Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#151 Post by theocorrel » August 4th, 2019, 4:40 pm

Let’s me start off by answer yes, they knew what they were doing was egregiously wrong. Kevin and his team knew that they were breaking the law in Mendocino County, in the State of California and the United States Federal law. They chose to do so anyway, showing gross negligence and in turn were given a massive fine.

I feel sad that many here are quick to defend Kevin after his post. Based on the facts, Kevin and Rhys are not the victims. This is cause and effect.

Everyone in the wine industry knows that California Water, California Wildlife and California Wetlands are the most precious commodity we have. Most respect our precious commodities and respect the laws that are in place to protect them. Most except Kevin, who’s net worth is beyond a Billion Dollars and who appears to feel that he is above the law and that the laws doesn’t apply to him and Rhys.

The article states “Rhys Vineyards officials made no attempt to obtain permits or contact relevant agencies before building a vineyard on top of a stream and wetland.”

Do you think that someone who has previously purchased 7+- properties and builds them out with vines, water, ponds, roads, bridges, and wells isn’t aware of the rules on how to go about the process?

Then, on their 8th+- property purchase, they decide that they aren't going to apply for permits? That’s the red herring! No permits!

They knew they would never get the permits to destroy a habit and chose to risk the fine.

Let’s reflect on Kevin’s intelligence, success in business and network of those who work for him. Are they negligent? Do they not know the rules from the many years and many previous properties they developed? His post states no guilt nor an apology but rather that they made some “mistakes”.

Everyone in the business knows that when you build a winery, you apply for a permit. Plant a vineyard, you need a permit. Build a pond, you need a permit. Drill a well, apply for a permit. Build a road, apply for a permit. Build a bridge, apply. Diverting water flow on the property to 2 existing ponds that were 60+ years old (based on Kevin’s spin it post), you need a permit. While the ponds can be grandfathered in, you can't simply divert water to them. Before building “stream crossings” (as the article states) which I assume are bridges? Yup, you guessed it, you need a permit.

Kevin and his team didn’t think that filling in a stream bed and bulldozing wetland was both morally wrong and a major offense and against the law?

No need to contact fish and game which is vineyard planting 101. No need to contact the county of Mendocino. Ha. No need to contact the state and apply like all the rest of us do. Nope!

Can we speculate that the heft of the fine comes from their arrogance and destruction of the law? If this was a small offense, why such a huge fine? Can we speculate that it is because it wasn't a small offense, it was blatant and in hopes of not getting caught.

Can we speculate and consider that they were told that they had to return the land to its previous state or that their would be a huge fine? Maybe so and maybe they chose the fine.

As the article quotes, it’s not a “level playing field for other vineyard operations.” Kevin ruins it for others with his disregard for the rules and choosing not to correct the property.

Please open your eyes everyone.

https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/northcoa ... %20srf.pdf

“Streams show evidence of damage and chronic erosion. These conditions represent controllable sediment sources, each threatening chronic delivery of sediment and other earthen materials to receiving waters.”

"Failure to Obtain Necessary Permits: Regional Water Board staff determined that the Discharger’s development of the Property, including site clearing for viticulture and road construction/reconstruction, and disturbance to or placement of fill in streams and wetlands, occurred without coverage under any of the following regulatory permits: • Clean Water Act (CWA) section 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers; • CWA section 401 Water Quality Certification from the Regional Water Board; or • Department of Fish and Wildlife Streambed Alteration Agreement."
Bob, thanks for your post. What Kevin Harvey and Rhys did actually appears to be worse than you say. The settlement agreement Harvey specifically agreed to (linked to in one of the above posts) makes clear, among many other things, that Harvey/Rhys knew that permits were required and willfully went forward without them, and it was not the first time they had broken the law. In fact, the last time they broke the law - using this exact Rhys manager (Mr. Tapia Meza) - they had applied for all the permits. Here, Harvey/Rhys used the exact same previously guilty manager again, and hence willfully went ahead with no permits.
c. History of Violations ...
This factor is to be used when there is a history of repeat violations. A minimum multiplier of 1.0 can be used, and is to be increased as merited by history of violations. In this case, because the Dischargers have a prior known history of problems but no record of adjudication associated with known violations, the minimum factor of 1 is used.
In June of 2010, the Discharger applied for an appropriative water with the Division of Water Rights (Water Rights Application A031838) to divert 14 acre-feet of water from an unnamed tributary to Floodgate Creek, a tributary to the Navarro River in Mendocino County. After submitting the application, the Discharger, under the guidance and direction of Mr. Javier Tapia Meza, had MBC Construction develop a vineyard site and install a pond. In the fall of 2009, these activities resulted in the Department of Fish and Wildlife issuing a citation for violations of Fish and Game Code section(s) 5650 and 1602. The violations resulted from: a) sediment and pollution discharge into the Unnamed tributary of Floodgate Creek and into Perry Gulch Creek, b) for substantial alteration of the bed, bank and channel of a stream (multiple sites), and c) for the un- permitted diversion of water at the reservoir site, without prior notification to DFG. Alterations to the existing stream channel and habitat occurred at the reservoir site and where they had installed stream crossings (culverts). Although cited, the Discharger was ultimately never prosecuted for this citation.
[Page 10]
These documented violations and the pattern of practice are substantially similar to the violations detailed in Regional Water Board inspection reports. Mr. Tapia Meza was the manager of Rhys Vineyards LLC when the violations currently alleged occurred. Although this demonstrates a history of problems, the Discharger nonetheless has no final adverse orders or judgments for similar violations. Therefore, we assess a factor of 1.0.
The prior law breaking makes Kevin's stating above that "mistakes were made" disingenuous. And for Kevin to say, as he does above, that "environmental stewardship" is important him when here he irrevocably, willfully and illegally destroyed a protected environment to build a vineyard just seems outright false. If he really was so concerned, he should refuse to build or use this exact illegal vineyard, as a start.

