Watershed Initiative 2018


Sep 15, 2016

The Initiative Text
The Initiative Website
The Initiative Facebook page

Yes on C ballot argument
Rebuttal to Yes on C argument (to be revised)
No on C ballot argument (to be revised)
Rebuttal to no on C argument
Lawsuit against No on C ballot argument (in court Apr 11th)

Update 4/7/18
Attorney Yeoryios Apallas filed a lawsuit alleging false and misleading statements in the ballot arguments against Measure C. The suit was settled when opponents agreed to change the language of the opposition ballot statements.More on the lawsuit here

Update 2/28/18
On February 27th 2018, the Board of Supervisors, with some seeming reluctance, voted to place the initiative as Measure C on the June 5th, 2018. More here

Update 1/15/18
In 2017 Jim Wilson and Mike Hackett worked on a revised version of the initiative in conjunction with some leaders of the Napa Valley vintners, to be placed on the 2018 ballot. The vintners seemed to recognize that vineyard development of Napa's watersheds and woodlands can't go on forever and they wanted to be a part of the effort to draft a long term plan. The NVV has received a lot of pushback from other wine industry stakeholders, including their own members, and it remains to be seen if an initiative can be crafted that will garner support from preservationists and at least a portion of the wine industry.

As outlined in Mike Hackett's 10/7/17 LTE, the original initiative sponsors pushed on with changes proposed by the vintners, though without their support at this point and garnered the required signatures needed to place the initiative on the June 2018 ballot.

Update 8/30/17
In 2015, Napa county residents Jim Wilson and Mike Hackett drafted an initiative in an effort to recognize and mitigate the dangers that continuing deforestation for vineyard development presents to the health of the watersheds that Napans depend on. A chronology of that failed effort is presented in Jim Wilson's summary of the final appeal in Aug. 2017.
The archive of the effort is here.

9/15/16
In the 1980's, with the Napa Valley floor almost fully developed in vineyards and a continuing flow of wannabes wishing to fulfill their Napa dreams, vineyard development in the hilly watershed areas surrounding the valley began to take off. Following several vineyard clearing projects in the late 1980's that resulted in land erosion and river sedimentation, Napa county passed Conservation Regulations in 1991 that established stream setbacks and maximum deforestation limits.

By 2002 it was apparent to some that the effectiveness of the 1991 measures were in doubt, given the magnitude of development in the watersheds, unless more protective measures were put in place. A stringent ordinance was proposed by environmentalists in 2002. In 2003 the Board of Supervisors passed a short term stream setback ordinance, banning commercial development within 25-150' from streams. Two measures were placed on the 2004 ballot in response: Measure O, an outgrowth of the 2002 effort, was created with 350-1000' setbacks and limits on deforestation. A counter Measure P, was created by the wine industry in line with the BOS 2003 ordinance. Both measures were defeated after a campaign by "land steward" property rights advocates.

In 2001 the State of California established an oak woodlands conservation fund to provide funding for the protection of oak woodlands. In 2010 a Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan was produced by Napa stakeholders and adopted by the county as a voluntary plan to be used by entities that wanted to tap into the conservation fund. This document serves as the current basis for woodland protection in the county.

Since 1991, vast areas of the watersheds have been deforested and the landscape in the hills, seen on Google Maps, now resembles Vietnam after the war rather than the forests that once defined the hills around the valley. In some areas like the Rector watershed , pictured here, the deforestation is substantial.

As an era of global warming begins to impact water sources throughout the state, concern has again heightened over the loss of forest and woodlands that retain and filter surface water for municipal reservoirs, over the depletion of groundwater and toxic runoff from ever more agriculture, and over the urban development of the watersheds for tourism facilities and vineyard housing estates. The relationship between the deforestation process and GHG emmisions has also become a concern in the county's climate action plan. The threat to the water resources and the rural environment of the county has never been greater. As with the impact of expanding tourism and industrial development on traffic and affordable, small-town community life on the valley floor, the question of the long term viability of the watersheds and the commitment to the sustainable rural community envisioned in the county general plan is now back on the agenda.

Documents:
Lawsuit documents over ballot opposition language
Phil Blake’s No-on-C treatise
Phil Blake’s 2013 editorial
Shute Mihaly Wienberger response to 9111 report
9111 Report on Watershed Initiative
Election Resolution on Watershed Initiative - Measure C
Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018 Text
The bulletin of the Napa Valley Vintners announcing the initiative.
Water, Forest, & Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2016 (nullified)
County Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan (2010)
Napa County Conservation Regulations (1991, 2007)

Articles
LTE's about Measure C since being placed on the ballot are being collected here

SH Star 4/11/18: Howell Mountain vintner Joyce Black Sears: Measure C protects environment
SF Chronicle 4/8/18: Battle for Napa Valley’s future: Proposed curb on vineyards divides county
News Deeply 4/5/2018: In Napa, Watershed and Woodlands Initiative Clashes With Wineries
Wine Business.com 3/28/18: Napa County "No on C" Campaign Sued Over Ballot Argument Mistruths
Wine Industry Advisor 3/23/18: Wine Industry Under Attack in Napa
NVR 2/28/18: Napa County supervisors place oak woodland initiative on June ballot
Norm Manzer LTE 2/23/18: Initiative will preserve our water resources
NVR 2/22/18: Napa County report looks for flaws in the planned watershed and oak initiative
Beckstoffer, Winiarski et al. LTE 2/10/18: Oak woodland protection ballot measure is good for our community
Bohemian 1/30/18: A Vine Mess
David Kearny Brown LTE 1/27/18: Support the Watershed Initiative
Nadeau Bissiri LTE 12/1/17: The Napa County Oak Woodland Watershed Protection Initiative of 2018
NVR 12/1/17: Proponents file signatures for new Napa watershed and oak woodland initiative
Mike Hackett LTE 11/27/17: Citizens and science take the long view for sustainability of Napa Valley
Christine Tittle LTE10/9/17: Oak woodlands initiative good for property values
NVR 9/27/17: Possible Napa County oak woodlands initiatives divide wine industry
Chris Indelicato LTE 9/26/17: Let’s not mislead on Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative
Gordon Evans LTE 9/25/17: Prevent development in watersheds
Michael Honig LTE 9/23/17: Facts about the Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018
Andy Beckstoffer LTE 9/20/17: Vote ‘yes’ for the initiative next June
Stuart Smith LTE 9/20/17: NVV is tone deaf when it comes to land-use politics
Dario Sattui LTE 9/19/17: Adamantly opposed to watershed initiative
NVR 9/10/17: Reborn watershed initiative has Napa Valley Vintner backing

Books:
James Conaway: The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley The watershed conservation battle at the turn of the millennium.

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23 comments



Measure C: the war of words


Bill Hocker - Apr 18, 2018 11:19AM  Share #1836

Update 4/18/18
Scott Sedgley et al. NVR 4/18/18: Yes on Measure C

Six Napa county elected municipal officials come out in support of Measure C.

Jay Golic NVR 4/18/18: The three periods of wine

Jay Goric lays out the big-picture context for the stage of decline we find ourselves in. (Verified here). His analysis tracks nicely with the Butler Report's first 3 stages of tourist area evolution. Is it just a question of slowing the inevitable? We must try.

Carolyn Hackett SH Star 4/17/18: Star editorial got it wrong on Measure C

2/28/18
NVR 2/28/18: Napa County supervisors place oak woodland initiative on June ballot

Measure C, the watershed conservation initiative headed for the June 5th ballot, was officially born Feb 27th, with the supervisors as seemingly reluctant midwives. The process was an odd one: The supes first had to "receive" a "9111" report outlining the potential legal pitfalls in the text (a supposedly unbiased report done by the same law firm hired by the county to squash the 2016 version of the initiative on a technicality). That information seemed quite useless regarding the decision the Supes were allowed to make: either adopt the initiative as law or else place it on the June ballot in each case as is. It was an expensive "I told you so" document for future litigation - which undoubtedly there will be.

This promises to be a very well debated initiative. Public comments at the hearing were evenly split between pro and con and there was more than a little hyperbole: "beginning of the end of agriculture", "sincere ignorance" of proponents, a "weasel wording" 9111 document, a "voraciously aggressive" supervisor. The legal response to the 9111 report was made by Perl Perlmutter, who drafted the initiative.

