SodaCanyonRoad | Bad Day for the Watersheds

Bad Day for the Watersheds

Bill Hocker | Jun 10, 2016 on: Watershed Issues

Item 1:

Napa County Planning Director Morrison has reached a tentative decision on the Walt Ranch Erosion Control Plan: The "reduced intensity alternative" will be approved. There were 3 alternatives being considered in addition to the Mitigated Project represented by the Final EIR - the "No Project Alternative", the "Reduced Intensity Alternative (RIA)", the "Multiple Resource Protection Alternative". The RIA will represent a reduction from 500 acres down to 400 acres of gross development area from the mitigated project. I have had a very hard time actually seeing what the differences in these alternatives meant for the physical development of the property (beyond the never-considered "no project alternative", of course.) There may be a clear summation in map and table form of the differences in the thousands of pages of documents for the project but I couldn't find them even with Dir. Morrison's hints. I assume that somewhat fewer of the "specimen" oaks will be bulldozed down.

In looking at the photo of the Walt Ranch property shown here, it is finally apparent to me why the vineyard blocks on most of the site are linear meandering beads - each of the ridgelines is to be given a flat top. What else could they do given a landscape that is really too mountainous to develop efficiently? A house or winery can now be placed on each of the promontories. And in time they will be.

Looking at this photo gives a sense of the loss of a great opportunity for the preservation of native Napa woodlands for future generations - 2300 acre properties of such character do not come along every day. For such a vast area to be turned into a gated community for 35 plutocrats is truly sad. The Halls paid $8 million for the property. I can't help wondering, given a new level of community consciousness in the county, if the same property came up for sale today a way might not have been found to add it to the public trust.

It is worth noting this co-incident article on the preservation of 1500 acres of land on the east edge of Berryessa to see what owners who understand the value of the natural environment have done to secure the rural character of Napa county for future generations.

I have taken the liberty of adding the Walt Ranch (and the Circle S Ranch estate property development adjacent to it) to the Land Trust map to give an idea of the scale of these parcels to trust lands

Item 2:

As reported in the NapaVision2050 newsletter, the Water, Forest, & Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2016 has been given a TKO by the Napa County Council for not including the complete text of an appendix referred to in the initiative. He had many weeks to alert the initiative sponsors of the discrepancy, but decided to wait until the initiative was ready to be certified by the County Registrar of Voters before killing it. This is a sad day for the 6300 signatories who wanted to see this issue to be voted upon, along with all others who might wish to slow down the conversion of our natural landscape to more financially profitable use. Read all about it here, and in the NVR here.

Item 3:

Alfredo Pedroza has been elected Supervisor for District 4. His opponents, Diane Shepp and Chris Malan, built their campaigns on the protection of the watersheds from the development that is currently taking place in the county. Sup. Pedroza has made a point in his campaign literature of wishing to protect the County's natural beauty and the character of its rural communities at the same time emphasizing the importance of creating jobs and a stronger economy. Jobs and a growth economy represent what Napa has gone through in the last 2 decades and the natural beauty of the county has been clear cut for vines, traffic has become unbearable and unwanted tourist attractions and other building projects have been popping up in the backyards of all of the county's rural communities. It is a bit of a zero sum game. If the goal is ever more jobs and an ever increasing economy (driven by increased profitability of land use), then protecting the natural environment and rural character becomes ever harder to achieve. Sup. Pedroza is obviously a gifted public servant. I hope that he succeeds in both his goals, but I fear the the success of one means the sacrifice of the other, and, you know, those campaign contributions from the growth-oriented among us are hard to ignore.