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Letter to Sonoma County PRMD

To the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department, January, 2003

January 10, 2003

Mr. Scott Briggs
County of Sonoma
2550 Ventura Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Dear Mr. Briggs:

Friends of the Gualala River (FoGR) endorses the suggestion by Supervisor Michael Reilly that the Sonoma County General Plan prohibit the conversion of redwood forests and oak woodlands to vineyards, at least in the western portion of Sonoma County and specifically the Gualala River watershed.

There are many reasons vineyard conversion is a bad idea. It can lead to pollution. Experiences along the Navarro River teach us that the pollution caused by the use of pesticides and herbicides can have a detrimental effect on fish and other wildlife dependent upon the streams and rivers of the watershed.

Vineyard conversion leads to a “leaky” watershed with little capacity to capture and stabilize soil nutrients in organic matter, compared with forests and woodlands. Nutrients not bound and stabilized, or nutrients added as fertilizer, flow into streams and tributaries through groundwater as well as runoff. Nutrient-rich spring-summer stream waters produce excess algae that can be lethal to salmonids and other species.

Vineyard conversion can lead to sediment washing into the watershed’s streams and rivers. The Gualala River is already impaired by heavy sediment loads. The proposed conversion would increase the cumulative effects of sedimentation. Sedimentation, of course, is bad because it reduces the habitat suitable for raising salmonids and other aquatic life.

Vineyard conversion destroys habitat. Even forests that are over-logged can recover as forests, so that forest habitat is not lost permanently. Vineyard conversion, however, does lead to permanent loss of habitat. Further, the remaining habitat is fragmented so that animals cannot move naturally from one part of the forest to another.

Friends of the Gualala River requests that you include provisions in the General Plan Update that will prohibit further conversions.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Yours sincerely,

James A. Jordan, Jr.
Friends of the Gualala River

CC: County of Sonoma Board of Supervisors
Supervisor Michael Reilly