There will be a lot of letters-to-the-editor. The Register provides a short list of previous LTE's with each new one printed, but the lack of authors, and not date sequenced makes it difficult to decide which one to re-read. So, in my obsessive fashion, they will be cataloged below with "pro" and "con" annotated.

So far the pros heavily outweighs the cons - but this is to be expected. The very well financed campaign against Measure C will more professionally roll out their effort through ads, social media posts, direct mailings and LTE's to a crescendo just before the election, and the best-free-speech-that-money-can-buy megaphone will probably drown out the more limited finances of the grass roots campaign. Will development money again win the day as it did with Napa Pipe, the "Costco-of-our-own" and the 2016 election of Supervisors? Stay tuned.

Linda Kerr 4/21/18: Three big reasons to support Measure C
Jay Golic NVR 4/18/18: The three periods of wine pro
Scott Sedgley et al. 4/18/18: Yes on Measure C pro
Chris Benz 4/18/18: Wineries need water—and Measure C pro
Daniel Binner 4/18/18: Vote for sustainability pro
Carolyn Hackett SH Star 4/17/18: Star editorial got it wrong on Measure C pro
Gordon Evans 4/17/18: What's really "highest and best?" pro
Penny Paul 4/16/18: Measure C will protect our water pro
Sara Cakebread 4/13/18: Opponents using ‘fake news’ to stop Measure C pro
Lowell Downey 4/13/18: Respecting the past; supporting the future pro
Patrick Higgins 4/4/18: Napa River headed for another tipping point pro
Revered Johnson 4/2/18: The Devil is in the details con
Stuart Smith 4/1/18: Explain the philosophy and science of Measure C con
Harris Nussbaum 3/30/18: Help us save what's left pro
Ken and Doug Stanton 3/29/18: Measure C endorsement pro
Donald Williams LTE 3/28/18: The time for a change pro
Tom Belt 3/20/18: A different perspective on Measure C pro
Alan Galbraith 3/20/18: St. Helena mayor Alan Galbraith favors Measure C pro
Nancy McCoy-Blotzke 3/20/18: This measure is for all of us pro
Richard Cannon 3/17/18: What is the answer? pro
Bill Hocker 3/16/18: Property rights. Again pro
Elaine de Man 3/13/15: Help save our oak woodlands pro
Ester Akersloot 3/13/18: Let's be stewards of the land pro
Warren Winiarski et al. 3/13/18: Grower/Vintner Support for Measure C pro
Steve Kuhler 3/12/18: Wine or water: voters will choose pro
Stuart Smith 3/10/18: Sticking it to landowners isn't the answer con
League of Women Voters 3/8/18: Napa League responds to letter about watershed initiative pro
Julie Ann Kodmur 3/7/18: Forum on watershed initiative was biased con
Mel Bolbosa 3/6/18: If we destroy watersheds, we lose our water pro
Frank Hawkins 3/6/18: Threatening our water security should be illegal pro
Linda Brown 3/5/18: A solution to a complex problem pro
Stuart Smith 3/3/18: Initiative will unfairly take property rights con
Yeoryios Apallas et al. 2/10/18: Oak woodland protection ballot measure is good for our community pro

Grower/Vintner Support for Measure C


Yeoryios Apallas - Apr 11, 2018 7:52PM  Share #1834

Update 4/13/18
SH Star 4/11/18: Howell Mountain vintner Joyce Black Sears: Measure C protects environment

3/13/18
From “Growers/Vintners for Responsible Agriculture”

We are very happy that the Watershed and Oak Woodlands Protection Initiative has been approved for inclusion as Measure C on the June ballot. We particularly like that this was named Measure C, as “C” to us stands for conservation, which we favor because our natural resources are not infinite. Those of us who have come together now have a name – “Growers/Vintners for Responsible Agriculture” – as we want to communicate to the citizens of Napa County that there are many of us in the Grower and Vintner community who support this initiative. Our focus is on stewardship of our watershed, and we recognize that Measure C gives the voters of Napa County the opportunity to ensure that our watershed is protected now and into the future.

The Agricultural Preserve (AP) came into existence in 1968 – its 50th Anniversary is being celebrated in many ways this year! Though it was very controversial when it was created, and though it was considered legally uncertain, it has prevailed all tests and it has protected Napa Valley for agriculture for the last half century.

Measure C aims to offer protection to our Agricultural Watershed (AW). Our Watershed is the source of most of the water we use. We, as members of the vintner and grower community, understand how important a healthy watershed is to the citizens of Napa County, to our natural environment, and to the perpetuation of sustainable agriculture in our community. To the latter point, we know that we have a right to farm, but we also know that it is our obligation to farm responsibly. It is for these reasons that Measure C has our fullest support.

Again, the question to be asked is, Will the Napa Valley itself be better if this measure is passed?” We strongly think so.

Signers:
Yeoryios Apallas, Soda Creek Vineyards
Andy Beckstoffer, Beckstoffer Vineyards
Tom Clark, Clark Claudon Vineyards
Randy Dunn, Dunn Vineyards
Bob Dwyer, past Director of NVGG & NVV
Robin Lail, Lail Vineyards
Dick Maher, past NVV President
Beth Novak Milliken, Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery
Joyce Black Sears, Black Sears Vineyard
Warren Winiarski, Arcadia Vineyards


NVR LTE version 3/13/18: Grower/Vintner Support for Measure C

Registrar of Voters sued over 'No on C' ballot arguments


Bill Hocker - Apr 7, 2018 5:37PM  Share #1848

Update 4/3/18
NVR 4/7/18: Measure C opponents agree to ballot argument changes

Yes-On-C Announcement: Voters Deserve the Truth

Update 4/3/18
NVR 4/3/18: Backers of Napa County ballot measures cry foul on opposition arguments

3/30/18
Attorney Yeoryios Apallas has filed a lawsuit alleging false and misleading statements in the ballot arguments against Measure C. The case will be heard in Napa County Superior Court, 1111 3rd St, Napa on April 6, 2018 starting at 11:30am.Revised date and time

Wine Business.com 3/28/18: Napa County "No on C" Campaign Sued Over Ballot Argument Mistruths

A buried reference to the lawsuit is here:
NVR 2/28/18: Napa supervisors want to explore appointed Registrar of Voters position

The press release on the lawsuit is here

The Lawsuit documents
Proposed Judgment on Lawsuit
Verified Petition for Writ of Mandate (the suit)
Yeoryios Apallas Memorandum of Points in Support of Petition
Declaration of Alan Galbraith in Support of Petition
Declaration of Robert Perlmutter in Support of Petition
(with exhibits including contested ballot statement exhibit 1)


Bill Hocker - Mar 30, 2018 10:48PM

As if John Teuter didn't have enough on his plate, attorney Yeoryios Apallas has filed a lawsuit alleging false and misleading statements in the ballot arguments against Measure C. It is not hard to see why:

From the ballot opposition statement:
“Measure C will outlaw future farming in the Ag Watershed and encourage other types of development, while still allowing 795 acres of oak woodlands to be removed - opening the door for event centers and more luxury homes to be developed across our agricultural watershed; destroying our viewshed and hillsides; and increasing traffic on our already congested rural roads and Highway 29”


(This statement is an interesting, perhaps first, example of supporters of the "wine industry” embracing "event center" to describe a winery. Thank you.)

Such overt fear-mongering in an opposition statement would normally be easy to dismiss, but in the age of Trumpian fake-everything and fact-free discourse there can be very real-world consequences to phony claims. Of particular concern to me?: the opponents’ ingenuous concern that winery and housing development in the watersheds will increase as vineyards are reduced.

The concept that plutocrats and corporations will be more likely to build event centers and mansions on remote properties without vines than they already do on properties with vines makes no sense. How many would want to buy one of the 35 inaccessible Walt Ranch properties without the vines, roads, water system and cachet that vineyard development provides? Once the vines are in, the buildings will arrive. And not before.

Perhaps there is the implication that the watersheds, providing the water needed for the Napa’s real agricultural economy and its municipalities, and providing the beauty that is the pride of residents and tourists alike, may be rezoned to residential-commercial use because you can’t farm there. Let's put it to the vote.

