineyard order, the first of its kind for the region, is the result of collaboration among the North Coast Water Board, vineyard owners and stakeholders committed to sustainable practices that protect the environment. The draft order was developed through a series of stakeholder efforts that culminated in the formation of a technical advisory group in the summer of 2022 to address components of the program. Under the draft order, vineyard owners would be required to implement certain management practices, such as placing ground cover around their vines during winter to mitigate potential water quality impacts associated with agricultural activities. Vineyard owners would also be required to establish or maintain setbacks to riparian areas, which help maintain cool temperatures in streams.

“This draft order has been a truly collaborative effort that, if adopted, will ensure vineyards are doing everything possible to preserve and enhance water quality,” said Valerie Quinto, executive officer of the North Coast. “Without appropriate controls, cultivation of wine grapes can result in the discharge of sediment and agricultural chemicals and, by removing trees near streams and the subsequent shade they provide, increase the water temperature to levels that threaten the health and survival of aquatic life.”

Through widespread enrollment in voluntary sustainability programs such as Fish Friendly Farming, California Certified Sustainable, LODI RULES, and Sustainability in Practice (SIP), more than 80% of North Coast vineyards are already implementing conservation practices. Surface and groundwater monitoring required by the proposed Order would verify that these practices are protective of water quality.

Of the 65,000 acres of vineyards in the North Coast Region, 95% are within the Navarro and Russian River watersheds, which provide habitat for threatened and endangered salmon species but are considered impaired for sediment and temperature.

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The public is encouraged to provide comments during the 45-day public comment period, which will end on August 14 at 5 p.m. The board will host a public workshop during its board meeting on Aug. 3 or Aug. 4 at 9 a.m. Following the close of the public comment period, staff will revise the draft order and draft report with a projected Board adoption hearing scheduled for December.

The North Coast Water Board is a regulatory agency committed to protecting and enhancing water quality in Northern California’s coastal region. The Board focuses on
protecting water quality, enforcing environmental regulations, and collaborating with
stakeholders to achieve long-term water quality goals.

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  1. “Agricultural activities” = spraying “round up” under each and every grape vine ( an herbicide; the whole valley has been sprayed with glyphosate) Sonoma County has banned glyphosate on city property but of course not in the vineyards. Grapes are also sprayed with pesticides, fungicides, and insecticides. Grape farmers do have to take precautions when using these chemicals, and I’ve definitely seen the average non -farmer spraying “round up” into the wind and their yard with no gloves on, in the name of a perfect manicure.
    But let’s talk about the direct exposure to farm workers (Mexicans) who touch each and every grape vine. Do we care about their exposure? Do you know they should take their clothes off and wash them separate from their families’ laundry to avoid contaminating their house? Do you know the litany of symptoms of herbicide exposure, the cancer rates, the Parkinsons, the miscarriages, the birth defects, the nuerological disorders? Do you know what an industrial vineyard smells like during spray season? How many days must pass before workers are let onto a sprayed vineyard with regular clothes on, no spray suits? Is this regulated? What are the cancer rates for ag families? Does the profit from this chemicalled cash crop at least trickle down to the community? How do you profit from your surroundings being poisoned? Does anyone give a shit about people living/working on industrial ag property?
    I have very fond memories of playing in the spray dust after it settled as a child. Yellowish, powdery. Everyone in my family (living on the ranch) has had cancer or a miscarriage.

  2. Even our current organic conventional AG models are polluting our waterways with excess elements like nitrate, phosphorus and potassium. Our desire to simplify the management of a dynamic living system has caused financial ruin to our farmers and is having a devastating effects on our land. We are experiencing a paradigm shift as the previous system is collapsing. These are exciting times.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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