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ACTION ALERT:"PRESERVATION" RANCH: PUBLIC SCOPING, INITIAL STUDY and PUBLIC NOTICE of the EIR (Environmental Impact Report)

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29, 2009, 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 pm
PRMD Hearing Room, 2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa.

SATURDAY, MAY 2, 2009, 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Horicon Elementary School 35555 Annapolis Road, Annapolis.

The PRMD website provides a link to the project proposal and background information at:

http://www.sonoma-county.org/prmd/presranch/presranch.htm

Please attend and express your concerns. Or write to PRMD at: PRMD, Attention: David Schiltgen - File No. PLP06-0107, 2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95403-2829.

DETAILS & ISSUES:

The "Preservation" Ranch proposal is the largest forest-to-vineyard conversion project ever proposed in California coastal forestlands.

Premiere Pacific Vineyards, Inc. has now started the formal applcation process for a permit to convert 1,681 acres of timberland to vineyard on an approx. 19,000 acre project in northwest Sonoma County near Annapolis.  As a result, the Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD) of Sonoma County has initiated the required Environmental Impact Report (EIR) process to publish detailed information on this proposal. 

Forest conversion to vineyards is prohibited under current zoning.  The core components of the proposal are: permanent rezoning from timber production use to rural residential development; use permits for 17 ridge top vineyard blocks; and “consideration” of other project activities. 

Over 1700 acres of forest is proposed to be permanently deforested.  The Initial Study describes a project that includes a 3 to 5 year construction period for ridge top vineyards, reservoirs, gravel quarries, internal road expansion and upgrades, drainage and water delivery systems, worker housing and renewed timber operations.

The current proposal does not appear to include any vineyard estate luxury homes, however past versions of the project proposed over one hundred such residences, and they might appear in subsequent proposals after initial permits are issued.

This land has been over-logged for decades, which is why it now looks profitable for a land conversion and this new use. Consider, what will the landscape look like in thirty years if this project goes ahead? Is there a better alternative than vineyard conversion for this property?


Potential adverse impacts and issues of the project include:

Water impacts: the project will affect tributary creek flows, requiring 40 new reservoirs to be constructed, each of 10 to 40 acre-feet capacity; will result in greatly increased agricultural water demand for irrigation and frost protection; over 10 miles of seasonal creeks are to be filled; the impacts on water quality and salmonid recovery for the Gualala watershed.

Forest impacts: invasive species spread; loss of the actual and potential carbon sequestration values of the landscape; permanent loss of 1700 acres of ridgetop forest and habitat through conversion; potential for piece-mealing of residential development and of future logging.

Habitat, wildlife and fishery impacts: over 85 miles of 8 foot high wildlife fencing are to be installed, resulting in habitat fragmentation and permanent wildlife hazards; the vineyard buffer zones will be adopted from the forest practice rules, providing inadequate protections.

Fire impacts: fire ignition risks due to agricultural and construction operations; and increased need for fire protection services. Current fire response time for this area is estimated to be about 45 minutes.

Road impacts: increased public road use; major road expansion in forestland; gravel quarry mining to be done on-site with gravel trucking from off-site.

Noise and permanent lighting impacts, both during construction and normal operations.

Vineyard impacts: soil fumigation for vineyards is not prohibited; the “sustainable” agriculture proposed may be unenforceable; there is potential for emergency pesticide spraying targets.

Tax impacts: the public would need to support greatly increased road maintenance, fire protection, and other infrastructure needs resulting from forty or more permanent workers and more than 200 seasonal workers serving the project.

The PRMD website provides a link to the project proposal and background information at:
http://www.sonoma-county.org/prmd/presranch/presranch.htm


What can you do?
Contact these groups of concerned citizens:

Friends of the Gualala Rriver website: http://www.gualalariver.org/default.html
Contact: Chris Poehlmann, poehlman@mcn.org, 707-886-5182

Sierra Club website: http://www.redwood.sierraclub.org/sonoma/Forest.html
Contact: Dan Kerbein, dkerbein@earthlink.net, 707-535-0326

View the video at YouTube: "Worse than a clearcut"

Attend one of the two initial public scoping meetings scheduled on the EIR:

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29, 2009, 4:00pm to 6:00pm
PRMD Hearing Room, 2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa

SATURDAY, MAY 2, 2009, 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Horicon Elementary School 35555 Annapolis Road, Annapolis.


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