Sunday, May 10, 2015


Yukking it up on a pick-up truck, while...

Lining their pockets at our expense.

...draining the Laguna de Santa Rosa and quadrupling traffic in Sebastopol.

Imagine this just outside of town.

Above is the family responsible for the plans to build a massive winery event center on the Laguna de Santa Rosa just outside of town.
The proposed site.

Please see previous posts and write to the appropriate officials.




             Big Wine Blasted at North Coast California Gathering

By Shepherd Bliss

In the heart of what corporate wine industry lobbyists have re-branded “Wine Country,” activists from four North Coast California counties gathered in early May for their third monthly meeting. They created a regional network of groups from Sonoma, Napa, Lake, and Mendocino counties.

Participants came to the attractive resort town of Calistoga in Napa to discuss how to contain the rampant, sprawling growth of corporate vineyards and wineries as commercial, industrial event centers. They pave over agricultural land, damage the quality of rural life, and create multiple negative impacts upon the environment with respect to water, land, noise, traffic, wildlife habitat, and air quality.

Historic Calistoga, CA

Members of various national, state, regional, and local groups attended, including the following: Sierra Club, Napa County Farm Bureau, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Greenbelt Alliance, the Grange, Napa Vision 2050, Sonoma County Water Coalition, Sonoma County Conservation Action, and Preserve Rural Sonoma County. Various grape growers and wine makers attended and spoke up. A former planning commissioner, organic farmers, environmentalists, and a professional planner spoke.

“What we have in common is respect for rural life,” co-host Donald Williams welcomed the by-invitation-only crowd. “The reasons for this meeting include becoming acquainted with each other and hearing our stories. Another goal is to encourage and inspire each other.”


“Things have changed dramatically since I moved here in 1965, when we had diverse agriculture,” said Bob Dwyer, one of a dozen featured speakers. He was the Executive Director of the Napa Valley Grape Growers Association, the Napa County Farm Bureau, and the Napa Valley Vintner’s Association.

“Now we have little here other than a wine grape mono-culture. A ten-mile stretch of the Silverado Trail has eighteen wineries. They hire a chef before a wine-maker. This has to stop. We cannot let them pave over more of our ag land. The event centers have nothing to do with agriculture,” added Dwyer.

Napa Wineries

Current Napa Farm Bureau President Norma Tofanelli--a fourth-generation farmer and grape grower--read from that group’s mission statement, which is “to preserve agricultural land and natural resources.”

“Napa County--the leader with the nation's first agricultural preserve--faces fundamental questions on how to protect ag lands and resources,” Tofanelli said. “Planning Commissioner Matt Pope has asked ‘Do we want to maintain an agricultural economy that benefits from tourism or do we want to transfer into a tourist economy that capitalizes on agriculture?" according to Tofanelli.

“Ag-washing is when you say a winery with hospitality events is agriculture. It is not. We have an Agricultural Preserve here in Napa,” observed Geoff Ellsworth of St. Helena, which he said needs to be supported.

“Wineries as event centers are being put on ag lands in rural areas, rather than in municipalities. When they are put into towns or cities, they should still adhere to the codes of that municipality and address community and environmental impacts in order for balance to be maintained,” Ellsworth added.

It's not about wine anymore.

“We need to have a state-wide movement,” declared Sonoma County’s Janus Matthes of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. “Rules need to be set for the wine industry, so that everyone knows what they can and cannot do. Neighbors report that real estate prices go down when wineries as event centers move in,” Matthes noted.


“We need a valley-wide voice,” commented David Hallett of the Napa Vision 2050, a coalition of 15 groups, including the Sierra Club. He recommended that people “go find your commonality and get organized.”

 “A big vintner wanted to put in a winery in the hills behind my back yard in a known water-deprived area,” explained Dan Mufson of Napa Vision 2050. “They would cut down 28,000 trees.”  He was able to rally neighbors to raise community awareness of this and then other projects.