Finally, Alan, many of the key facts in this case are provided in documents in links above, and many contradict your repeated, intellectually lazy, blowhard assertions. You could spend time looking for facts - right in front of you - with an open mind, instead of just blowhard pontificating. Your call, of course.

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#152 Post by dcornutt » August 4th, 2019, 4:51 pm

Theo,

Does this mean my allocation of Alpine Chard and Horseshoe Chard will increase?
This sounds ominous. Looks good for an increase in the allocation.

Personally, if I was Kevin, I would sell all this Mendocino territory and get what I could.
No reason to stick around in an unfriendly area. There are MANY more areas in California to explore.
Last edited by dcornutt on August 4th, 2019, 5:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#153 Post by Casey Hartlip » August 4th, 2019, 5:04 pm

dcornutt wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 4:51 pm
Theo,

Does this mean my allocation of Alpine Chard and Horseshoe Chard will increase?
This sounds ominous. Looks good for an increase in the allocation.

Personally, if I was Kevin, I would sell all this Mendicino territory and get what I could.
No reason to stick around in an unfriendly area. There are MANY more areas in California to explore.
But you'll STILL be in Cali. The water board are folks not to be messed with.
Last edited by Casey Hartlip on August 4th, 2019, 7:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#154 Post by dcornutt » August 4th, 2019, 5:06 pm

Casey.
That is OK with me.
I don't think he has had any trouble anywhere else.
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eat or drink,because eating without a friend is the life of the lion or the wolf." Epicurius

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#155 Post by Nate Simon » August 4th, 2019, 5:14 pm

Is there an award for “TL; DR Thread Of the Year?”

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#156 Post by Greg K » August 4th, 2019, 5:29 pm

theocorrel wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 4:40 pm
Let’s me start off by answer yes, they knew what they were doing was egregiously wrong. Kevin and his team knew that they were breaking the law in Mendocino County, in the State of California and the United States Federal law. They chose to do so anyway, showing gross negligence and in turn were given a massive fine.

I feel sad that many here are quick to defend Kevin after his post. Based on the facts, Kevin and Rhys are not the victims. This is cause and effect.

Everyone in the wine industry knows that California Water, California Wildlife and California Wetlands are the most precious commodity we have. Most respect our precious commodities and respect the laws that are in place to protect them. Most except Kevin, who’s net worth is beyond a Billion Dollars and who appears to feel that he is above the law and that the laws doesn’t apply to him and Rhys.

The article states “Rhys Vineyards officials made no attempt to obtain permits or contact relevant agencies before building a vineyard on top of a stream and wetland.”

Do you think that someone who has previously purchased 7+- properties and builds them out with vines, water, ponds, roads, bridges, and wells isn’t aware of the rules on how to go about the process?

Then, on their 8th+- property purchase, they decide that they aren't going to apply for permits? That’s the red herring! No permits!

They knew they would never get the permits to destroy a habit and chose to risk the fine.

Let’s reflect on Kevin’s intelligence, success in business and network of those who work for him. Are they negligent? Do they not know the rules from the many years and many previous properties they developed? His post states no guilt nor an apology but rather that they made some “mistakes”.

Everyone in the business knows that when you build a winery, you apply for a permit. Plant a vineyard, you need a permit. Build a pond, you need a permit. Drill a well, apply for a permit. Build a road, apply for a permit. Build a bridge, apply. Diverting water flow on the property to 2 existing ponds that were 60+ years old (based on Kevin’s spin it post), you need a permit. While the ponds can be grandfathered in, you can't simply divert water to them. Before building “stream crossings” (as the article states) which I assume are bridges? Yup, you guessed it, you need a permit.

Kevin and his team didn’t think that filling in a stream bed and bulldozing wetland was both morally wrong and a major offense and against the law?

No need to contact fish and game which is vineyard planting 101. No need to contact the county of Mendocino. Ha. No need to contact the state and apply like all the rest of us do. Nope!

Can we speculate that the heft of the fine comes from their arrogance and destruction of the law? If this was a small offense, why such a huge fine? Can we speculate that it is because it wasn't a small offense, it was blatant and in hopes of not getting caught.

Can we speculate and consider that they were told that they had to return the land to its previous state or that their would be a huge fine? Maybe so and maybe they chose the fine.

As the article quotes, it’s not a “level playing field for other vineyard operations.” Kevin ruins it for others with his disregard for the rules and choosing not to correct the property.

Please open your eyes everyone.

https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/northcoa ... %20srf.pdf

“Streams show evidence of damage and chronic erosion. These conditions represent controllable sediment sources, each threatening chronic delivery of sediment and other earthen materials to receiving waters.”

