Wine business tackles climate, erosion policies

A number of new regulations related to dirt, air, water and energy are facing the North Coast wine business.

In Napa County, vintners and growers trade groups are concerned about a coalescing county climate action plan ( that includes specific numerical targets for greenhouse gas reduction.

The county Board of Supervisors sent the draft plan back for a rework in December after agricultural groups protested a number of elements, especially carbon offsets growers would have to buy because of certain viticultural operations. The board said it wanted offsetting measures to be done locally instead of completed elsewhere via a fee.

The revised draft plan came to the county Planning Commission in early May. But a recently released list of best management practices for ag companies hadn't been reviewed in time for the meeting, so the matter was postponed.

One potentially problematic aspect of those BMPs is the inclusion of numerical targets for a number of elements, according to an official from a major ag trade group in the valley.

"The problem is a lot of local measures we do can't be quantified because the science isn't there," she said, speaking anonymously because her organization hasn't taken an official stance on the plan.

And the latest draft of the Napa County Climate Action Plan, in the works for several years, comes on the heels of an abandoned attempt earlier this year to create a special conditional waiver for viticultural operations in parts of Napa and southern Sonoma counties from stricter new Bay Area erosion-control requirements.

One of the key industry concerns with the conditional vineyard waiver program developed by the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board was confidentiality of the five-year farming plans that would be filed as part of the program.

Other sticking points with the draft vineyard waiver were that it duplicated Napa County hillside planting restrictions and California Environmental Quality Act-dictated review of significant vineyard projects. The draft also didn't distinguish vineyard land from the rest of a property and would cost growers an estimated $38 million to $60 million over 20 years, according to Bay Basin Plan figures submitted to the Bay water board in February by Napa County Farm Bureau, Napa Valley Grapegrowers, Napa Valley Vintners and Winegrowers of Napa County.

The Bay water board dropped the vineyard waiver plan and is working on accommodating vineyards under the general waste discharge requirements. WDRs specify how a business will operate so no to let pollutants -- in this case, sediment -- get into environmentally protected waterways.

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