It is, of course, always possible to redefine “agriculture” to encourage more commercial building in ag zones. The conversion of mere wineries into event enters has been a successful objective of many in the wine industry - codified with increasing force in 1990, 2008, 2010 and 2018 - and it is always possible the hypocritical event center prediction in the opposition statement may be fulfilled by the industry itself - a danger whether the vines are allowed or not. Napa's peculiar definition of "agriculture" should also be put to the vote.

The conversion of the natural watersheds into agriculture is just the initial step in an urbanization process. Vineyard creation is the main impetus for continuing real estate development there. Contrary to the prevention of new construction in the watersheds, the opponents of Measure C really seek to insure that woodland properties can continue to be sold off to buyers wishing to tap into Napa’s vineyard-themed good life. Vineyard development, they know, is the essential precursor for more event centers and luxury homes to be built. One of the signatories to the opposition statement highlighted this reality himself in a 2013 editorial.

While the main reason to vote Yes on Measure C is to protect the water resources that our county's existing farmers and residents will need in the future in an age of global warming, restricting building projects that further urbanize our hillsides and add to our traffic woes will be a very predictable additional benefit. Don't be fooled by ballot arguments.

Farm Bureau sells out


Bill Hocker - Apr 3, 2018 3:01PM  Share #1856

The Farm Bureau has sent out a letter fear-mongering the potential effects of Measure C: Lower property values! Government intrusion into your landscaping decisions!

In a recent editorial, a vintner condemning Measure C as an assault on property rights, praised Prop 13 as a good example of why California has the initiative process. "Initiatives", he wrote "are considered a safety valve, the court of last resort, when government is unresponsive to people's wishes". I couldn't agree more. Measure C exists because Napa's government has been unresponsive to its citizen's desire for more protection for their rural environment.

The survival of Napa's rural and agricultural landscape is a direct result of the desire of the county's residents to sustain, in an urbanizing world, an agricultural based economy and the rural quality of life that it creates. In a time when the wine industry was made up of mostly resident farmers and wine makers, the interests of the wine industry and of county residents were coincident in that goal, and protections against the urbanization of the county were enacted by elected governmental officials.

But the wine industry, as is often pointed out, has changed. Aging resident farmers and vintners have sold out to corporations and a plethora of good-life entrepreneurs seeking cachet with a winery-of-their-own and tourists to admire it (latest example). And the wine industry and the government that serves it have sold out as well, with little interest in Napa County as a place to live, only as a resource to be marketed and taxed.

The Farm Bureau, until recently the most staunch protector of the rural heritage of Napa County, has now become a greenwash for the development industries that wish to carve up the real estate of the watersheds for vineyard estates and event center attractions. The amount of vineyard area that may be added to the county is unlikely to be large even without Measure C. Barely 1000 producing acres of grapes have been added in the last 10 years. But the increased value of property with even the smallest life-style vineyard is enormous - enough to make the development of remote properties profitable. Walt Ranch, dividing 200 acres of vines among 35 inaccessible properties over 2300 acres, is the poster child for the trend. This is not about the expansion of wine making in Napa - it is about real estate development.

As with almost every other local government, the Napa county government which was once committed to prevent urbanization, has now become a tool of those development interests. The impacts are all around us: in traffic congestion, and buildings invading the vineyards, the scars in the the forested hillsides for vineyards and buildings, in the loss of affordable housing and local shops to the tourism economy, in the requests for bond measures to pay of the new infrastructure to support the expanded development.

The shame is that the Farm Bureau, until recently, was vehemently opposed to this urbanization. Previously leaders of the Farm Bureau knew, as anyone who has lived in California for any length of time knows, that the urbanization that developers bring, whether housing tracts or destination tourism venues and events, is the death of agriculture. I suspect that the current leaders of the Farm Bureau know this as well. I can only assume that agriculture just isn't that important to them.

Property rights. Again


Bill Hocker - Mar 16, 2018 11:20AM  Share #1833

Update 3/16/18
On KQED Forum this morning, Stuart Smith called in to challenge James Conway who was being interviewed. He felt that his friend, Jim, was bad-mouthing an industry that has been extremely successful in resisting the urbanization of the rest of the Bay Area, and pointed to the protections that have been put in place, citing the Ag Preserve, the WDO, and conservation ordinances, that make it so. Time was short, and Mr. Conway passed on an opportunity to ask him why, if he is so proud of these laws, he is so vehemently opposed to the conservation benefits and further protection that might arise from Measure C. All of the previous measures that he touts were also opposed vehemently by many members of the wine industry who felt that their options would be limited and their rights curtailed. In light of that, his opposition to Measure C seems quite illogical - or perhaps, as Mr. Conaway responded, he is just over-reacting.

3/10/18 Property rights redux
Vintner Stuart Smith has now written a second letter-to-the-editor on 3/9/18 regarding the watershed conservation initiative, Measure C, "Sticking it to landowners isn't the answer", in which he defends, with even more hyperbole, his previous letter of 3/2/18 "Initiative will unfairly take property rights.

His is not the first complaint from a vintner about being denied property rights.

"John Daniel, former owner of the Inglenook Vineyard and still owner of extensive vineyard property, called the AP zone in its present form 'patently unfair, un-american and socialistic'. He called the proposal's objectives 'vague and imprecise' and said the disadvantages will be definite and specific. 'We will be deprived of our property rights with no compensation.' "

- from the Napa Valley Register Dec 21, 1967 [the full article is here ]

It needs to be restated that the ability of vintners like Mr. Smith to make wine in this county today is a direct result of property rights that were denied in to property owners in 1968. Being denied the right to subdivide their properties, or sell them for non-ag use, meant the survival of agriculture here while the rest of the Bay Area urbanized.

The purpose of the Ag Preserve was not seen at the time as simply about the protection of an agricultural industry against urban development. It was, in the words of Supervisor Jack Ferguson at the time, that the people of Napa "wish to create for themselves the environment in which they wish to live, and for future generations." It was not about protecting an industry, but a way of life. [the full article is here ]

Measure C, likewise, is all about the environment in which we wish to live.

Will there be economic impacts to the Initiative? Perhaps. But they are as unpredictable as those of the 1968 decision. And unlike 50 years ago, there is much less danger that the impacts will affect current property owners like Mr. Smith. The woodlands protected by the initiative are a limit on future development, most likely undertaken by future owners. As they were in 1968, the negative implications are probably greater for the real estate industry than the wine industry. And for agricultural enterprises and a rural way of life, now as then, dampening the real estate market is a very good thing.

There may be vintners and growers sitting on undeveloped woodland that they had always hoped to plant or sell off to some corporation or plutocrat. With further woodland removal restricted, they can console themselves with the increased value of their existing vineyards. There are probably those that see this as an infringement on their ability to expand their wine production. But it's not the quantity of Napa wine that has led to it's success but it's quality. Indeed, the limited quantity of wine produced in the county is probably a part of its success. As long as Napa's vintners remain committed to quality over quantity, the wine industry can remain healthy, as it is now, whether the hills are clothed in oaks or vines.

The property rights argument, as Mr. Smith presents it in his rants, seems more a philosophical thing, an indignation that government, or mere voters, should curtail his rights. Like it or not, we live in a world of laws that proscribe our rights, and while there can be bad ones, there are also good ones, like the Ag Preserve. Measure C is also a good one. Mr. Smith's net worth may be affected by the Watershed Initiative - though I doubt it - but as with the Ag Preserve, Napa County will be a better environment in which to live, now and for future generations.

3/17/18 NVR LTE Version: Property rights. Again
Frank Hawkins LTE rebuttal to Stuart Smith 3/6/18

Rethinking self interest on initiatives


Christine Tittle - Feb 26, 2018 10:50AM  Share #1832

I am reading with a lot of empathy Leslie Caccamese's letter regarding the Oak Woodlands Watershed Initiative (“Initiative will further enrich the wealthy,” Feb. 20) wherein she bemoans the fact that she received approval for planting only five acres of vines instead of nine on her 12-acre property in the watershed because of a variety of setbacks from historic walls and streams.

