SodaCanyonRoad | The Rector Watershed (updated)

The Rector Watershed (updated)

Bill Hocker | Dec 14, 2015 on: The Rector Watershed

On Dec 16th 2015 County Planning Dir. Morrison asked the BOS for the money ($220,000) to hire a consultant to write an EIR for a proposed 116 acre vineyard conversion by Stagecoach Vineyards in the Rector watershed. The notice of the pending ECP has shed a light on the watershed, perhaps the most heavily developed in the county. There are 3 other pending ECPs amounting to 260 acres of development [Stagecoach was pulled so as of 8/16 we are down to 145 new acres proposed], the realization of which encouraged me to express concern to Dir. Morrison. I had long assumed that the Rector watershed had reached its development limit. I was wrong.

Opposition to the proposed vineyard development of the Walt Ranch, and the drought, has begun a discussion in the county about the value of watersheds and the woodlands that cover them in maintaining the water resource necessary for agriculture and for municipal water supplies. That discussion is documented on the SCR Walt Ranch page and on the posts on this page. Rector, given its compact size, sole source for the domestic water supply of the the Veterans Home and Yountville, and the extensive amount of development having taken place, may make it a case study in the future development of the other watersheds in the county.

Stagecoach Vineyards currently comprises about 650 acres of vineyards (much of the area north of Rector gorge in the photo at the top of this page). The project was begun with a mile and half access road built in 1996 and then the first clearing and vineyard in 1997. This late 90's phase of the Rector development was overlooked in the 2002 James Conaway book that documents the problems that hillside clearing was continuing to cause despite the conservation regulations enacted by the county in 1991. It is unfortunate - more vineyards were probably being developed on the Rector plateau at the time than anywhere else in the county. And perhaps causing significant erosion problems.

Gary Margadant has spent some time looking at the relationship of the first Stagecoach Vineyards ECP's in 1996 and 1997 (search on Stagecoach Vineyards here) and the recorded silting of Rector Dam in 1996 and 1998. The silting of the dam
was not noted as being related to the land clearance, but the coincidence of the events is worth noting. (In fairness, it should also be noted many other blocks of Stagecoach Vineyards have been subsequently cleared without reported silting.)

From my house near the end of Soda Canyon Road I have a clear view of the sides of Rector Canyon just below the Stagecoach vineyards, and I did notice 2 new runoff gullies at some point in the first years of our residence. They are still visible. We took up residence in 1995.

Update 6/13/16:
Jan Krupp has pulled his application for an additional 116 acre expansion of the Stagecoach Vineyards. This was probably not the best time given both the current political climate and the current real climate to push the boundaries of rector watershed development, and I think most of his neighbors applaud him for the decision. I was also informed that the Antica ECP is technically a replant of existing vineyards and will exclude it from the tally of additional vineyard conversion on the Rector plateau. We are currently at 142 acres to be converted in the next couple of years.

Stagecoach North EIR timeline (taken over by Gallo)
Orin Swift EIR timeline (DEIR due Apr 2017)
Yountville Sun 7/28/16: Turbidity discolors water
NVR 5/17/1998: Veterans water system a threat to public health.
SCR: Stagecoach Rocks
SCR: New Rector Watershed development