"Failure to Obtain Necessary Permits: Regional Water Board staff determined that the Discharger’s development of the Property, including site clearing for viticulture and road construction/reconstruction, and disturbance to or placement of fill in streams and wetlands, occurred without coverage under any of the following regulatory permits: • Clean Water Act (CWA) section 404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers; • CWA section 401 Water Quality Certification from the Regional Water Board; or • Department of Fish and Wildlife Streambed Alteration Agreement."
Bob, thanks for your post. What Kevin Harvey and Rhys did actually appears to be worse than you say. The settlement agreement Harvey specifically agreed to (linked to in one of the above posts) makes clear, among many other things, that Harvey/Rhys knew that permits were required and willfully went forward without them, and it was not the first time they had broken the law. In fact, the last time they broke the law - using this exact Rhys manager (Mr. Tapia Meza) - they had applied for all the permits. Here, Harvey/Rhys used the exact same previously guilty manager again, and hence willfully went ahead with no permits.
c. History of Violations ...
This factor is to be used when there is a history of repeat violations. A minimum multiplier of 1.0 can be used, and is to be increased as merited by history of violations. In this case, because the Dischargers have a prior known history of problems but no record of adjudication associated with known violations, the minimum factor of 1 is used.
In June of 2010, the Discharger applied for an appropriative water with the Division of Water Rights (Water Rights Application A031838) to divert 14 acre-feet of water from an unnamed tributary to Floodgate Creek, a tributary to the Navarro River in Mendocino County. After submitting the application, the Discharger, under the guidance and direction of Mr. Javier Tapia Meza, had MBC Construction develop a vineyard site and install a pond. In the fall of 2009, these activities resulted in the Department of Fish and Wildlife issuing a citation for violations of Fish and Game Code section(s) 5650 and 1602. The violations resulted from: a) sediment and pollution discharge into the Unnamed tributary of Floodgate Creek and into Perry Gulch Creek, b) for substantial alteration of the bed, bank and channel of a stream (multiple sites), and c) for the un- permitted diversion of water at the reservoir site, without prior notification to DFG. Alterations to the existing stream channel and habitat occurred at the reservoir site and where they had installed stream crossings (culverts). Although cited, the Discharger was ultimately never prosecuted for this citation.
[Page 10]
These documented violations and the pattern of practice are substantially similar to the violations detailed in Regional Water Board inspection reports. Mr. Tapia Meza was the manager of Rhys Vineyards LLC when the violations currently alleged occurred. Although this demonstrates a history of problems, the Discharger nonetheless has no final adverse orders or judgments for similar violations. Therefore, we assess a factor of 1.0.
The prior law breaking makes Kevin's stating above that "mistakes were made" disingenuous. And for Kevin to say, as he does above, that "environmental stewardship" is important him when here he irrevocably, willfully and illegally destroyed a protected environment to build a vineyard just seems outright false. If he really was so concerned, he should refuse to build or use this exact illegal vineyard, as a start.

The way I read it, the multiplier used is the minimum because the previous violations do not appear to have been significant and Rhys had no prior judgements (I.e. the prior violations had no orders or judgments). Which leads me to think these violations were not overly serious, but that the water board was unamused with them being repeated.
I think it’s blase to say “fine has been paid, let’s all move on”, but this order also doesn’t suggest Rhys are “irrevocably, willfully and illegally destroyed a protected environment”.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#157 Post by theocorrel » August 4th, 2019, 5:40 pm

Greg - The damage caused by constructing the vineyard was irrevocable (unrestorable) - this is stated various times in the materials. That it was illegal is similarly the case. That it was willful follows - as I pointed out - from using the exact same manager who, of all people, knew that going forward without permits was illegal. Yet, he and Rhys went forward.

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#158 Post by Al Osterheld » August 4th, 2019, 6:34 pm

They could have been ordered to take out the vineyard and restore that land as close as possible. I think the regulators decided the good that would be done by the restoration projects they would fund (fixing problems created by others) significantly exceeded any damage caused by covering half an acre near a ridge top that was judged to be seasonally damp, along with some other things. As I mentioned earlier, that seems like a reasonable approach for everyone.

-Al

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#159 Post by Scott Brunson » August 4th, 2019, 6:54 pm

D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
August 2nd, 2019, 6:33 pm
Kudos to Kevin for even responding at all. The internet is dark and full of terrors, even for people with completely good intentions.
YES!
Thank you Kevin.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#160 Post by Scott Brunson » August 4th, 2019, 7:16 pm

Craig G wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 12:50 pm
D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 12:37 pm
One wonders what Phil likes to drink.

Then again, perhaps not.
I think we found the asshat we were looking for, though.
yep
He has 3 posts. The other two are flamethrowers aimed at Kosta Browne.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#161 Post by Alex N » August 4th, 2019, 7:35 pm

Kevin Harvey wrote:
August 2nd, 2019, 6:08 pm
There is a lot I would like to say about this over a glass of wine (or two!) but given the situation, I cannot do that now except for a few facts:
1) we made some serious mistakes
2) The property is 4591 acres. The vineyard is 20 acres. We have always planned to conserve the remainder.
3) 2 of the 3 ponds have been on the site for 60+ years
4) anyone who has visited our vineyards has seen that they are managed with extreme environmental sensitivity and this site is no different

I am sorry but I will not be able to respond further.
Floodgate creek is (maybe now was) a small steelhead spawning tributary of the Navarro river. Bulldozing a section of it into extinction is far worse than damming it.
Google Maps is quite revealing but I'd be curious to see at what section of the creek this took place. Plus, I'd also like to see how much of that 4591 acres is covered in dense trees.
@13x N1ch•!z

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#162 Post by Al Osterheld » August 4th, 2019, 8:30 pm

Not sure from your post whether you were misled from the thread title. The vineyard that is the subject of this thread is nowhere near Floodgate Creek, the Navarro River, or Anderson Valley. It also did not cover anything a steelhead ever saw. It's at higher elevations and the "stream" only exists during runoff after a rain storm, the area judged to be a "wetland" is just an area where the runoff was thought to stagnate a bit and has no contiguous connection to a freely flowing river or creek. A fish could not get there unless someone carried it and it could not survive there.

-Al

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#163 Post by Kris Patten » August 4th, 2019, 8:33 pm

I get the Rhys love, I have bought hundreds of bottles, but everyone needs a severe dose of reality and to stop trying to justify Kevin's moves here, and yes I say Kevin, as owner you get the bad with the good. He has clearly stated they "made some serious mistakes." Stop making excuses for them or targeting overzealous regulators.

