Korbel pledges river cleanup

  • Plastic garbage litters the trees near an old dump site on the Korbel Winery property along the Russian River near Guerneville. (Photos by BETH SCHLANKER/The Press Democrat)

Thousands of tattered pieces of plastic sheeting hang from trees along the Russian River from the Korbel winery property to Guerneville, the detritus of an old winery dump being eroded into the river.

It's an eyesore from the Korbel vineyards, where trash is easily seen in the eroded riverbank, to Guerneville, five miles downstream.

“If you care about the river, it will bring a tear to your eye,” said fisherman Dan Tensfeldt of Guerneville.

Others were angrier.

“It is disgusting as hell, you cannot look at one beach without seeing it. The water is so low the trees are just littered with garbage and trash,” said Guerneville resident Holly Cassidy. “The trees look like they are decorated for Christmas.”

Korbel Champagne Cellars' Bill Owens said the company is aware of the problem and will work to clean it up this week.

“We don't like it either,” said Owens, a vice president for production.

Owens said Korbel is working with Don McEnhill of Russian Riverkeeper, a Healdsburg-based nonprofit group that monitors the river, to mobilize boats and a work crew on Wednesday or Thursday.

“With our resources, we can only work from the top of the bank,” Owens said. “We have been chasing this thing whenever we can, however Don has some resources (who) are comfortable and competent working in the water.”

In the spring or summer, after the threat of winter rains, Owens said Korbel will hire a contractor with an excavator to remove the debris, which he said was dumped there more than three decades ago.

McEnhill said he expects to be able to get 10 boats in the river this week and have the majority of the trash picked up within a day.

He said there have been similar problems along the stretch of river in the past.

“The immediate need is to get all that stuff off so the river doesn't come up and send it all down the river,” McEnhill said.

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