“Lake County is in a different cycle of winery development,” said Julie Kreis of Lake County’s Hidden Valley Lake Watershed (HVL) group. They focus on new vineyards wanting to move in, as land and water become scarcer in Sonoma and Napa counties. Kreis owns eleven acres bordering a 6,000-person subdivision, which makes it the second largest population concentration in the small county of 63,860 people in 2013.

“The Wild Diamond Vineyard has an application to plant 108 acres of vines on a steep mountainside parcel with moderate to severe erosion and run-off that goes into Hidden Valley Lake,” noted Kreis.  “HVL Watershed is concerned about depletion of wells and spring recharge. It's critical to address corporate vineyard development that clear cuts the land of trees, negatively impacts water resources, pollutes water and air, and destroys natural habitat,” added Kreis.  

“We’ve felt isolated and lonely fighting Big Wine,” commented Greg Stratmann, who co-owns Stonehouse Cellars winery in Lake County. He represented the Old Long Valley Road community of some 50 households, “two of which were pumping air from their wells a week after a nearby winery started irrigating this year.”

Stratmann reported on a struggle with Shannon Ranches, which put in a large reservoir without a permit. “The county does not enforce its laws, so vineyards can do what they want and then pay minimal fines. Shannon waters its grapes beyond industry standards and then adds concentrates,” according to Stratmann.

“We are concerned with all the event centers at wineries in the Sonoma Valley,” reported Kathy Pons of Valley of the Moon Alliance.
“They are no longer merely ag., having become hospitality centers. I want true agriculture to survive, which is cultivating the soil.”

“In 2002 we challenged a giant resort. They had to do an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which we challenged in court,” Pons said. Though the court eventually denied the group’s lawsuit, they slowed down the project, which the worsened economic situation in 2008 stalled.

This is the plan for our Laguna de Santa Rosa.

That resort, which includes a winery with events, was recently bought by a Chinese holding company for $41 million. Another Chinese corporation has also bought property in the Sonoma Valley. With the rise of its middle class, the huge Chinese market for California wines is expanding. Most of Big Wine on California’s North Coast is owned by outside investors.


“We are science-based,” reported Chris Poehlmann of Friends of the Gualala River, which extends from Mendocino into Sonoma County. “We approach things through legislation, including dealing with general plans and zoning. We’ve been successful with legal challenges, forcing EIRs. Our major concern has been the conversion of forests into vineyards.”

With respect to the media, Poehlmann suggested, “Be creative. For example, make ‘chainsaw wine’ signs and bumper stickers.” They have been fighting an 18,000-acre Preservation Ranch project.

“Big Wine is a Big Problem,” reported Warren Watkins, who arrived directly from a celebration of the Russian River. Groups throughout the North Coast have been showing the acclaimed new documentary “The Russian River: All Rivers” to sell-out audiences. It includes substantial footage and interviews about the damage that wineries do to watersheds.

It takes a lot of grapes.

Watkins spoke for Healdsburg Citizens for Sustainable Solutions, which has helped mobilized hundreds of residents to attend various governmental meetings. He noted that wine tourism creates extra demands for water. “Healdsburg and Sonoma have been ordered by the state to cut their water use more than any other city in Sonoma County. These are the two biggest tourist towns in the County.”

“This is a regional issue,” commented Greenbelt Alliance’s Teri Shore. “Our groups must look at community separators, to preserve the open spaces and greenbelts between our cities. Right now I'm focused on renewing community separators policies in Sonoma. We need to examine the bigger picture and work together.”


The six-hour gathering concluded with an evening session on issues such as a mission statement and the group’s name. Members of Preserve Rural Sonoma County were present. Its mission statement includes the following: “Our mission is to promote limits on the encroachment of large wine and spirits processing complexes/events centers and their negative impacts upon residential neighborhoods and inappropriate rural areas.”

Four Counties Network (FCN) was the tentative name agreed upon to identify the collaboration of these diverse groups in distinct counties. It is a working name that may change.  It signifies the desire to mobilize a mass movement into a united struggle to ensure the preservation of the rural nature of these neighboring North Coast California counties, which includes their historic agrarian cultures.

“Four County Network members have common concerns regarding impact,” noted Napa’s former winery executive Robert Dwyer. “We are united by out-of-control negative impacts upon our regional resources. We are not going away. Network member organizations plan to monitor, challenge, and participate in future land use policy decisions in the region.”