I don't think any wine/agricultural region looks at wetlands, water rights or fish habitats lightly when it comes to humans intruding on them, especially when the drive a bulldozer in and irreparably destroy such area.

It's a big mistake, possibly hubris, who knows, but Kevin has said it and now everyone gets to decide, forgive, forget, or boycott.
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Could Someone..

#164 Post by TomHill » August 4th, 2019, 8:40 pm

Could someone post the GoogleMaps coordinates so we could all look with our very own eyes?
Tom

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#165 Post by Al Osterheld » August 4th, 2019, 8:42 pm

The Clarke Ranch land area is in two different river drainage basins, the South Fork of the Eel River, and the Ten Mile River. Both are important salmon and steelhead rivers, the Eel may be the most important salmon habitat on the West Coast of the US and is populated by wild rather than hatchery salmon. I just finished watching A River's Last Chance and highly recommend the film.

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#166 Post by R. Gaston » August 4th, 2019, 9:48 pm

Kris Patten wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 8:33 pm
I get the Rhys love, I have bought hundreds of bottles, but everyone needs a severe dose of reality and to stop trying to justify Kevin's moves here, and yes I say Kevin, as owner you get the bad with the good. He has clearly stated they "made some serious mistakes." Stop making excuses for them or targeting overzealous regulators.

I don't think any wine/agricultural region looks at wetlands, water rights or fish habitats lightly when it comes to humans intruding on them, especially when the drive a bulldozer in and irreparably destroy such area.

It's a big mistake, possibly hubris, who knows, but Kevin has said it and now everyone gets to decide, forgive, forget, or boycott.
Well said. It is interesting to read this thread. I don’t know how this will be played out but it reminds me of the politics forum....
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Re: Could Someone..

#167 Post by Eric Lundblad » August 4th, 2019, 9:49 pm

TomHill wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 8:40 pm
Could someone post the GoogleMaps coordinates so we could all look with our very own eyes?
Tom
The vineyard is at 39.6072, -123.5537 (lat, long of course).
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Re: Could Someone..

#168 Post by Craig G » August 4th, 2019, 10:56 pm

Eric Lundblad wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 9:49 pm
TomHill wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 8:40 pm
Could someone post the GoogleMaps coordinates so we could all look with our very own eyes?
Tom
The vineyard is at 39.6072, -123.5537 (lat, long of course).
I’ve just realized why I was confused about this and perhaps why several people have mentioned Anderson Valley. The original linked article initially shows a picture of Bearwallow, and then later it mentions Anderson Valley. If you read it carefully you can see they are talking about this place farther north, but skimming the text I came away with Bearwallow in my head.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#169 Post by Phil Restine » August 4th, 2019, 11:46 pm

https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/northcoa ... %20SRF.pdf

Just gonna post this here since it was shared with me by several Berserkers who are in the business and didn’t want to post. A picture is worth 1000 words they say, so you can see how egregious and dangerous these bad decisions were. Possible landslides, unsafe levels of turbidity in the water leaching out into other water systems. Real class act.

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#170 Post by Robert M yers » August 5th, 2019, 5:06 am

To those who said wetlands isn’t what you imagine that’s probably true, but planting a vineyard (at least this one) also isn’t what I imagined either. Thanks for the report in pictures Phil.

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#171 Post by Dennis Borczon » August 5th, 2019, 5:28 am

thanks for posting this repot... amazingly detailed. I suppose it give a really clear view of what we all were talking about. However the point remains, Rhys should have gotten permits. Why they did not remains unclear. Could be as simple as the old dictum "Better to beg forgiveness later rather than be told no from the beginning". Or perhaps it was just hoping it would be overlooked. Or carelessness. We will likely never know.

The bigger picture is that development of any new site is going to disturb what was there before. It is merely a question of degree of disturbance. I would guess that if you return to this site in 5 years it will look like the features there had been there for decades. Some remediation of erosion areas clearly could be beneficial. What will be the downstream (literally and figuratively) effects from this type of intrusion into the area are unknown. Water is still going to flow downstream, and this construction is not the Hoover Dam.

Bottom line for California, stop building stuff if you want the current natural enviornment to remain pristine.
pileon

Wonder what the wetlands remediation plan was for the Bordeaux estuary when the Dutch drained all those pristine wetlands? Damn filthy rich chateau owners....

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#172 Post by Michael Manix » August 5th, 2019, 6:09 am

Phil Restine wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 11:46 pm
https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/northcoa ... %20SRF.pdf

Just gonna post this here since it was shared with me by several Berserkers who are in the business and didn’t want to post. A picture is worth 1000 words they say, so you can see how egregious and dangerous these bad decisions were. Possible landslides, unsafe levels of turbidity in the water leaching out into other water systems. Real class act.
That’s a pretty damning report. I would have much more respect for the owner if he had ended his response after bullet point one: “We made some serious mistakes.” Or perhaps the next three points could have explained the lessons learned and remediation steps.

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#173 Post by John S » August 5th, 2019, 6:23 am

I have no dog in the fight but do find it pretty interesting that quite a few people who like the wines and/or people involved quickly overlook these issues or point fingers elsewhere on environmental regulations as being too much. Anyone who has done any development in Calif know you need a permit and inspection for just about anything. This certainly includes new roads and a new pond. So yeah, I would certainly hazard a very strong hunch, if not near certainty, that this was willful (I am being generous). I do feel for all the winegrowers, farmers, and property owners who had to follow the same rules (they are quite expensive to adhere to) just to see someone else flaunt them. What everyone does with this info is of course up to them.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#174 Post by Peter Valiquette » August 5th, 2019, 7:52 am

The articles made it sound like they just built some small ponds, but the report shows a much more extensive construction and grading project.

