Board weighs watershed protection rules for county

La Honda residents worried that erosion and pesticide runoff from a vineyard could pollute their drinking water called on county supervisors Tuesday to move ahead quickly with countywide watershed protection regulations.

While watershed regulations could apply to a variety of developments, farms or vineyards in the county, the Clos de la Tech vineyard is helping to propel the new regulations forward. Millionaire T.J. Rodgers, Clos de la Tech owner and a semiconductor trailblazer, has already begun development of lower-lying areas on the 20-acre property and wants to plant the steep hillsides near Langley Ridge above La Honda with the finicky grape variety Pinot Noir, known to prefer cool slopes with abundant sunlight.

The problem, according to residents, is that runoff from those slopes, including any pesticides used in the vineyard, drains directly into Woodhams Creek, which supplies drinking water to 249 of 300 area homes.

“Woodhams Creek supplies 83 percent of our drinking water, including La Honda Elementary School,” said Janet Clark, president of the Cuesta La Honda Guild.

Supervisors considered a range of options Tuesday for dealing with the problems posed by potential vineyard developments, including a possible winery-specific ordinance or new land grading and land use regulations. Ultimately, however, they supported the idea of moving ahead with watershed regulations that are already being developed as a more rapid and comprehensive solution.

“My only worry is how long it will take to put it in place,” said Neil Panton, executive director of the San Gregorio Environmental Resource Center.

The proposed watershed regulations will not apply directly to Clos de la Tech because development of the vineyard is already underway.

However, they could be taken into consideration when environmental studies now in the works for the property are brought before the Planning Commission, according to county Community Development Director Lisa Grote.

For that reason, some La Honda residents urged the supervisors to move forward quickly.

Supervisors Jerry Hill and Rich Gordon, who sit on a subcommittee that is crafting the watershed ordinance, said they plan to present a draft to the public in early September.

“We are interested in getting something approved in a timely manner,” Gordon said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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