Folsom Lake - 2011 and 2014

Since it takes about 30 gallons of water to produce one glass of wine, extensive water use by wineries as events centers was a major concern of the gathering. After reading a report on the meeting, geologist Jane Nielson, Ph.D., of the Sonoma County Water Coalition wrote the following in an email:

“The US Geological Survey’s 8-year study of groundwater under the Santa Rosa Plain showed an annual deficit of 3,300 acre-ft (just over a billion gallons) per year, due mostly to agricultural and rural residential pumping from wells, which the County has permitted with no limitation. The County permits more and more and more water extraction by new wineries, distilleries, and event centers by large wine-making concerns.”

“How many wineries and wine-based entertainment centers does one firm really need?” asked geologist Dr. Nielson.        

(Dr. Shepherd Bliss {} teaches college, farms, has contributed to 24 books, and works with the Apple Roots Group.)


The fight against the Dairyman Event Center & Wine/Distilling Factory is heating up.

With 62 winery proposals right now in Sonoma County for new or expanded wineries with events, it is going to take a fierce groundswell of countywide community effort to fight the Napafication of Sonoma County.

We are working hard behind the scenes to try to change some of the zoning regulations that have allowed this rampant overdevelopment and erosion of the rural nature of our home. In addition, we are gathering experts to review the Dairyman application and will be participating in the scoping sessions that shape the issues to be addressed in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). 


• Please consider becoming a volunteer and or donating to our effort! Click here to donate through our website. Email us if you have talents to share (writing, sign making, attending official meetings when the time comes, research, etc.) 
• Join us for our special benefit event June 16. Get your tickets now as this film sells out every screening! Click here to order your tickets.

Thank you for your support and help! Please forward this to your friends and spread the word!

Padi Selwyn, Co-chair
Preserve Rural Sonoma County


Saturday, May 9, 2015


This month SCCA is beginning its new Kortum Legacy Lecture Series, a quarterly educational lecture and lunch for Sonoma County's grassroots environmental community, and support of SCCA’s efforts that promote environmental programs and continue political support for them.

The first of these lectures, including lunch provided by the Ceres Community Project, on May 15, 2013, at 11:30 AM at the Finley Community Center in Santa Rosa.  
Our inaugural speaker is Dr. Devra Davis, an internationally-known researcher and educator on environmental pollution. Dr. Davis’s book, “When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution,"  was recently nominated for a National Book Award.

The attached flyer provides a link for purchasing tickets. I hope to see you there.

Best Wishes,


NOTE:  Since the links in the content below will not work, you can visit those links here:

Monday, May 4, 2015


City Council meeting, Tuesday, May 5, starting about 7pm

Meeting held at the Youth Center on Morris St.
Multiuse trail advocates, we need your support at the next Council meeting to move the proposed trails forward. 

At a meeting with the Planning Director and City Manager about what will be presented at the May 5 City Council meeting concerning the multi use trail proposals, they indicated the topic will be limited to addressing the request of the Council from the November meeting. (Recommend a public process and its cost.)  It will not be dealing with the trail alignment which brought the NIMBYs out in force to protest. Apparently a consultant will cost in the range of $80,000, a good chunk.

A nice way to get to work.

The goal for us is to get the money commitment into the budget. Then an RFP can be sent out to trail consultants who will take over the process and eventually make a recommendation to Council. Many, besides us, want some of the City's limited cash. We have to make this need a priority.  To do this the City manager simply says, "get many to speak up at the Council meeting, and send lots of letters." 

I know it is hard to find the time, it can be boring waiting, it feels uncomfortable to speak, etc. but this is what works. Being there, making your case while the Council is deciding makes a difference. Following below are some messages that I think we should get out and be repeated by many. Also a survey follows.

Detailed information is available at

Our kids deserve it.

The trails are needed. 

More than anything else this will change the "drive everywhere" culture of Sebastopol, the health and independence of kids, traffic to schools, etc.  These trails will add to social life, happiness, and adventure from tots in trailers to elders. Dogs love them too. More than anything else, these trails will make Sebastopol a better place to live. See poll below.

