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Frequently Asked Questions

Got Questions? We’ve Got Answers!

How can I plant new vineyard on my property?

PPI can conduct a feasibility analysis to determine if there are areas on your property that would be suitable for new vineyard.  If your property is in Napa County, you will need an engineered Erosion Control Plan (ECP) if the area is over 5% slope.  If it's in Sonoma County, you will need a Level 1 or Level 2 VESCO permit depending on the slopes and soils.  There are varying requirement in other counties - give us a call or email and we would be happy to discuss! 

What is an Erosion Control Plan?

An Erosion Control Plan (ECP) is both the design of your vineyard and the permit you need to plant or replant vineyard in Napa County.  The ECP will show the block boundaries, vine row direction, infrastructure required to minimize erosion and/or storm runoff, and much more!  We'll work with you and your team to ensure the ECP matches your desired farming practices. 

What is the difference between a Track I and Track II ECP?

In Napa County, Track I is the typical process for obtaining a permit to plant new vineyard or for terrace removal projects.  A Track II ECP is for a vineyard replant.  Track I ECPs have to go through additional environmental review and special analyses, but Track II Replant ECPs receive no further environmental review.  To qualify for a Track II Replant ECP, the vineyard must have been legally planted and the ECP preparer must be on a list of approved, prequalified engineers - PPI is the only firm to be on the list continuously since its inception. 

What is CEQA? 

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is a state law that mandates any project requiring a discretionary government approval must analyze potential environmental impacts.  In Napa County, new vineyards (Track I ECP process) must go through CEQA review that considers factors such as a biological resources, water quality, air quality, traffic, and more.  In Sonoma County, certain supporting studies like biological resources must be conducted, but a full CEQA review is typically not required. 

What permits do I need for a new water reservoir or pond on my property?

You typically need a grading permit in order to construct a new water storage reservoir.  PPI has designed, permitted, and constructed reservoirs in Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino, and Santa Barbara counties and are open to working wherever your project may be located!  PPI will work with you to ensure your water storage project meets your needs while explaining the various permit nuances along the way. 

What is subsurface drainage?

Ensuring the soils within your vineyard are properly drained will improve vine health and grape quality.  PPI designs subsurface drainage systems that will drain shallow perched water from the root zone using perforated pipelines installed at a specific depth to move excess water away from the vines and to a stable outlet.  The extent of the system depends on many factors, and we will work with you and your team to design a system that best meets your needs. 

How does subsurface drainage benefit my vineyard? What are French or tile drains?

Excess water in the root zone will inhibit vine root development and can lead to issues such as excess vigor and poor vine health.  Excess water during vine dormancy will usually not harm the vines, but during key growing periods too much water can lead to anerobic conditions and root death.  French or tile drains are perforated pipelines installed at specific depths and spaced varying distances to collect water in the root zone and move it to a stable outlet. 

What is VESCO?

Sonoma County's Vineyard and Orchard Site Development Ordinance is also known as "VESCO".  It applies to new or replanted orchards and vineyards, and a VESCO permit is required on all ground slopes. 

What permits or studies do I need in Sonoma County to plant vineyard?

You will need a VESCO permit, either Level I or Level II depending on site conditions such as slope and soils.  If you need to conduct grading for your vineyard, whether that is due to terracing, constructing a road, or other factors, you will also need an agricultural grading plan.  If any drainage infrastructure is required or already existing (for replants), then an additional Drainage Analysis may be required.  And finally, new vineyards typically require a biological survey and report. 

What is the difference between a Level I and Level II VESCO permit?

A Level I VESCO permit is simpler, but it only applies to projects on gentle slopes and less erosive soils and will include best management practices (BMPs) to minimize erosion.  A Level II VESCO permit is for projects on steeper slopes or more erosive soils, and it has additional requirements including an engineered Erosion Control Plan (ECP), storm runoff/erodibility calculations, and may require a geotechnical analysis.  Unsure of what level VESCO application your new or replant vineyard project will require?  Give us a call or email and we would be happy to discuss! 

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