E. & J. Gallo, the giant California wine company, will pay a $95,000 fine for violating the federal Clean Water Act while planting two of its Sonoma County vineyards.
The violations -- made by Gallo Glass Company, a subsidiary of E. & J. Gallo, and contractors Jack Neal and Son -- occurred in 1996 and 1997. The work was done at a vineyard near the town of Cotati and at Gallo's Twin Valley Ranch along Westside Road in Russian River Valley.
"It was unfortunate," said Gallo spokesman Jeff Lyon. "But it did happen."
According to a consent decree announced on Oct. 9 by the U.S. Justice Department, the first violation occurred at the Cotati ranch in 1996. While planting the 318-acre vineyard along a series of rolling hills, Gallo graded and resculpted 12.5 acres of wetlands.
The second violation was at the Twin Hill Ranch in 1997 when the company cleared native vegetation and placed boulders, rocks and concrete along 1,000 feet of Porter Creek, a tributary of the Russian River.
In both cases, Lyon said, Gallo made the changes because of concern over soil erosion and believed it had the proper permits. The Twin Hill project had been approved by the California Department of Fish and Game, he said, although it was later determined that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had jurisdiction.
As part of the agreement, Gallo will restore the habitat along Porter Creek and create a 37.5-acre wetland and wildlife preserve on its Laguna Ranch vineyard near Sebastopol. That work is expected to be completed by next fall, Lyon said.