SONOMA (KCBS) – Wine growers hoping to expand their vineyards by clearing forested hillsides may face an uphill struggle with regulators concerned about water quality.

Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar is crafting new regulations for hillside tree removal meant to keep sediment out of waterways.

But the proposal Linegar outlines in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat is too stringent according to Nick Frey, president of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission. He said there are state and federal agencies that already regulate California waterways.

“If you put sediment in a stream, there’s regulations there today to come in and address that with very substantial fines,” Frey said.

KCBS’ Dave Padilla Reports:

The sometimes prohibitive costs of the engineering involved in hillside conversion also make it unlikely California wine country will see a “massive conversion of forest to vineyards,” Frey said.

The county has adopted a moratorium on hillside planting while the new regulations are written, and Frey said growers are ready to work with the Agriculture Commission in the drafting process.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll work out something that the growers feel they can live with,” he said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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