It's pretty clear that this work would have required permits from multiple local, state, and federal regulatory agencies.

An engineer should have been responsible for preparing the plans and permit applications.

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#175 Post by G. D y e r » August 5th, 2019, 8:03 am

John S wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 6:23 am
I have no dog in the fight but do find it pretty interesting that quite a few people who like the wines and/or people involved quickly overlook these issues or point fingers elsewhere on environmental regulations as being too much.
Unfortunately, this seems to be an attribute of human nature. The ends justify the means when one sides with the ends, it seems. Ethically dubious or poor character behavior is attributed broadly to the opposition, but is often roundly dismissed or simply ignored when it supports a cause or goal that is favored.

If this project was in the service of a new Cult Cab to be launched at $500+ per bottle, the response would likely be different than this scenario where one man has a Quixotic vision to produce Pinot comparable to Burgundy in a region without an extensive track record of doing so.

On a related note, similar to the comment on Bordeaux swamp-filling, what is the history of vineyard landscape engineering in Burgundy? Heavy machinery was not in existence several centuries ago, but the hillsides would not have been unscathed. The ability to dry farm probably tended to minimize water routing/storage.

I don't think historical precedent has any bearing--it's more of a though experiment. To make 'Burgundy', does it historically require extensive re-engineering of the land?
Greg

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Uhhh..

#176 Post by TomHill » August 5th, 2019, 8:33 am

G. D y e r wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 8:03 am
John S wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 6:23 am
I have no dog in the fight but do find it pretty interesting that quite a few people who like the wines and/or people involved quickly overlook these issues or point fingers elsewhere on environmental regulations as being too much.
Unfortunately, this seems to be an attribute of human nature. The ends justify the means when one sides with the ends, it seems. Ethically dubious or poor character behavior is attributed broadly to the opposition, but is often roundly dismissed or simply ignored when it supports a cause or goal that is favored.

If this project was in the service of a new Cult Cab to be launched at $500+ per bottle, the response would likely be different than this scenario where one man has a Quixotic vision to produce Pinot comparable to Burgundy in a region without an extensive track record of doing so.

On a related note, similar to the comment on Bordeaux swamp-filling, what is the history of vineyard landscape engineering in Burgundy? Heavy machinery was not in existence several centuries ago, but the hillsides would not have been unscathed. The ability to dry farm probably tended to minimize water routing/storage.

I don't think historical precedent has any bearing--it's more of a though experiment. To make 'Burgundy', does it historically require extensive re-engineering of the land?
Uhhh....I think that this is the vnyd where Kevin is doing Italian varieties, mainly Nebbiolo.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#177 Post by Eric LeVine » August 5th, 2019, 8:51 am

Nathan Smyth wrote:
August 2nd, 2019, 10:59 pm
I don't mean to be rude, but is this the portfolio of a business which can sit down and write a check for $3.76M, given just the cash on hand?

Are California wineries routinely sitting on that kinda coin?
.
xxxx_VINTAGE-CHARTS.png
.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#178 Post by Alex N » August 5th, 2019, 8:59 am

Al Osterheld wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 8:30 pm
Not sure from your post whether you were misled from the thread title. The vineyard that is the subject of this thread is nowhere near Floodgate Creek, the Navarro River, or Anderson Valley. It also did not cover anything a steelhead ever saw. It's at higher elevations and the "stream" only exists during runoff after a rain storm, the area judged to be a "wetland" is just an area where the runoff was thought to stagnate a bit and has no contiguous connection to a freely flowing river or creek. A fish could not get there unless someone carried it and it could not survive there.

-Al
Sorry for any confusion. I was reading from the 2010 report just above that post that noted they had a previous violation, which was a tributary and spawning area (Floodgate Creek). So if I'm reading correctly, that's two separate and similar instances in two different areas in a relatively short period of time.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#179 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » August 5th, 2019, 9:19 am

Eric LeVine wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 8:51 am
Nathan Smyth wrote:
August 2nd, 2019, 10:59 pm
I don't mean to be rude, but is this the portfolio of a business which can sit down and write a check for $3.76M, given just the cash on hand?

Are California wineries routinely sitting on that kinda coin?
.
xxxx_VINTAGE-CHARTS.png
.
This is not a typical winery and not a typical founder. You really should Google before casting innuendo around their financial viability.
Eric - allow me to introduce you to Nathan Smyth. Nathan specializes in uninformed innuendo.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#180 Post by Jim Hartten » August 5th, 2019, 9:49 am

It seems to me that Kevin has paid the requisite fine and negotiated settlement to allow him to keep the new vineyard but also address any possible damage caused. Thus, any damage, hypothetical or otherwise, caused by the vineyard construction and loss of two acres of wetlands (which is a very small area) has been fully addressed by providing the state with funds that can be used for other environmental projects of benefit to the state and water district. Many lawsuits between industry and the government don't end as well. CA came up with a number and Kevin paid it. So end of story imo. [cheers.gif]

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#181 Post by R M Kriete » August 5th, 2019, 10:30 am

Jim Hartten wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 9:49 am
. CA came up with a number and Kevin paid it. So end of story imo. [cheers.gif]

No, no, no! We must extract our pound of flesh!

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#182 Post by Al Osterheld » August 5th, 2019, 10:37 am

More than the vineyard, per se, I think the most significant environmental aspect is the potential erosion and sediment that could reach the waterways from the roads, preexisting reservoirs, and crossings. Some of that was present before the purchase but the owner acquired the responsibility to mitigate. The settlement also requires them to address those issues.

