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Slurry Fine 

District attorney fines vineyard management firm for failing to construct safeguards

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The Sonoma County District Attorney fined an engineering firm and vineyard management company last week for their roles loosing an unknown quantity of slurry into Dry Creek in Healdsburg during a vineyard replanting. Together, the companies were fined $74,500 for two violations from the county Agricultural Commissioner's Office related to the project.

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According to a statement from District Attorney Jill Ravitch, the ag commish issued a permit in Oct. 2014 "on a project with steep slopes to replant a vineyard," on land owned by Robert Covert and Mary Roy (they were not cited in the civil complaint). That December, a big storm prompted a big landslide on the property, and the ag commissioner found that "plans that would have protected runoff from leaving the property were not followed," and cited the firms. The commissioner's office then OK-ed stabilization plans to keep the hillside at the site stable, but the firms failed to follow those temporary plans. That earned them a second violation, and a referral to the district attorney.

In November 2015, Ravitch filed unlawful business practice and water-pollution charges against the defendants, who later agreed to resolve the case. Along with the fines, each will be subject to a 10-year injunction prohibiting violations of environmental protection laws, according to Ravitch's office, which meted out the fines thusly: Valdez & Sons Vineyard Management agreed to pay "approximately $50,000 in civil penalties, restitution and costs while Kelder Engineering agreed to pay $24,500 in civil penalties, restitution and costs. Restitution will go to the Russian Riverkeeper for equipment and monitoring of the Dry Creek and Russian River watersheds and to the Sonoma County Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund.

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