As a result, she opted to sell as she "watched her dream fade away." A valued argument at first glance voiced by others as well until one looks at self interest from a wider perspective.

As a Realtor in the Hollywood and Beverly Hills for over 20 years, I devoted five of them contributing to the development of the Mulholland Scenic Corridor Specific Plan, which imposed regulations on the design of homes in order to preserve the spectacular viewshed from this unique 24-mile ridge road that dissects the Los Angeles basin. Try it at night.

Due to the resulting building on the slopes below to preserve views, construction costs increased, causing vacant land owners to cry foul. How wrong they were. Due to the singular views the specific plan preserved, property values reached unprecedented levels in just a few years.

For over 20 years, Bill Hocker's spring-fed pond atop Soda Canyon, above the Rector gorge - the watershed that feeds the Rector reservoir and the town of Yountville - was a unique feature of his property. But in the past few years, the spring kept running dryer and dryer until the pond is now an empty hole. Only a few days ago, the State Water Resources Board sounded the alarm on the diminishing Rector reservoir water levels and on the prospect of imminent water conservation measures in Yountville.

Vineyards are no longer dry-farmed as they were when the Ag Preserve was established; neither were the hordes of tourists and resulting hotels invited by the supervisors when they redefined agriculture to include them just seven years ago. Depending on yields, vineyards of today typically require roughly 50,000 gallons of water per acre or 250,000 gallons for Leslie's five-acre vineyard. Had she been allowed to fulfill her dream, it would have been 450,000 gallons.

Myopic criteria by which increased wine production permits are approved by the Planning Commission relying on environmental impact reports do not consider wide range, long-term impacts. This strains our water infrastructure to unsustainable levels on; not to mention carrying road capacities and other resources.

When the city of Yountville will need to purchase water from other sources (assuming they are available) for tourists’ showers and irrigated vineyards, it will have to pass those increases on to its residents. Calistoga and St. Helena have already done so. Is such a trade-off for Leslie's dream an equitable one?

It is fair to assume that when Leslie sold her property, she did so for a substantial profit. What conditions facilitated this profit? Might the restraining regulations have anything to do with it?

This is where the Mulholland Corridor paradigm comes into play. In that case, it is the preservation of beauty that added value, just as the balanced interplay between vineyards and forests in the Napa Valley does. In the same vein, a helipad at a neighbor's mansion would in the short-term add value to that property while diminishing that of its neighbors and ultimately the entire valley's, including that neighbor's, when dozens of private helicopters start crisscrossing our skies.

Bill Hocker watched his spring-fed pond dry out and his property value decrease. What would Leslie's property be worth if her well were to run dry?

Preserving tree canopy in the watershed helps replenish our water table. Admittedly, limiting the intrusion of agriculture into our forests is only one leg of the puzzle. Limiting the influx of tourists is another. At this critical time, they all point to a rethinking of our personal interests, including financial ones by realizing that our very investment in this valley, however small or large hinges on the preservation of its resources.

The Napa Valley has reached the tipping point where maximizing shortsighted self interest at the expense of the whole diminishes its return.

NVR LTE version 2/26/18: Rethinking self interest on initiatives

Preserving our water resources


Norm Manzer - Feb 23, 2018 8:34AM  Share #1831

While it is well documented that the Ag Preserve has been a remarkable protector of Napa County, it was not always so. We moved to the valley in late 1968 when there were still naysayers about the potential benefit of this first-of-its-kind zoning attempt. Family farming partnerships were at odds with each other as to the eventual outcome, and yet, 50 years later, everyone wants to say they supported it.

During those 50 years, it has been a struggle to try and retain the integrity of this so-called act of preservation. Certainly the most crucial of all threats to that preservation and the ability to care for the residents of Napa County is the availability of adequate water – water for our personal use as well as for continued success of agriculture.

In spite of enforced conservation by St. Helena and Calistoga and subsequent huge increases in their water rates for the next five years, a recent Napa Valley Register story announced that Rector Dam is running out of water for the residents of the Veterans Home and Yountville. Here we are in the middle of winter, and barely a drop of rainfall for January and February with little predicted in the future.

How do we overcome this dilemma? There is no crystal ball that will give us the answer, but only a pragmatic solution can help us through this current problem and into the future. And that solution is the preservation of our watershed areas of Napa County – watersheds that have been removed and destroyed all in the name of agriculture. Where do we get the water to sustain our agriculture if we degrade and destroy the very watersheds that can sustain it?

Enter the current June ballot measure titled the Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative as a means to achieve just that, a sustainable method of collecting and storing water as nature intended. And yet we have a similar group of naysayers, as we did 50 years ago, who can only see limitations looming before them that they feel will hurt their personal bank accounts.

And while the Watershed Initiative was originally drafted by a coalition of concerned citizens with the participation of the Napa Valley Vintners, controversy prevails just like it did when a similar group tried to implement the Ag Preserve.

Fortunately for all of us, a very responsible and respected group of our growers and vintners have stepped forward to praise and recommend a 'yes' vote for the Watershed initiative.

Perhaps you read the Letter to the Editor a few days ago from Warren Winiarski, Andy Beckstoffer, Beth Novak Milliken, Randy Dunn, Dick Maher, Bob Dwyer, Joyce Black Sears, Tom Clark, Yeoryios Appallas and Robin Lail, all urging a 'yes' vote on the Watershed Initiative. What better representation of what Napa County agriculture is and should be than the testimony of this outstanding group of growers and vintners? Thanks to each of them and all of you who recognize the need for the further preservation of Napa County and its agricultural success.

NVR LTE version 2/23/18: Initiative will preserve our water resources

Protecting our Oak Woodlands: the movie


Bill Hocker - Feb 20, 2018 11:09AM  Share #1828

click to enlarge
Transition Berkeley and others are hosting an opportunity to meet the co-authors of the Napa Watershed and Oak Woodlands Protection Initiative and view their film Protecting our Oak Woodlands and Water Future

Thursday, March 1st, 2018
6:30 pm Meet and Greet
7:00 pm Film, Presentation and Discussion

Location:
Historic Fellowship Hall
1924 Cedar St
Berkeley

Watershed protection for the long term


Mike Hackett - Nov 27, 2017 8:55PM  Share #1808

NVR 12/1/17: Proponents file signatures for new Napa watershed and oak woodland initiative

Often times, the loudest voices seem to dominate the conversation and coverage in the news media. We are in an age when disinformation and personal attacks drown out rational discussion and collaboration. We trust that the citizens of Napa County can see through and rise above this.

As the authors of The Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative, Jim Wilson and I are guided by a set of principles, not politics or personal gain. We are focused on sustainability of resources in this valley, and providing a healthy future for residents and winegrowers alike. We are guided by the science and take a long view.

Local voters understand that water affects the quality of life of every resident here. Napa Valley residents understand that we are on the precipice of climate change, and solutions are needed now. The Initiative, slated for inclusion on the June 2018 ballot, represents a step in the right direction. Its purpose is to complement the environmental protections the county wisely established decades ago for agriculture and open space land. It will protect the water quality, biological diversity and economic and environmental health of Napa County’s streams, watersheds and forests and help safeguard the public health, safety and welfare of our residents.

We will be sharing the science, impacts, and stories from our community as we go forward. We have reached out to a broad set of interests in the development of this initiative, working with forestry experts, hydrologists, water experts, government officials, and leading members of the winemaking community to shape the details. While some of the wine grapegrower organizations in the valley might not support our effort to protect the watershed, that does not mean that perspective of the winemaking community is unanimous. Many longstanding farmers in our community, including wine makers, believe that we need to better manage our resources for a sustainable common future, and are in support of this Initiative.

As part of the research that went into writing the Initiative, we listened to the citizens of the valley, and know that the vast majority of residents share our concern for the sustainability of water resources and the need to increase protections of our watershed.

Over the last several weeks, more than 80 supportive volunteers, along with a handful of professionals, have been collecting signatures around the community. Approximately 3,800 valid signatures are required to qualify for the ballot, and in this case more than 7,000 voters energetically stepped forward to sign. The response from our citizens was amazingly supportive. We are optimistic about the success of this Initiative because our residents care about the future of our region. Our residents understand this is about the legacy they want to leave their grandchildren.