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#183 Post by Rboinski » August 5th, 2019, 10:38 am

Alan Rath wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 3:08 pm
Greg K wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 2:49 pm
But at the same time, I also don’t agree that we can assume the regulators were in any way capricious or arbitrary here, or simply going after deep pockets. We have no evidence of that.
As we don’t have evidence it wasn’t. Having followed Kevin and Rhys from fairly early on, touring the vineyards, listening to him and his staff talk about their work and philosophies, I personally lean toward giving him the benefit of the doubt over some nameless government regulators who risk nothing, and frankly are just as likely to create controversy to justify their jobs. I’m no anarchist, but I am highly cynical of government.
Alan - the regulators are risking their job by NOT enforcing this. In the age of services such as daily satellite imagery provided by planet, there currently are (and will be more) environmental groups who are actively seeking out violations such like this and filing lawsuits against not just the responsibly individual but also the water board (or air board) for not complying with environmental legislation which was approved by elected representatives. This is just speculation, but Laytonville isn't exactly the friendliest communities to outsiders and there are a lot of multigenerational regenerative farms out there (though more east of the town). I would be very surprised if this did started out as a local tip which forced their hand to act.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#184 Post by K John Joseph » August 5th, 2019, 12:16 pm

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Re: Uhhh..

#185 Post by Al Osterheld » August 5th, 2019, 12:51 pm

Uhhh....I think that this is the vnyd where Kevin is doing Italian varieties, mainly Nebbiolo.
Tom
No, that vineyard is on Centennial Mountain west of Lake Sonoma.

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#186 Post by MitchTallan » August 5th, 2019, 1:42 pm

I just want to make one very cogent and insightful observation; Stormer and Skyler.

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#187 Post by K John Joseph » August 5th, 2019, 1:48 pm

D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
August 3rd, 2019, 1:54 pm
I sense Mr. Swain might be more than just a casual wine drinker.
Parducci? Uh...yeah...
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#188 Post by dcornutt » August 5th, 2019, 1:52 pm

G. D y e r wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 8:03 am
John S wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 6:23 am
I have no dog in the fight but do find it pretty interesting that quite a few people who like the wines and/or people involved quickly overlook these issues or point fingers elsewhere on environmental regulations as being too much.
Unfortunately, this seems to be an attribute of human nature. The ends justify the means when one sides with the ends, it seems. Ethically dubious or poor character behavior is attributed broadly to the opposition, but is often roundly dismissed or simply ignored when it supports a cause or goal that is favored.

If this project was in the service of a new Cult Cab to be launched at $500+ per bottle, the response would likely be different than this scenario where one man has a Quixotic vision to produce Pinot comparable to Burgundy in a region without an extensive track record of doing so.

On a related note, similar to the comment on Bordeaux swamp-filling, what is the history of vineyard landscape engineering in Burgundy? Heavy machinery was not in existence several centuries ago, but the hillsides would not have been unscathed. The ability to dry farm probably tended to minimize water routing/storage.

I don't think historical precedent has any bearing--it's more of a though experiment. To make 'Burgundy', does it historically require extensive re-engineering of the land?
If you reroute water or irrigate, you have to classify your wine as Bourgogne. This has happened in Meursault Perrieres with a small piece of property that had very poor drainage and a winemaker Domaine Dupont- Fahn. The wine is called Bourgogne Chaumes des Perrieres. The vineyard piece was originally or could have been called Meursault Perrieres if they didn't irrigate. The only times that fines have been assessed are when the wines are adulterated or misrepresented. This is my understanding.

I don't think they really care about minor grading. Just look at that new section of Musigny next to the Clos bought by a Canadian firm.

The whole vineyard of Vosne Cros Parantoux was blasted out of rock. This changed the whole landscape there. Now it is one of the most celebrated parcels. I am positive it changed the runoff into Brulees and part of Richebourg.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#189 Post by Dan Kravitz » August 5th, 2019, 2:32 pm

Whew!

Just had time to read this thread. I have multiple and mixed thoughts:

I’ve met Kevin Harvey 4 – 5 times. In person I find him polite, considerate and thoughtful. He has nothing to gain by treating me differently than anybody else. I think he’s a good person. This doesn’t change that.

Before going on to the heart of the discussion, I have a few comments on previous posts:

Josh Grossman was out of line, and admitted it freely and promptly. Grownups own up to their mistakes. Josh Grossman is a grownup. I thank him for his retraction.

Darren Delmore’s bizarre and racist post should be addressed by the moderators, if not get him banned. Latinos in the Anderson Valley? Is he sure they weren’t Ugandans in disguise? Why should Rhys not be unmarked? I understand that locals without money or vineyards prefer growers who are open to the public and draw wine tourism, adding additional support to the local economy, but there is no obligation to do so. Must you “set the scene” by making racist comments? We’ve had some extremely disturbing very recent evidence of what can happen when we define people as the “others”. El Paso is closer to California than it is to Dallas.

To Phil Restine: If you find Rhys wines “underperforming”, then there’s no problem: Don’t buy them. I’ve been buying them for well over a decade and have overall been way more than satisfied. However I bought 12 each of the 2016 Alesia Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in 375ml. They were really good, but especially the Pinot needs time and at $25 per half, don’t think it’s worth the combined investment of time and money at my age. I won’t buy it again. Brilliant! Problem solved! I expect to buy the Chardonnay again. To the extent that I can afford them and have time to let them mature, I will continue to buy Horseshoe Chard and Pinot (my favorites, but needing a lot of time) and Alpine Chard and Pinot (not quite as good IMO but still wonderful and ready to drink earlier).

