Vineyards wrap the hills and march in straight lines along the highways and side roads of California’s wine country. Sonoma Countyalone draws visitors from around the world.
That is where the problem lies. Forests of oak, Douglas fir and redwood once anchored the soil and helped create a healthy habitat for coho salmon. Then logging cleared space for agriculture. Orchards gave way to vineyards. As the wine industry expands its reach in Sonoma County, more wildlife corridors are disrupted, and biodiversity is lost. Endangered coho and threatened steelhead trout compete for water with thirsty vines.
Writing in the New York Times (an article reposted on The Bay Citizen Web site), Jacoba Charles describes the struggle pitting the wine industry against fish. Permits for new wineries continually expand the acreage planted in vines. What is missing in the process is adequate assessment of water supplies or environmental impact.
Area residents and environmentalists report levels in streams and wells fluctuate as vineyards draw down water for irrigation. A new method to reduce losses from frost “involves spraying plants with 50 gallons of water per acre, per minute.” Nearby tributaries sometimes run dry.
Photo from Deb Harkness via Flickr Creative Commons
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