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Sonoma County vintner, his business and DA’s Office reach $925,000 environmental damage settlement

A Sonoma County wine executive and his business have reached a $925,000 settlement with the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office following an environmental complaint that accused them of causing significant damage to streams and wetlands while constructing a vineyard in 2018 near Cloverdale, county District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced Friday.

Deeply ripping apart the terrain, tearing down trees and pushing them down streams without permits under the county’s Vineyard & Orchard Site Development Ordinance, and lacking permits for grading roads and installing culverts were among acts that Hugh Reimers and Krasilsa Pacific Farms, LLC were accused of in August 2019.

Uprooting oak woodlands and discharging sediment into Russian River tributaries caused major environmental damage, which violated the California Water Code and the federal Clean Water Act, according to a 2019 investigation by the Regional Water Control Board.

The business also did not comply with the terms of a 2019 cleanup and abatement order, which required the full restoration of the 2,278-acre property to its previous condition.

A statement in May said the impact of these actions are still evident, as they threaten the migration, spawning, reproduction and early development of cold-water fish in the Little Sulphur, Big Sulphur and Crocker creeks.

Ravitch sought to impose a $3.75 million fine for the violations.

Ultimately, the DA’s Office reached a settlement with Reimers, who will pay for civil penalties and the cost of investigations adding up to $425,000, according to a DA’s Office news release.

The settlement also requires a credit of $100,000 to pay for replanting 1,000 trees on site.

The business could also face $400,000 in penalties if it does not comply with the clean-up and abatement order.

Additionally, the judgment orders that the vintner and his business provide the county with an easement to install a wildfire camera on the property and remediation of the property under guidance from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“This judgment is a message to property owners that if you intend to develop land in Sonoma County you will not be allowed to circumvent the necessary county or state permits,” Ravitch said in a statement. “These permits are intended to prevent damage to the natural resources within our county, and it remains a priority of my office to prevent the degradation of said resources.”

You can reach Staff Writer Alana Minkler at 707-526-8511 or alana.minkler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @alana_minkler.

Alana Minkler

Breaking news & general assignment reporter, The Press Democrat

The world is filled with stories that inspire compassion, wonder, laughs and even tears. As a Press Democrat reporter covering breaking news, tribes and youth, it’s my goal to give others a voice to share these stories.

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