I found Bob Swain’s post a detailed and reasonable indictment, although the authorities are more, er, authoritative. However this being his first post and him not giving any identification as to any possible axe to grind is offputting. If you are posting for the first time, and it’s a damning post, please let us know who you are and how you are, or were, involved.

Now, as to the actual situation:

Kevin is far to smart to say “mistakes were made” as somebody posted. He said “We made some serious mistakes”. I might have been happier if he had used the First Person Singular, but maybe not, as that leads to another point:

Kevin lives over 200 miles from the site involved. Unless something has changed, Kevin has a day job near his home. I have no idea how often he goes to Mendocino, but I would guess he doesn’t spend a lot of time there. In one sense, his saying “we” instead of “I” might be taking more, rather than less, blame for what happened. I find it very hard to imagine that this would have occurred in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Kevin’s home since birth.

Somebody referred to Kevin as a billionaire. My guess is that he is, but his finances are his own business, and private. If you refer to him as a “billionaire”, please give us backup. OTOH, I don’t think the fine paid renders him penniless. What matters is that he admitted what happened and paid the penalty imposed by the authorities.

Full disclosure: I bought stock in a company when it went public. Kevin Harvey was a member of the Board of Directors. When I bought the stock, I had no idea that Kevin had any involvement. I bought the stock because I liked their business model. I made a profit. Some years after I bought the stock, I became aware that Kevin was involved. I have never discussed this with him.

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#190 Post by larry schaffer » August 5th, 2019, 2:38 pm

Don,

Vineyard development 'back in the day' is certainly different than today - and it's impossible to truly imply any comparisons.

For instance, the thought of removing dozens of old oak trees to develop these days is frowned upon, but it certainly happened on a regular basis decades ago and was not frowned upon.

Times change . . .
Last edited by larry schaffer on August 5th, 2019, 4:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#191 Post by ATaylor » August 5th, 2019, 3:31 pm

Alan Rath wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 11:36 am
larry schaffer wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 10:33 am
This thread has become so darned interesting. Was the company guilty of an infringement? Yes. Did they admit as such? Yes. Why are folks discounting this as 'over-regulation'? What if KJ or Constellation had been accused? My guess is that the results and comments here would be quite different . . .
Because it is. And nope no different reaction. Well, maybe if it was constellation. But my guess is that constellation has enough political clout in the state and region that it would have never even come to this. As I said, look at the satellite view of that part of the state (and drive through it, as I have), then tell me you’re worried about how some inland mountaintop “ephemeral stream” affects things a hundred miles downstream.
Alan, I work with people who are experts in this field and the science. You may be surprised how much a small upstream diversion can impact what happens much further downstream. And the only other thing I will say is that any business doing any kind of grading or pond work in California knows damn well who has to be contacted for permits and as stated by others, this traditionally is required at County, State and Federal agencies. Proceeding with work without even contacting a consultant to check for permit requirements before beginning work is either egregious or plain stupid; take your pick.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#192 Post by Charlie Carnes » August 5th, 2019, 4:29 pm

Andrew, that was a thought of mine, the contractors should know exactly the rules.

One thing that I found interesting, and I work with Florida water management districts all of the time in my mining and wetland mitigation bank construction business, is that the agency recommendations were pretty easygoing, with a moving forward and completing the project kind of bent. If one was to read the recommendations, without seeing the fine/punishment structure, one might think this wasn't such a big deal. And please, everybody, I am not saying one way or another if I think it's a big deal. But, very interesting none the less.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#193 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » August 5th, 2019, 4:38 pm

Knowing the rules and following the rules are two different things.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#194 Post by T. Altmayer » August 5th, 2019, 4:53 pm

Dan Kravitz wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 2:32 pm
Darren Delmore’s bizarre and racist post should be addressed by the moderators, if not get him banned. Latinos in the Anderson Valley? Is he sure they weren’t Ugandans in disguise? Why should Rhys not be unmarked? I understand that locals without money or vineyards prefer growers who are open to the public and draw wine tourism, adding additional support to the local economy, but there is no obligation to do so. Must you “set the scene” by making racist comments? We’ve had some extremely disturbing very recent evidence of what can happen when we define people as the “others”. El Paso is closer to California than it is to Dallas.
+1. I love the “just setting the scene” remark. Jeez.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#195 Post by AlexS » August 5th, 2019, 5:20 pm

T. Altmayer wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 4:53 pm
Dan Kravitz wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 2:32 pm
Darren Delmore’s bizarre and racist post should be addressed by the moderators, if not get him banned. Latinos in the Anderson Valley? Is he sure they weren’t Ugandans in disguise? Why should Rhys not be unmarked? I understand that locals without money or vineyards prefer growers who are open to the public and draw wine tourism, adding additional support to the local economy, but there is no obligation to do so. Must you “set the scene” by making racist comments? We’ve had some extremely disturbing very recent evidence of what can happen when we define people as the “others”. El Paso is closer to California than it is to Dallas.
+1. I love the “just setting the scene” remark. Jeez.
Read it again:
Darren Delmore wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 1:16 am
That’s sad to hear Rhys did this. I lived in Anderson Valley from 2010 to 2012 and it’s extremely dry, despite the redwood terrain. I worked for the OG evil winery (Duckhorn) then, but even they never diverted the Navarro river for commercial purposes. The local community was weary of the Rhys company’s extreme tight density planting and presence (and of Goldeneye still), that was for sure. The Rhys wines are incredible, but it’s worth a look into the Anderson Valley Advertiser to get a feel for the longtime people who live there, and what they think about water issues and valley dilemmas. I wasn’t there long, but long enough to know that Anderson Valley locals tend to prefer wineries where the winemaker and/or owner actually live in the valley and contribute to the valley’s non-profits or charities. Rhys was unmarked and had Latino guys in Ford Explorers living there when I was there, within view of the grungy, loc’d out Navarro Store, where we would all be simply dubbed as “wine and cheesers.”
Although Darren could have perhaps been more eloquent, it seems pretty clear that he was giving us his impressions of how the AV locals/townies viewed the apparently "unmarked" Rhys operation.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#196 Post by D@vid Bu3ker » August 5th, 2019, 5:24 pm