We maintain close relations with the winemaking community, and know the majority are concerned for the sustainability of the watershed. They, too, are long-term residents who take the long view about managing our shared resources.

Mike Hackett LTE 11/27/17: Citizens and science take the long view for sustainability of Napa Valley
Nadean Bissiri LTE 12/1/17: The Napa County Oak Woodland Watershed Protection Initiative of 2018

Well protected watersheds benefit all


Yeoryios Apallas - Nov 6, 2017 2:33PM  Share #1796

Much has been written about the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018, and the chicanes it has driven through to become an effective tool for the protection of Mother Earth.

I am a grape grower and a member of the board of the Napa County Farm Bureau (NCFB). My comments reflect my personal views and not those of the NCFB.

For too long now, the promiscuous grant of winery permits has made the Napa Valley a difficult place to navigate by car or other transportation means. Tourism has been a priority for the Valley Board of Supervisors and the Napa City Council. Hotel construction and winery event centers have dominated the agendas of our county and city politicians.

It is undeniable that much, if not all, the available AP land has been already planted and some which has been planted (although a small amount) is now being paved over for event centers. It is also undeniable that pressure will continue the AW zone to remove oak woodlands for vineyards and other construction -- a potentially disastrous policy for the long term economic viability of the Valley.

Meanwhile the temperature of the Earth is undeniably getting higher through global mismanagement. The initiative is trying to right this process.

So, what is the goal of initiative? The proponents of the Woodlands Initiative strongly believe (and I agree with them as a farmer, grape grower, and grandfather) that natural areas along streams and wetlands play a critical role in protecting Napa County water resources by reducing erosion, alleviating flooding, and improving water quality. Trees and vegetation along streams and wetlands, filter water for municipal, rural and agricultural use, reduce water pollution, and provide important habitat for fish and wildlife.

The initiative provides enhanced protection for these areas by preserving forest and riparian habitat along stream corridors and wetlands within the AW zoning district.” See, Purpose and Findings of Initiative.

These are important goals for any civilized and balanced agrarian/commercial/industrial society. If Napa County citizens can do their part while balancing the interests of other affected stakeholders, good for us all. Enlightened government would normally attempt to balance various environmental, commercial, and agricultural interests for the advancement of the public health and welfare.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors, and the Napa City Council have failed miserably in meeting their task. Their myopic, exuberant, and single-minded approach to winery and event center development has hurt us and will continue to hurt us all on so many levels. Thus, the citizens had to take matters into their own hands -- not to girdle the healthy growth of agricultural and commercial enterprises, but to provide much-needed balance.

I wanted to provide another perspective to this debate so that my grape grower and farmer friends can understand what the attempt and goals of the authors (and most recently the enlightened leadership of Napa Valley Vintners) are all about when they crafted this initiative. It’s not always about the “Benjamins” --it’s about the health and sustainability of Mother Earth for the current and future inhabitants of the Napa Valley.

NVR version 11/6/17: Not always about the “Benjamins”
[Editor's note: is it intentional that the titles of the LTE's in the Register are always so cryptic or generic that one can't possibly guess what they're about - BH]

Watershed and Oak Woodland Initiative


Jim Wilson - Oct 26, 2017 10:01AM  Share #1785

This is an ephemeral stream (Class 3) bordered by oaks - initiative proposes to protect areas like these by establishing "no-cut" water quality buffer zones
Dear friends and supporters,

I hope you're doing well. My heart goes out to our many friends who lost their homes in the wildfires. With the recovery of our human and natural communities brings the need for caution and science and common sense. As we regroup and refocus, what are the lessons? I think what we're asking for our watershed health is not only important preemptively, but more important than ever post-emergency. Now is the time to let the watershed heal.

Thanks for your help gathering signatures last year. As you know, it ran into a technical snafu and had to be pulled. The good news is that our revised initiative represents real progress, positioned for greater consensus as a result of our collaboration with the NVV. I think it gives people hope to see our unwavering commitment to enhanced watershed protections. Passing the initiative would be a perfectly sane step forward, and a wonderful win for future generations.

We'd like to qualify for the June ballot. To do that, we need to gather signatures over the next few weeks and get them to John Tuteur by December 5. Please let me know if you'd like to pitch in. Since time is short, we're hiring help this time around. But your commitment and passion are as important as ever. Even a few signatures from your friends and family would help with with our public outreach. I appreciate your understanding.

Can I get a petition to you? Email me to request a petition.

Here are some highlights:

This Initiative provides vital environmental protections for Napa’s precious oak woodlands and watersheds. It is the product of years of discussions among a wide variety of stakeholders in Napa County, all of whom were interested in finding a common-sense approach to protecting our important natural resources and ensuring responsible development. Your signature isn’t an endorsement, but will enable us get this initiative on the June ballot in 2018.

Here are the general provisions.
  1. It will establish “no-cut” buffer zones for forests along streams and wetlands.
  2. It will strengthen existing standards to require a 3:1 ratio for replacing or preserving oak trees when oaks are lost to development. This is better for the ecosystems that depend on these trees, and better for the climate, too! (because healthy forests sequester carbon dioxide and lock away carbon in woody biomass.)
  3. It will establish an Oak Removal Limit. The limit takes effect when 795 additional acres of oak woodlands have been removed. This acreage limit takes into consideration the historic rate of local woodland removal associated with new vineyard development, in accordance with the General Plan's projection of 10,000 acres of new vineyards to be developed by 2030.
Please note that tree removal in accordance with federal, state and local agencies is allowed for fire protection and other hazards.

HEALTHY FORESTS PERFORM IMPORTANT ECO-SERVICES (WILDLIFE, WILDFIRE, EROSION CONTROL)
  • Healthy forests support a wide range of wildlife (flora and fauna), including ecological biodiversity “hotspots” that host rare species. Trees in all stages of the life-cycle provide important habitat for this wildlife.
    Healthy forests provide the root structure and leaf-litter needed to hold soils in place and prevent soil erosion and flooding, particularly on steep hillsides.
  • Healthy forests provide shade, which cools the local environment and helps retain moisture in the air and soil. This reduces wildfire danger.
    In addition, the shade zone under an oak tree retards the growth of grasses and shrubs that can carry fire.
  • Trees pull groundwater up and transpire it to the air. At the same time, tree roots loosen the soil and increase its capacity to absorb water.
  • Dead tree roots provide a conduit for surface water to enter the soil and water table. Dead tree trunks lying on the ground act as a sponge, absorbing and purifying water and retaining soil moisture under the log.
  • The presence of trees slows wind and air circulation, thus reducing the drying of soils and fire fuels.
  • The trunks of mature trees don't burn readily and actually pose an impediment to low-lying ground fires. You may have noticed that most of our oak trees survived the firestorm, and their presence will be vital in helping to prevent erosion in the coming rainy months.

Attached you'll find the Title & Summary, the initiative, and pointers for signature gatherers.

Sincere thanks, on behalf of all of those pulling together for the common good,

Initiative title and summary
Initiative text
Instructions for signature gatherers

Woodland Initiative 2018


Jim Wilson - Oct 7, 2017 9:55AM  Share #1568

Update 2/23/18
NVR 2/22/18: Napa County report looks for flaws in the planned watershed and oak initiative

Update 10/7/17
Mike Hackett LTE 10/7/17: Let’s let the voters decide
Ross Workman LTE 10/6/17: What do we want to protect?
More Ross Workman here

Update 10/2/17
NVR 10/2/17: Napa Valley Vintners now wants more collaboration on watershed initiative
Robert Pursell LTE 10/2/17: Proposed Napa County oak woodlands initiative hurts property owners
NVR 9/28/17: Napa Farm Bureau will oppose oak woodlands initiatives

Update 9/20/17
Andy Beckstoffer LTE 9/20/17: Vote ‘yes’ for the initiative next June
Stuart Smith LTE 9/20/17: NVV is tone deaf when it comes to land-use politics
Dario Sattui LTE 9/19/17: Adamantly opposed to watershed initiative
NVR 9/10/17: Reborn watershed initiative has Napa Valley Vintner backing

9/9/17
Dear friends and supporters of our watershed and oak woodland protection initiative,

Last year, our grass roots organization gathered 6,300 signatures for an initiative to enhance protections for streams and oak woodlands. It was a phenomenal accomplishment and speaks volumes to the support we received from the community. Voters are increasingly aware that the health of the natural environment and human ecology are integrated. They’re concerned, as they should be, and want to have a voice in the matter.