Get our youth started in the habit of going place on their own power. The predominant culture of "drive everywhere" changes most by getting youth and families into the habit of biking and walking. This starts with a safe and enjoyable way to do this.

Bike lanes along Hwy 116 are not a "duplication"
You still ride between parked cars and highway traffic. Until it feels safe, most will not use it. We need a way for all users to ride or walk. Walking along Hwy 116 is unpleasant.

Sebastopol's current situation.

Below is the result of a poll by Robert Jacobs taken for his campaign. The next biggest concern was traffic congestion at ten points. He asked:
Should we prioritize developing more pedestrian and bicycle improvements and pathways?
40 of 46 people answered affirmatively, or 87%  It should be noted that the people that did not answer affirmatively did not answer negatively or even with the undecided. There was no anti bike lane comments.  Meaning that the number could even have been higher.
An Oregon community with bike trails; almost every kid rides their bike to school.

Please.  If you feel that bike trails would benefit our community, show up at this meeting.  It could make the difference.

Saturday, May 2, 2015


Here they are...

Yucking it up while the Laguna de Santa Rosa is sucked dry.

The Wagner Family.  These are the folks behind the proposed Dairyman Winery/Entertainment Center they want to build on top of the Laguna de Santa Rosa.

Below is a link to an article in Wine Spectator.

After reading the the flyer I posted earlier - After looking at those numbers.  You can be sure that those figures represent an understatement.

If those outrageous numbers are what they are actually projecting, it scares the hell out of me to imagine what they'll try to get away with.

Please read the article below from the Wine Spectator website...



The Napafication of Sebastopol is bearing down on us.  This facility will change life as we know it for our entire community.  PLEASE write to the following officials below to express your concerns and/or outrage that this is even being considered right on top of the Laguna de Santa Rosa.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


By Shepherd Bliss 

Rural folk from four Northern California counties came in mid-April to a magical juncture where the life-giving Russian River empties into the majestic Pacific Ocean. Though the small, unincorporated village of Jenner is a popular recreational destination, pleasure was not the intention.

Jenner, CA by Sarah M. Kanzler

Our mission was to preserve agrarian lifestyles and environments from further colonization by industrial wineries. Large corporate wineries--owned mainly by outside investors--were the main target.
Water and California’s worsening drought were discussed. Some reported that wells had gone dry after large wineries dug as much as 1000 feet into the ground to extract precious, limited water for their factories.

It takes about 30 gallons of water to make one glass of wine. “Our water is being exported,” reported one person.

Misleading message.

 “Save water, drink wine” bumper stickers appear on cars and as signs outside wine tasting rooms. Given the large amount of water it takes to make wine, this advertisement is not true.


Sonoma County currently has 70,000 acres (and growing) of wine grapes and only 12,000 acres of food crops. As grapegrower Bill Shortridge says, “We've gone from an agriculture that benefitted all, to a monoculture that benefits a few.” Modifying an old statement, “One cannot live by wine alone.”

So what’s the beef? Big Wine controls around 80% of the market in Sonoma County. They take more than their fair share of the water we all need to survive, garden, hydrate our families, pets, plants, and farm animals.

Forty activists from Napa, Sonoma, Lake, and Mendocino counties circled up outside that afternoon and began describing their diverse local situations. The grill soon started for the potluck. After an hour and a half, “Let’s eat!” could be heard.

Get rid of weeds and fertilize the crop.

 Small sustainable wineries were advocated. Among them were Benzinger, Wild Hog, Preston, and Porter Creek in Sonoma, Frog’s Leap in Napa, and Frey in Mendocino. The problem is mainly with Big Wine. A regional group could compile a current list of sustainable vineyards and wineries. It could also put together a list of the worst corporate wineries and those that neighbors struggle with.

After dinner, our numbers had doubled to around 40 for the public part of our time together. Our host Ken Sund explained why he initiated this gathering, “After seeing our coastal hills get industrialized, I decided to invite people here. Jenner has a history of community activism.”
Agriculture to Monoculture.

