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.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."
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.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.
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.
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.