As it turned out, we weren't able to bring our initiative to the ballot. But earlier this year, when leaders in the NVV suggested we partner in the process, it gave us hope we could strike out on a new path that would ultimately succeed. And now we have a revised initiative that we're confident will meet the needs of the present but also protect the needs of generations to come. It is titled, Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018. A copy is attached. Let me know if you have any questions.

We're grateful for the Vintners' bold leadership and their solidarity with neighbors seeking solutions to pressing needs of the natural environment. Please take a look at their bulletin, below, for more information. We'll be gathering signatures soon for the June ballot. You're welcome to join us if you can.

Sincerely grateful, on behalf of all of those pulling together for the common good,

The bulletin of the Napa Valley Vintners announcing the initiative is here.

Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018

The Woodland Initiative of 2016 Archive


Bill Hocker - Apr 15, 2017 10:31AM  Share #1569

Water, Forest, & Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2016

The Initiative website
The Initiative Facebook page

Articles
NVR 4/12/17: Watershed ballot proponents seek California Supreme Court review
James Conaway: Limits on hillside development will rise again
NVR 3/3/17: Appeals court backs Napa County in watershed initiative dispute
SH Star 8/31/16: Angwin Watershed Initiative backers seek Appeals Court decision
James Conaway: Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in comely Napa Valley?
NVR 8/11/16: State court declines to revive Napa watershed measure for November election
NVR 8/1/16: Napa oak ballot measure proponents appeal court decision
Mike Hackett LTE 7/12/16: Napa County watersheds need more protection
WineSpectator 7/20/16: A Battle Over Vines and Trees in Napa Valley?
NVR 7/6/16: Napa County watershed initiative heads toward July 15 court date
NVR 4/5/16: Supervisor candidates tackle environmental issues
NVR 3/29/16: State, local efforts underway to protect oaks
NVR 1/27/16: Proposed initiative targets watershed protection
NVR 3/29/16: State, local efforts underway to protect oaks
NVR 3/12/16: Initiative proponents hope to defuse opposition
NVR 1/27/16: Proposed Initiative targets watershed protection
NVR 3/4/04: Setback for setbacks: O, P lose
SF Gate 2/27/04: Napa Valley divided over competing land-use measures (O & P)
NVR 1/8/04: Advocates line up behind ballot measures O and P
LTE 7/11/03: Setback foes feed fear, lack facts
John Tuteur LTE 4/2/03: Setbacks might boost land values
NVR articles on the the 2002-2004 conservation battle
NYTimes 7/11/99: In Wine Country, Can White or Red Ever Be Green?

Documents:
Appellate Courts Case Information Case A149153 Wilson et al vs Napa County et al
Napa County Conservation Regulations (1991, 2007)
County Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan (2010)

Books:
James Conaway: The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley The watershed conservation battle at the turn of the millennium.

Woodland Initiative Update, Jan 2016


Jim Wilson - Jan 11, 2017 3:52PM  Share #1371

Dear friends of the Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative,

Our heartfelt gratitude goes to amici standing with us, and to all those who have worked so hard over the last several months preparing our appeal. Amici letters are attached. Please let me know if you haven't seen the opening and reply briefs and would like to.

On August 22, our attorneys at Shute Mihaly & Weinberger filed a Notice of Appeal with the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco. Yesterday, the Court granted our request to hear our case on an expedited basis, which means it will be heard and resolved prior to August 29.

Here's a summary of the amici letters:

1. Eric Biber, UC Berkeley School of Law, on why oak trees matter, and why their protection under current law is inadequate. In particular he explains why the concept of best management practices (BMPs) for oak woodlands requires that BMPs be able to be modified to reflect changing conditions and scientific information.

Amici are:
California Native Plant Society
Center for Biological Diversity
Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC)
Sierra Nevada Alliance

2. Robin Johansen of Remcho Johansen & Purcell LLP, on why the initiative complies with the full text rule, and why upholding the trial court's reasoning seriously distorts the full text rule in ways that would gravely affect the initiative process statewide.

Amici are:
California Wildlife Foundation
California Native Plant Society
Corporate Ethics International (CEI)
Environmental Defense Center (EDC)
Forests Forever
Forest Unlimited
Friends of Harbors, Beaches, and Parks (FHBP)
Greenbelt Alliance
Planning & Conservation League (PCL)
Save The Bay

3. Nielsen Berksamer Parrinello Gross & Leoni LLP, on why the initiative fails to comply with the full text rule.

Amici are:
Winegrowers of Napa County
Napa Valley Vintners
Napa County Farm Bureau
Napa Valley Grape Growers

4. Cota Cole LLP, on why cities and counties believe the appellant's position is unworkable and would cause confusion among election officials statewide.

Amici are:
League of California Cities
California State Association of Counties (CSAC)



Chronology of events, taken in part from SMW legal briefs, is below:

In 2015, proponents began work on a countywide voter initiative to protect forests and tree canopy near streams, wetlands, and oak woodlands in Napa County. A primary goal of the initiative is to complement the County’s landmark 1990 initiative (Measure J) by establishing critical additional water quality buffer zones in the County’s Agricultural Watershed zoning district. The initiative aims to strengthen protections for Napa County’s threatened streams, forests, and oak woodlands.

In January 2016, proponents formally commenced the initiative process by filing with the County a Notice of Intention to Circulate Petition, along with the full text of the proposed initiative and a request for County Counsel to prepare the official ballot title and summary. County Counsel reviewed the entire Initiative and prepared the required title and summary.

On March 1, 2016, proponents published the official ballot title and summary in the Napa Valley Register, thereby notifying the public of the initiative’s chief points and purposes.

Proponents and their volunteer supporters then began circulating the Initiative Petition among County voters for signatures. Ultimately, proponents collected 6,298 signatures, well in excess of the 3,791 valid signatures necessary to qualify the Initiative for the ballot. On May 11 the signature packets were provided to the Registrar of Voters.

On June 6, 2016, the Napa County Registrar of Voters issued a certificate that the initiative had qualified for placement on the ballot. Three days later, in an abrupt turnaround, the Registrar announced that he was rejecting the petition because County Counsel had advised him that it did not comply with the “full text” requirement of Elections Code section 9101.

Because this action violated the Registrar’s ministerial duty to certify qualified initiative petitions, proponents promptly filed a writ action asking the trial court to direct the Registrar to place the initiative on the ballot for the November 2016 election.

On June 15, 2016, appellants filed a mandamus action in the trial court challenging the Registrar’s ministerial action.
On July 15, 2016, the writ petition was denied in Napa Superior Court.

On July 27, appellants filed an “emergency” petition for writ of mandate with the First District Court of Appeal, which was summarily denied.

On August 8, appellants filed an “emergency” Petition for Review with the California Supreme Court, which was denied.

On August 22, 2016, appellants filed a Notice of Appeal with the First District Court of Appeal. Proponents are asking this Court to find that: (1) the Initiative Petition complies with the Elections Code’s “full text” requirement; (2) the Registrar’s refusal to certify the petition violated the Elections Code; and (3) the initiative must be placed on the ballot for the County’s next general election in June 2018. To avoid irreparable harm to their constitutional rights to have their initiative placed before the voters in a timely fashion, proponents are asking the Court to issue its decision in this case no later than August 29, 2017.

By this appeal, the proponents of the Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative seek to safeguard what our Supreme Court has repeatedly described as “one of the most precious rights of our democratic process.” Elections Code section 9101 provides that initiative petitions submitted to county election officials must contain “the full text” of the proposed measure. The Initiative provisions at issue require the County Planning Director, in reviewing oak tree removal permits, to determine if an applicant’s proposed remedial measures are consistent with “best management practices” set forth in the County’s Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan. The trial court found that the Initiative’s cross-reference to these best management practices effectively “enacted” them by implication and that the “text” of the Initiative therefore should have included the language of the BMPs in their entirety. Because the Initiative Petition did not include this language, the trial court held that the Petition did not satisfy the Elections Code’s full text requirement.

