Regulatory Issues

Regulatory Issues

There is no shortage of local, county, state and federal regulatory mandates on vineyards and grape growing. The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission has access to information needed by growers to stay in compliance. This information will be updated as needed or when new information is added.

As of January 3, 2017, the Sonoma County Department of Agriculture is no longer requiring biological assessments be completed for replant vineyard or orchard projects unless they are located within the USFWS critical habitat areas for the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) or California red legged frog (Rana draytonii). Biological assessments are still required for all new vineyard and orchard development projects. Please remember that the vines or orchard trees still need to be in the ground in order for the project to be considered a replant. Also, the changing of agricultural practice, such as going from an apple orchard to vineyard, is considered a new development project. The Department can still a require biological assessment for an individual replant project where warranted by specific circumstances.
You can check to see if the project is located within one of these critical habitats on the “online mapper” located here:
The updated VESCO application form can be found here:

A description of what the biological assessment requirement is can be found here:

Grower questions regarding the process may be directed to Andy Casarez of the Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner's office: 707-331-3056 or

Regulatory Compliances


Vineyard Planning And Development

Zoning – Any zoning questions should be directed to the County Permit & Resource Management Department at (707) 565-1900.

Vineyard Development – Development of any vineyard now requires registration with the Agricultural Commissioner's Office. For further information, call (707) 565-2371.

Vineyard Planting in Sonoma County

Best Management Practices for Agricultural Erosion and Sedimentation Control

UC Cooperative Extension – The Santa Rosa office can furnish advice and offer free and priced publications such as "Sample Costs to Develop and Produce a Vineyard in Sonoma County," "Rootstocks and Phylloxera," a list of nearby commercial laboratories, and a raft of many other UC publications in the agricultural field. The office is located at 133 Aviation Blvd., Suite 109, Santa Rosa. The phone number is (707) 565-2621.

Santa Rosa Junior College – There are excellent viticulture and enology courses at SRJC. For more information, phone the Agriculture Department at (707) 527-4408.

Farm Construction – There is a special fast-track approval permit process to build barns, other farm buildings and farm workers’ housing units, if you qualify. Contact the County Permit & Resource Management Department at (707) 565-1900.

Ponds, etc. – Grading permits must be obtained from the County Permit & Resource Management Department at (707) 565-1900.

Grading and/or Encroachment Permits – Where grading and/or encroachment permits are required for vineyard access roads, contact also the County Permit & Resource Management Department at (707) 565-1900. (Proposed roads within a vineyard may require a grading permit and proposed vineyard roads that access a county road will require an encroachment permit.)

Tree Removal - If oak tree removal is planned, contact Permit & Resource Management Department at (707) 565-1900. For permits for any other tree removal for a commercial venture (i.e. a vineyard), contact the California Department of Forestry at (707) 576-2275.

Fish and Game – Many activities along streams and rivers and other habitat areas are now controlled by the California Department of Fish and Game. For information, call (707) 944-5500.

Wetlands and Stream Alteration – Contact the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jane Hicks, at (415) 977-8439, for clarification of wetlands designation and to do any stream alterations, including bridges or bank slope protection.

Erosion Control and Water Quality – The State Water Quality Control Board through its North Coast Region office at (707) 576-2220 also handles issues of erosion control, water quality and pollution.