I don’t buy it Alex. The whole thing is more than a little off.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#197 Post by Markus S » August 5th, 2019, 5:25 pm

ATaylor wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 3:31 pm
Alan Rath wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 11:36 am
larry schaffer wrote:
August 4th, 2019, 10:33 am
This thread has become so darned interesting. Was the company guilty of an infringement? Yes. Did they admit as such? Yes. Why are folks discounting this as 'over-regulation'? What if KJ or Constellation had been accused? My guess is that the results and comments here would be quite different . . .
Because it is. And nope no different reaction. Well, maybe if it was constellation. But my guess is that constellation has enough political clout in the state and region that it would have never even come to this. As I said, look at the satellite view of that part of the state (and drive through it, as I have), then tell me you’re worried about how some inland mountaintop “ephemeral stream” affects things a hundred miles downstream.
Alan, I work with people who are experts in this field and the science. You may be surprised how much a small upstream diversion can impact what happens much further downstream. And the only other thing I will say is that any business doing any kind of grading or pond work in California knows damn well who has to be contacted for permits and as stated by others, this traditionally is required at County, State and Federal agencies. Proceeding with work without even contacting a consultant to check for permit requirements before beginning work is either egregious or plain stupid; take your pick.
+1

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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#198 Post by AlexS » August 5th, 2019, 5:31 pm

D@vid Bu3ker wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 5:24 pm
I don’t buy it Alex. The whole thing is more than a little off.
Maybe Darren's a racist, I have no clue. But as someone who has worked in semi-rural, heavily white locales with POC coworkers, I can tell you his description of how the local townies may have viewed Rhys and their minority contractors resonated with me.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#199 Post by Markus S » August 5th, 2019, 5:31 pm

Dan Kravitz wrote:
August 5th, 2019, 2:32 pm

...“mistakes were made” as somebody posted. He said “We made some serious mistakes”.


Is this Silicon Valleyspeak? Because I feel I've heard those very same words from Mark Zuckerberg and Travis Kalanic when explaining away something they would rather not discuss. Perhaps it's the litigious age in which we live in which we can never truly admit personal guilt.
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Re: Rhys fined $3.76M for illegally diverting water in Anderson Valley

#200 Post by Alan Rath » August 5th, 2019, 5:57 pm

Andrew, I can neither explain, nor defend, the lack of proper permitting. I assume Rhys went through all the correct channels in establishing it's other vineyard properties, in various counties. This newest one (which I was unaware of) is in Mendocino county. I've always been led to believe that Mendo was the easiest place to work in, relative to the other "wine" counties like Sonoma and Napa. But it's probably least receptive to wealthy (and successful) outsiders. All I can say is that we have one side of a story, and that only through an official report, and press reports of the fine. We probably won't get the other side of the story.

Charlie, easterners may not be fully aware of the history of water in California. It's a more than century old tangle of byzantine rules, laws, and court rulings, with complex layers of different rights and priorities. And superimposed on this are all the environmental protections of clean water acts, species and habitat protection, at both the federal and state levels. Not to mention the competition between various interest groups (agriculture, industry, environmental, fishing, power, residential, etc.). Add in corruption, and you have a... less than simple landscape to navigate.

I walk almost daily along this "creek" (which is actually a flood control channel, for water coming down through a canyon in the hills you can see in the background):
2019-08-05 10.50.22.jpg
The water district recently started a major project to build a fish ladder to allow steelhead to come up the creek, past a dam. Here's what that work looks like right now:
2019-08-05 11.28.17.jpg
2019-08-05 11.26.15.jpg
2019-08-05 10.42.13.jpg
It will take them 2.5 years to build the ladder, because they can work through September, then have to dismantle everything, get the equipment out, and wait until the end of the rainy season (probably May), whereupon they will go through much of the same work they've already done to drain and bypass the channel, continue work on the ladder. Rinse, repeat through the end of next summer, then hopefully complete the project in the summer of 2021. At the cost of a few tens of millions. Oh, every spring a group from fish and wildlife comes out and tries to trap steelhead, to transport them above the dam for spawning. This spring they caught 3 fish. Not a typo: 3 fish. Now, I'm all for maintaining and restoring habitat, where possible. But I'm unconvinced that this is a good use of my tax dollars. And I'm certain some of the byzantine rules that govern where and when water can or cannot flow into SF Bay, or along the California coastal waters, is a large factor in the complexity of this particular project, it's cost, and it's timing.

This creek, btw, is the source of water being pumped into a chain of reservoirs formed from an old quarry. There are all kinds of rules governing when they can pump, how much water has to flow to the bay, etc. It's actually quite a nice chain of little lakes to walk around:
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Except when they decide to overfill them, and flood the surrounding walkways (that's a nice little picnic area under about 4 feet of water):
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I understand why they did it, these lakes are the source of water for a large portion of southern Alameda county, so I guess you store as much as you can during the rainy season. But it's also a small indicator of how the water district works: they do what they want, and you don't argue with them. If you run afoul of them, you will lose.
I'm just one lost soul, swimming in a fish bowl, year after year

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