SodaCanyonRoad | SCR January 2015 Update

SCR January 2015 Update

Bill Hocker | Jan 5, 2015 on: Soda Canyon Road

January 2015 Update

Members and friends of the Soda Canyon community,


Volker Eisele 1937-2015

I am embarrassed to say that I didn't know the name Volker Eisele nine months ago. Yet the 20 years of rural enjoyment Mui and I have had on Soda Canyon Road owe more to him, and his political skill in fending off developers for more than 4 decades, than anything else. He would have been a major presence in the upcoming community discussions on the future of Napa for the next 40 years, and I can say that he will truly be missed. The effort to protect the county's rural, agricultural substance has just become much more difficult, and we owe it to the legacy he has given us to try that much harder. Rue Ziegler's interview of Volker Eisele for the JLD Ag Fund is here.

A memorial will be held at 10am Tues., Jan 6th. at St. Helena Catholic Church. A reception will follow from 11 to 3pm at Merryvale Vineyards

Two items are coming up on the planning commission agenda on Wednesday this week:

Syar Expansion

The commission will also hear Syar Industries request to expand its mining operation off Soscol Ave in South Napa.

The area expansion pushes the excavation pits right up against the property line with the Skyline Wilderness Park and requires the displacement of some of the trails. The impacts on the park are "potentially significant" and the Park District is definitely not pleased with the mitigations proposed. A photo of a portion of the area to be excavated, taken from the property boundry, is here. Everything in the foreground will be a 300' deep pit upon completion.

The amount of excavation each year will double under the proposal from their current production. Their request is for both area and depth increases. It's an ominous harbinger for the future of Napa County. Syar is a supplier of materials to developers, and they obviously envision a lot of development happening in the next 35 years to justify doubling their output. There is plenty to envision in Napa County even now: Napa Pipe, Watson Ranch, the widening of highway 29 to 6 lanes. All of the new projects being built in the valley and of the many traffic mitigations that they will require. And then there is the maintenance of all those existing roads as more and more traffic arrives. (including the reconstruction of the Soda Canyon grade to accommodate Mountain Peak?) A blip in their yearly output will be the 21 miles of roads on Walt Ranch. (Conveniently they can supply the engineered fill to raise the Napa Pipe Site 6' and the concrete for the new Napa jail without having to go over public roads!)

Syar should not be allowed to expand. I mean, who in this day and age, wants their wilderness areas to be turned into gravel pits? Even if there is success in curbing the urbanization of Napa county, a fantasy perhaps at this point, Syar's interest in expanding gravel mining will still be necessary for the urbanization that is happening elsewhere in Northern California, and the quarry expansion will never end. It is time for the county to put Syar on notice that an ever expanding quarry should not be a part the county's future and that they might consider using the 35 years to wind down rather than ramp up production.

Water Availibility Analysis (WAA)

The staff will present to the commission the draft of a new discretionary Water Availability Analysis to be applied to new projects coming through the County planning department. It begins to counter the formulaic approach used in the past that was sufficient for a county not terribly concerned about its future water supply. Things have changed - and not just in the weather. Active community opposition at Woolls Ranch and Walt Ranch have pushed to issue to the fore. And we now have a planning director in David Morrison who, so far, seems committed to addressing both short term and long term problems that further development pose to Napa County.

The WAA is a major step forward, particularly in the watershed areas where neighbors are becoming concerned that their life sustaining water is being sucked up to enable new vineyard and wine-tourism development. There are still questions to be asked, which is why it is important to take this opportunity to review the draft and see what your concerns might be.

The working draft of the WWA is here
The staff FAQ about the WAA is here


40 winery projects, including Mountain Peak, are still making their way through the planning department. For the county to deal with them, it will mean 1 or 2 new requests coming up at each bi-weekly planning commission meeting - forever. Being heard at the Jan. 21st meeting are Girard (30500 tourists/year) and Larkmead (24000 tourists/yr). These emails, I'm afraid, are just going to keep coming.

The Wednesday, Jan 7th, hearing will be held, beginning at 9:00am in the temporary Board of Supervisors Chambers at 2741 Napa Valley Corporate Drive, Building 2.

Bill Hocker