Winemaker Challenges Napa Restrictions on New Well Permits

Jayson Woodbridge has sued Napa County, California, after officialos refused to issue permits for water wells on his vineyard properties.  

The permits should have been issued as a matter of course, Woodbridge alleges in the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for Northern California. But the officials refused unless Woodbridge agreed to strict limits on the water that could be drawn from each well annually.  Existing wells are not subject to a limit on the amount of water they can draw, his complaint says.

Permits have been denied at Double Vee Properties, Caldera Ranch, Hundred Acre and Hundred Acre Wine Group.

“This lawsuit is being filed with respect to vineyard properties owned by Mr. Woodbridge, but the county’s actions affect many agricultural properties.  Any owner seeking a new well permit is being subjected to a 70% reduction in allowable water use, as compared with existing wells. That is not a legitimate use of the county’s regulatory authority,” said Woodbridge’s counsel, Jonathan Bass of the San Francisco and Napa law firm of Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass. “The county’s infringement of water rights is a threat to every vineyard and farm that depends on groundwater for irrigation.”

Woodbridge founded and owns Hundred Acre Wine Group.  He has produced more perfectly scored wines than any other winemaker in the world under the Hundred Acre label.  

In a separate action, Woodbridge previously sued Napa County for attempting to force him to replant high fire-risk trees.  Instead, he installed an experimental vineyard that provides a firebreak and safety measures for this vineyard and neighborhood.

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