Our attorneys hold that the trial court’s decision radically departs from existing full text jurisprudence. In reviewing the validity of voter-sponsored initiatives, the courts have emphasized “the fundamental nature of the people’s constitutionally enshrined initiative power” and “the well-established judicial policy to apply a liberal construction to this power wherever it is challenged.” Consistent with this well-established policy, the courts have repeatedly rejected attempts by hostile legislative bodies and officials to transform the clear-cut provisions of the Elections Code into a labyrinth of arcane requirements.

Between art and reality on oak woodlands


Stephen J Donoviel - Aug 29, 2016 10:14AM  Share #1480

Like others, two of the front-page articles in the Aug. 17 edition related to Napa Valley's oak woodlands caught my attention. One concerned "The Memory of a Tree” ("Oak-themed 'Memory of a Tree' mural to adorn Yountville gateway"), about the Yountville residents' wise choice to use the design by artists Sofia Lacin and Hennessy Christophel for murals to grace the Highway 29 underpass and the authorities for providing the resources to complete them.

It appears the artists' conceptual framework recognizes the history and significance of the mighty oaks to Napa Valley as well as their markedly diminishing numbers. This will, I hope, remind all of us, residents and passing tourists alike, of the significant role these disappearing giants play in our well-being by filtering the water we drink and the air we breathe as well as lending beauty to our surroundings.

The second article ("City of Napa, Walt Ranch reach agreement on water quality") centered around one of the major causes of the ongoing and increasing diminution of the oak woodlands, namely destruction/clear-cutting of significant numbers of trees (think filters) to make way for various entrepreneurial projects, e.g., the Walt Ranch (an operation reportedly held by Hall Brambletree Associates from Texas), which is not the only project, but certainly one, if not the biggest due to its size and widespread destruction/alteration of all or at least most aspects of the environment across the huge property.

It seems there is general agreement that the watersheds, particularly the Milliken, which delivers water to the residents of Napa city that is described as "pristine" (water currently being filtered by the mighty oak and other vegetation, the composition and configuration of the geological environment and relative absence of impact of man-generated pollutants), may be negatively impacted if Walt Ranch is allowed to proceed. The article references prior documents that indicated that to maintain the quality of the city water supply fouled by the project, filters costing an estimated $20 million would be necessary and the expense would be passed on to existing water customers.

Reportedly, Walt Ranch officials balked at picking up the tab. It's not clear if this would be a one-time expense or a periodic necessity like replacing the filter on a Brita home filter. For whatever reason, these details/concerns were dropped and city officials agreed to sign off on the project if the county includes requirements that Walt Ranch "monitor runoff water at nine locations and take steps to deal with problems that might arise."

I'm sorry but this seems like a very poor deal for the environment and everyone in it, except those directly connected to the Walt Ranch, because once the geology is disturbed and the tens of thousands of trees are destroyed, there is no going back to nature's filtration systems (not for generations to come) and residents are left with the bill for the filters.

If anyone is interested in seeing the speciousness of the argument that planting saplings (welcome as they are) will mitigate clear-cutting of mature oaks, they can judge for themselves by walking parts of our new bike path, or wander along the Yountville drainage collector outfalls where 10 to 15 years ago county flood control officials planted filling-in saplings along the banks. While they appear to be doing well, having been planted on creek banks, I think no one would argue that they even come close to approaching the size or filtering/soil stabilizing/shade capacity of a mature oak.

Another issue of significant concern, that of the pumping of hundreds of millions of gallons of water from our aquifers, was brought into sharp focus by an article in the August volume of National Geographic titled "To the Last Drop" authored by Laura Parker. The article chronicles in poignant fashion the draining of what is said to be North America's largest aquifer, the Ogallala that spans several central states. Reasons she identifies include the farmers' expansionistic over-farming in the quest for more income (an example, of what I think some politicians refer to as "growth" when occurring with businesses, communities, states, etc.), their unwillingness to self-regulate the amount of water they were pumping, even with the knowledge that, despite rain/snow fall of 50 to 100 percent above average, the aquifer did not recharge to previous levels and wells ran dry, as well as their officials' unwillingness to impose limits.

Maybe Napa County and the rest of the state -- certainly the Central Valley, which is already sinking -- have reached the tipping point where too much of a good thing leads to a disaster like that in the states served by the Ogallala aquifer. As a friend recently queried, "When is enough enough?" If subscribers have not read Ms. Parker's article, perhaps you can find the time to do so and hopefully we will treat "Yountville Tree Mural" with more respect and care than we have been doing with the real ones.

James Conaway on the Woodland Initiative


Bill Hocker - Aug 25, 2016 11:03AM  Share #770

James Conaway on the bulldozing of the Oak Woodland Initiative in his blog "Nose":
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in comely Napa Valley?

And from 4/23/15
Geoff Ellsworth sends this link to the Napa Broadcasting radio interview with author James Conway who is no doubt beginning to work on a third book documenting the forces that have shaped and will shape Napa County. The interviewer is Jeff Schechtman.

A Walled Garden of Eden – Jim Conaway talks about Napa’s winery growth and the ideal of agriculture

A quote in an interview filled with quotes: "Go back to agriculture. The more of this [tourism] you have, by definition, the less agriculture you have. You have to take land out of agriculture to accommodate these changes. There's no way around that now. Napa is too small."

Conaway just wrote this article remunerating on Jefferson and wine, perhaps as a lead-in to the issues that might be covered in a new book:
Napa Valley and the Jeffersonian Ideal

His two previous books on the Napa Valley:
Napa: The Story of an American Eden
The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley

Woodland Initiative bulldozed


Bill Hocker - Jul 22, 2016 10:02AM  Share #1278

NVR 7/22/16: Napa Superior Court ruling keeps oak woodland measure off ballot

The Court has ruled against the backers of the petition judging that the full text of current voluntary best management practices, slated to become binding law if the initiative were passed, were referenced but not included in the petition materials and that the 6300 signatures are thus invalid.

The decision is here.

A sad day for the survival of the woodlands and the will of the people.

The initiative is not quite the naive exercise that opponents wish to portray. It is part of a larger discussion going on here, in Sonoma County and in San Luis Obispo County on the impacts that continued conversion of watershed lands, lands that act as a filter for the water in streams supporting aquatic life and for the water we drink, will have on water quality if the conversions continue.

In the specific case of Walt Ranch, the city's Water General Manager, Joy Eldredge, has taken issue in this letter with the developer's EIR, and the County's support of it, regarding the potential impacts that the project will have on the water quality of the Miliken Reservoir that supplies a portion of the city's water. She is just as concerned about the extensive amount vineyard conversion about the Hennessey Reservoir that supplies most of the city's water. She is not naive about the threats to her city's drinking water.

And the State's Regional Water Board is right now in the process of vetting a major Environmental Impact Report related to the "proposed General Waste Discharge Requirements for Vineyard Properties located in the Napa River and Sonoma Creek watersheds (WDRs)" in the face of ever increasing amount of watershed vineyard conversion. The documents related to this EIR are here. The request for comments is here and the EIR is here.

And these concerns are at the heart of the documentary "Russian River: All Rivers" that has been making the rounds this last year showing the impacts that vineyard conversion is beginning to have on the Russian River.

The Woodland Initiative was probably challenged and scuttled not at the insistance of the county that had already certified it for the ballot, but at the prodding of the Napa wine and development industries, which, in their concern for ever increasing profits, have begun to promote vineyard conversion in ever more remote areas, just as they promote new winery construction, as a means to increase property marketability rather than a need to supply and process grapes. These industries seem more intent and aggressive than ever, following the year spent on due diligence at APAC and the election of their supervisorial candidate, to continue the development trend that promises to suburbanize the watersheds and urbanize the valley floor in the next 50 years.

Articles
NVR 7/18/16: Napa judge to decide fate of oak woodland protection initiative
Wine Spectator 7/20/16: A Battle Over Vines and Trees in Napa Valley?
SLO Tribune: 6/14/16: SLO County pursues oak protections after hundreds of trees removed for Justin vineyard

Woodland Initiative Court hearing July 15th


Lisa Hirayama - Jul 13, 2016 9:11PM  Share #1270

WATER, FOREST AND OAK WOODLAND PROTECTION INITIATIVE - Friday July 15th 2016 alert! Please mark your calendar.

