Tourism businesses ignore their environmental responsibilities at their own risk. This is a bottom line issue. In a backhanded way, this fine is a benefit to the ecotourism industry. Curbing siltation of the Russian River to protect the salmonids is crucial to the fishing industry. Fishing and a clean river draws tourists……… RCoates
Author MARY CALLAHAN, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The developer of the luxury Montage Healdsburg hotel is facing one of the largest environmental penalties of its kind in state history for dozens of alleged water quality violations during construction over the soggy winter of 2018-19.
The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is seeking to fine Sonoma Luxury Resort, a subsidiary for Encinitas developer Robert S. Green, more than $6.4 million for allowing what board prosecutors say was an estimated 9.4 million gallons of mud and sediment-filled stormwater to leave the site during work of the ultra-high-end hotel in north Healdsburg.
Poor erosion control on the 258-acre site unleashed soils into streams of the Russian River watershed and put fish and other other aquatic wildlife at risk, regulators found, counteracting millions of dollars spent to improve habitat and restore imperiled, protected runs of salmon and steelhead trout, according to Jeremiah Puget, a water pollution control staffer with the regional water quality board.
Claudia Villacorta, the water board’s assistant executive officer, said in January that regulators found “the conduct was, frankly, grossly negligent.”
“They repeatedly failed to take action, implement effective practices, and I think that’s the reason why the penalty ― the proposed fine ― was significant,” she said Tuesday.
In an emailed statement, Green said his firm, the Robert Green Co., is a champion of the environment and intends to try to settle the matter with the regional board, though the two sides have failed so far to reach an agreement.
“Anyone familiar with our project and our stewardship of this land knows the extreme measures we have always taken to preserve and protect the natural environment,” Green said in the statement.
The 130-room hotel, in the works for more than 15 years and formerly named Saggio Hills, is set to open by December with rooms and suites that run from $695 to $1,695 a night. Future plans call for 70 villa-style homes on the wooded property.