Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Vintners and wine industry representatives on Tuesday pressed Sonoma County supervisors to give farming interests a greater say in how California’s new law governing groundwater is put into place on a local level.
As proposed by staff from Sonoma County Water Agency and county administrator’s office, those interests are set to hold an advisory role — but not voting power — on the agencies that will oversee the three local aquifers that fall under the state law. Environmentalists and rural residents who depend on wells for their water supply would also be represented on the advisory groups.
That arrangement, however, has riled representatives of the county’s wine industry and other agricultural interests, who see much at stake in how the new law is imposed. The governing agencies, which must be formed by June 30, will have the ability to register and monitor wells, restrict pumping and prevent drilling of new wells. Agencies would also have the ability to assess new fees and taxes.
“Nothing good for farmers in this county … can come from this monitoring,” Jim Bundschu, an owner of Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma, told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. “Agriculture needs a larger voice.”
Supervisors on Tuesday voiced support for a recommendation by the Water Agency to create three separate regulatory bodies — one each to oversee groundwater in the Santa Rosa Plain, Sonoma Valley and Petaluma Valley.