Six people spoke about their respective struggles, mainly with wineries doing things such as creating event centers, cutting redwood forests, crawling up hills, snarling traffic by tasting rooms on dangerous, narrow rural roads, hording limited water supplies, and a host of other problems.
Will Parrish.

Mendocino County’s Will Parrish is an investigative reporter, who writes for AVA (Anderson Valley Advertiser). He is featured in the acclaimed new documentary “Russian River: All Rivers.” It reveals how the over-proliferation of the wine industry damages the Russian River watershed. Parrish described the extensive power of the wine industry in our region and the many ways it influences land use and other decisions that directly impact people and the environment.


Former Sonoma County Planning Commissioner Rue Furch spoke for the new Preserve Rural Sonoma County. It focuses on the recent application by the Napa Wagner wine family for the Dairyman Winery and Distillery on the fast-moving, two lane Highway 12, a greenbelt community separator between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. “It’s already a commute deadlock on that highway. People back up for miles,” Furch observed.

Rue Furch.

“We need a cost/benefit analysis,” said Furch. “The drought is a tipping point moment. We know the benefits of agriculture, tourism and tax dollars. We need to fully understand the costs, such as water use, traffic, air quality, and changes in land use.  We enjoy the benefits of agriculture and open space, and need to support those while we deal with the expanding impacts of tourism,” Furch added.

“You are not alone,” Furch said, citing community groups from around the region. One of the main accomplishments of this gathering was that participants saw the similarities and differences in our diverse struggles.

A primary objection expressed at the meeting was regarding wineries that become event centers, complete with restaurants. They host all kinds of non-agricultural events in areas zoned for ag. and as rural. As someone said at another meeting, “The right to farm is not the right to party.”


“The wine industry is out of control today. It pushes for maximum profit,” explained Geoff Ellsworth of St. Helena, Napa County. He was raised in a wine family. “Our town has become an adult spring break. This is like an invasive species. The big corporations do strip mining.”

“Our issue is an application by Wild Diamond Vineyard by a Miami developer,” explained Karl Giovacchini of the Hidden Valley Lake Watershed group. It wants to border a subdivision of 6000 people. “Water issues are key for us. We are a small, poor county and vineyards represent a lot of money coming in. But they top off mountains and draw water from our limited aquifers.” As wineries run out of land and water in Sonoma and Napa, they move to nearby Lake and Mendocino, buying cheaper land, to further colonize them.

Poster child: Paul Hobbs

Giovacchini addressed the “burn-out issue.” He reported on a five-year struggle against a vineyard. One of the things that can work against burn-out is the development of friendships, where people support each other as they work against vineyard and winery over-extension. The Jenner gathering contributed to building community and sharing information across county lines, thus making new allies.

"You can make water into wine, but you can’t make wine into water,” is a tag line that Giovacchini’s partner Alicia Lee Farnsworth came up for their website Vineyard Wine Watch.

Audience members asked questions and made comments after the six panelists spoke. “Development in general and its impacts on our natural resources must be attended to,” commented Charlotte Williams of Citizens for Green Community in Calistoga. After meeting in Lake and Sonoma, the third meeting of the group is scheduled for Calistoga in Napa for May 2.


Paul Hobbs clear-cutting of old Redwoods is typical of vineyard operations.
Big Wine regularly violates its permits and other rules, and is seldom held accountable. Dairyman settled for $1 million with Napa in 2013 for bottling 20 times as much as their permit. “Bad apple” Paul Hobbs settled for $100,000 with Sonoma County for three violations, including clear cutting redwood trees and soil erosion, for which he was liable for millions of dollars in fines.

It is illegal to have restaurants in areas zoned for agriculture, yet Big Wine does it regularly. St. Francis even brags about doing so on its website: They flaunt their excessive power.

As one person at the meeting said, “If it walks like a restaurant and it quacks like a restaurant, it is a restaurant.”

“We favor town-centered development. That is the purpose of small towns. We are losing that,” mentioned one person.

(Shepherd Bliss {} teaches college, farms, and has contributed to 24 books.