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Gallo faces fine over illegal water use

US wine giant E&J Gallo is facing a US$73,000 fine over an illegal reservoir which may have helped reduce the habitat for an endangered species of trout.

According to a complaint from California’s State Water Resources Control Board, Gallo avoided costs and fees totalling more than $65,000 over a three-year period by illegally filling the 8.2-acre reservoir from the Russian River.

The company used the reservoir in Sonoma County for frost protection and irrigation for a 395-acre vineyard, the complaint said, reducing the amount of water for legitimate water right holders downstream.

‘Secondly,’ added the complaint, ‘while the adverse impacts on the steelhead trout fishery have not been quantified, Gallo’s unauthorised diversions may contribute to reducing habitat for steelhead trout in the Russian River and its tributaries.’ The steelhead trout has been listed as an endangered species since 1997.

Gallo said it had been working with the State to resolve the issue and filed appropriate documents with the board earlier this year.

‘We have since taken corrective actions to address their concerns,’ the company added. ‘The changes we have made will benefit fish resources in the Russian River watershed by conserving the use of river water, and minimising direct pumping from the river during the summer months.’

The $73,000 fine could rise as high as $547,500 if Gallo challenges the complaint in court and loses.

Written by Richard Woodard

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