Six local organizations recently submitted a request to Livermore City Council asking for a change to the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) to pave the way for extended sewer infrastructure to bolster the area’s Wine Country.
The organizations seeking the extension include Tri-Valley Conservancy (TVC), Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association, Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce (LVCC), Visit Tri-Valley, Friends of Open Space and Vineyards, and Innovation Tri-Valley. Their request aims to address the infrastructure needs of Livermore’s wineries, which currently depend on on-site sewage treatment.
“Currently, vineyards, wineries, farming, ranching and limited tourism uses in the South Livermore Valley Area are allowed, provided there is an on-site sewage treatment system,” read the letter. “The California State Water Resources Control Board recently proposed new regulations for how wastewater is processed at winery locations that effectively prohibits (new) on-site treatment (septic) due to continued groundwater pollution.”
Laura Mercier, TVC executive director, explained that the current wineries utilize septic systems, but to encourage wineries to grow or come into the area, that form of sewage management is not an option.
“Right now, residential development that’s out in the county can use septic systems,” she said. “What (the regulations are) addressing is commercial, agricultural winery use. (New wineries wouldn’t be) allowed to use septic systems, because the waste from a winery is more intense – it’s more black than residential (waste) because you’re not taking showers, you’re not doing laundry – it truly is black. It can pollute the water table, so there is concern about the quality in the water in the water tables running below our area. One way to protect it is to not allow septic systems for any additional commercial wineries.”
At present, the city’s UGB prohibits extending sewer service outside the city except under certain circumstances. Mercier stated that sewer infrastructure extension would require a UGB amendment that would need to go before voters in 2022, but it would not move the UGB or support high-density development. She further stated the area would remain rural.
“It’s simply to allow wineries to grow,” she said. “Right now, we don’t (allow winery growth), and nobody is coming into this Valley. The whole point of the South Livermore Plan was to expand and increase the vineyards … it’s shrinking right now because we just don’t have the business models that would support vineyards and the wine industry.”
Tamara Reuss, Friends of Open Space and Vineyards president, agreed that the main concern is addressing the needs of potential incoming wineries. She noted it would be more financially advantageous for larger, mid-sized winegrowers to come into the region if they could be on sewer.
“That would also help increase the overall health of the whole valley and get more grapes on the acreage and have an indirect benefit to all the wineries in the area,” Reuss said.
She further stated the goal of the letter is to get funding from the county, so they can move toward implementation in the coming years.
The group called for the city council to submit a letter to Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty requesting that the county reserve funding of $10 million for the project; develop an agreement with the county obligating the installation of the sewer line once funding has been designated; and take action to advance the extension of the sewer system to serve the South Livermore Valley area.
“The Livermore Valley wine industry contributes to the economic health of the City of Livermore as well as enhances the cachet of the City of Livermore as an attractive place to live and visit,” said Dawn Argula, LVCC CEO and one of the six signees in a letter addressed to Livermore Mayor John Marchand and the council. “Supporting infrastructure investments that support a strong economy is a core LVCC priority.”