A Napa County judge has cleared the way for Beringer Blass Wine Estates to begin construction of what could eventually be a 1.4 million-square-foot winery complex in southern Napa County, throwing out a lawsuit filed last year by the Sierra Club.
Judge Steven Kroyer denied the lawsuit last week, ruling that the project was consistent with the county's general plan and that the county had followed the necessary state environmental laws when the project was approved.
"I think it's very positive," Bill Dodd, chairman of Napa County's board of supervisors, said of the ruling.
"Obviously, we're gratified by the judge's decision," said Jim Watkins, president of the Americas for Beringer Blass. "We always believed that the right elements were in place to make it environmentally sensitive."
The Sierra Club, which challenged Beringer's use permit in January 2002, is concerned that the project could threaten the wetland habitat of the vernal pool fairy shrimp, which is listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The goal was not to stop the project entirely, but to downsize it, said Napa County Sierra Club president John Stephens at the time. The conservation group can appeal the ruling if it chooses to do so.
Beringer Blass continued working on its plans for the winery during the legal challenge, and Watkins predicted that the company would break ground on the project this spring, with completion of the first phase expected within a year.
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