Local News Matters weekly newsletter

Start your week with a little inspiration. Sign up for our informative, community-based newsletter, delivered on Mondays with news about the Bay Area.

A well-known Sonoma County vineyard executive is facing a multi-million-dollar state fine for allegedly removing trees and destroying a small wetland on a rural patch of land east of Cloverdale.

Hugh Reimers and Krasilsa Pacific Farms could be on the hook for up to $3.75 million in fines for allegedly cutting down trees, grading, ripping and other activities near tributaries to Little Sulphur Creek, Big Sulphur Creek and Crocker Creek in the Russian River Watershed, according to the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

In a complaint filed May 9, the Water Board accused Reimers and Krasilsa Pacific Farms of also failing to abide by a 2019 cleanup and abatement order, which required them to restore the streams and wetlands.

Reimers allegedly directed the removal of 40 acres of oak woodlands on the 2,278-acre property in 2018 for a vineyard development, which, along with other unpermitted work, allegedly damaged the watershed and resulted in fine sediment being discharged into the tributaries, according to the Water Board.

“The actions of the dischargers caused the destruction and degradation of state waters in violation of California law,” said Joshua Curtis, North Coast Water Board assistant executive officer.

The alleged damage from work on the property still threatens fish and other aquatic species in the area, according to the Water Board.

“Their resistance to restoring those waters caused a loss of natural resources that would otherwise benefit the public, and the proposed fine shows there is a cost for failing to comply with regulations that protect the environment,” Curtis said in a news release Tuesday.

The Water Board will hold a public hearing sometime in the first week of August to vote on whether to approve the proposed fine.

“I was pleased to see this today,” said Anna Ransome of Friends of Atascadero Wetlands, a local environmental group that has worked for several years to bring attention to the issue.

“We really hope this sends a message to other people with the same idea that there are serious consequences to doing this kind of unpermitted work,” Ransome said.

Lawyers for Reimers and Krasilsa Pacific Farms did not immediately respond to requests for comment.