NVR 7/6/16: Napa County watershed initiative heads toward July 15 court date

In case you haven’t heard by now, Napa County verified this petition in June and then disqualified it four days later on a technicality even though 6300 signatures were collected.

The backers of the petition filed a lawsuit asking the Napa County Superior Court to require John Tuteur to present the initiative to the Board of Supervisors or place it on the Nov. 8 ballot. The hearing will be held this Friday, July 15, at 9:00 am. The address is 1111 Third Street (the corner of Main and Third) in the Courthouse next to the County Administrative Bldg. It will be upstairs in “F” court.

This is one of those times that a large turnout will be extremely important. Judge Price needs to see that County residents want a chance to vote on this initiative, and a packed courtroom is the only way to convey that message. If you are able to attend, it would be greatly appreciated, and bring extra friends and family.

Thanks for your support and hope to see you Friday.


Jim Wilson - Jul 12, 2016 9:17PM

Dear petitioners and supporters of the Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative,

Hello! Thanks again to each and every one of us, our grassroots support and wisdom and strength. We can all feel good about coming this far, about the time and hard work we've poured into our effort to help provide better protections for our precious watersheds.

In the pause since we qualified our initiative some of us have been working every day getting ready for the campaign. We don't have much time, and there's plenty of opportunity for more volunteers as we look forward to success at the polls in November. Will you please join us?

Community education, letter-writing, recruiting, fund-raising, social media. You name it, we need lots of help with it. Full time or an hour - now's the time. Would you care to sign up?

There is one thing we can all do right now. Show up to our hearing in Superior Court this Friday. Bring your friends. The hearing should take an hour or so. Note: the courtroom is located in the "new" courthouse, not the historic courthouse that was damaged in the earthquake. Here's the invitation Lisa Hirayama sent to a smaller list today:

Here's a link to our website. You can make a contribution here.
http://www.protectnapawatersheds.org

and our Facebook page.

Stop Napa's watershed deforestation July 15th


Mike Hackett - Jul 13, 2016 7:38PM  Share #1273

Recent widespread news reports concerning controversy over a San Luis Obispo County wine company bulldozing hundreds of acres of oak trees to plant vineyards have left many Napa County residents scratching their heads: The same devastation is taking place in Napa, much faster and on a far greater scale.

This deforestation project by Justin Wines in Central California is heartbreaking, and should help bring awareness to the current onslaught in Napa County.

We are right now confronting project after project calling for deforestation in our watersheds, and residents are alarmed — our county officials have yet to act.

Consequently, a coalition of Napa County citizens has drawn up and collected more than 6,300 signatures on a voter initiative for the Nov. 8 ballot — the Napa County Water, Forest and Oak Woodlands Protection Initiative of 2016.

Its primary aim is to safeguard the county’s watersheds, water sources and forests. We need this ballot measure to restore balance between the wine tourism industry and the rights of local residents and communities, and to provide long-term protections for our oak woodlands and our water future.

This should concern residents of the Bay Area as well. The Napa River is the second-largest freshwater source emptying into the bay—a water body shared by millions. The Napa River has been impaired for decades and we need protections for the water sources that drain into it.

Napa County Planning Department records show nearly 3 million gallons of additional wine will be needed to satisfy the myriad winery expansions on file with the county. That would require an estimated 5,000 additional acres of new vineyards, sacrificing much of the county’s water supply and natural beauty—its forested hillsides and watersheds—to meet the demand.

Right now, we have at least 29 erosion control/vineyard conversion applications on file awaiting approval, according to Jim Wilson, vice-president of Defenders of East Napa Watersheds. “We don’t have any current protections for our oak woodlands, so we need the Initiative for a healthy eco-system,” he said.

“California has lost more than a million acres of oak-related lands in recent decades. These oak woodlands,” he said, “are responsible for water purification and replenishment and are essential to the environment and watershed health. Napa has the highest concentration of oak woodlands of any county in California, and this iconic ecosystem is disappearing at an alarming rate. This is significant because two thirds of Napa County’s drinking water comes from its oak-dotted watersheds.“

Joy Eldredge, Napa City Water Department general manager, has written: “The county should prevent the shifting of vineyard development impacts onto the city and its public drinking water customers.” The water manager goes on to state that “the City has seen a 400 percent increase in the level of effort required to treat Hennessey Reservoir for algae problems.”

This water quality degradation is due to vineyard development and run-off above the reservoir’s watershed. At times, 70 percent of Napa city’s water supply comes from Lake Hennessey.

Large vineyard developments above water reservoirs could require taxpayer money to clean up these reservoirs, if such developments take place.

Napa’s other reservoir faces a large vineyard development above it called Walt Ranch, associated with Hall Winery, which would cut and clear 24,000 trees, and the City of Napa water manager believes it could cost the taxpayers up to $20 million to clean up the reservoir’s water if this project is approved.

“The juggernaut of the wine industry’s encroachment into hillside forests threatens to bring serious impacts for humans, animals and the environment and after five years of drought, it’s only going to get worse,” says Wilson.

Napa Valley, is noted for its ideal terroir and climate for grape growing. More than 40 years ago, visionary Napa County activists such as Volker Eisele pushed through farsighted policies to protect the valley floor for what was considered its highest and best use—agriculture, including wine grape production.

Now, however, the accelerating demand from international corporations and wealthy individuals to convert thousands more forested acres to vineyards is pushing development onto sensitive hillsides and natural areas, threatening Napa County’s microclimates and future water security.

Although the Napa County Water, Forest and Oak Woodlands Protection Initiative recently garnered more than 6,300 petition signatures to qualify for the November ballot, it is currently held up by the county over an alleged minor technical issue.

A lawsuit filed by initiative proponents will be heard in Napa County Superior Court on July 15 and a favorable ruling would allow the measure to go forward on schedule. In the case of an unfavorable ruling, the matter will be appealed to a higher court.

The Superior Court hearing is set for Friday, July 15 at 9 a.m. at 1111 Third St. in Napa.

More information is here

Water, Forest, & Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2016


Bill Hocker - Mar 13, 2016 9:14AM  Share #1181

This post now has its own page here

The Initiative website
The Initiative Facebook page
The Initiative Text
NVR 3/29/16: State, local efforts underway to protect oaks
NVR 3/12/16: Initiative proponents hope to defuse opposition
NVR 1/27/16: Proposed initiative targets watershed protection
(The property-rights argument is already being advanced against the initiative in the comments. The hedging of property rights through zoning and ordinances, of course, is the reason an agricultural economy and the Napa wine industry exists.)

In the 1980's, with the Napa Valley floor almost fully developed in vineyards and a continuing flow of wannabes wishing to fulfill their Napa dreams, vineyard development in the hilly watershed areas surrounding the valley began to take off. Following several vineyard clearing projects in the late 1980's that resulted in land erosion and river sedimentation, Napa county passed Conservation Regulations in 1991 that established stream setbacks and maximum deforestation limits.

By 2002 it was apparent to some that the effectiveness of the 1991 measures were in doubt, given the magnitude of development in the watersheds, unless more protective measures were put in place. A stringent ordinance was proposed by environmentalists in 2002. In 2003 the Board of Supervisors passed a short term stream setback ordinance, banning commercial development within 25-150' from streams. Two measures were placed on the 2004 ballot in response: Measure O, an outgrowth of the 2002 effort, was created with 350-1000' setbacks and limits on deforestation. A counter Measure P, was created by the wine industry in line with the BOS 2003 ordinance. Both measures were defeated after a campaign by "land steward" property rights advocates.

In 2001 the State of California established an oak woodlands conservation fund to provide funding for the protection of oak woodlands. In 2010 a Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan was produced by Napa stakeholders and adopted by the county as a voluntary plan to be used by entities that wanted to tap into the conservation fund. This document serves as the current basis for woodland protection in the county.

Since 1991 vast areas of the watersheds have been deforested and the landscape in the hills, seen on google maps, now resembles Vietnam after the war rather than the forests that once defined the hills around the valley. In some areas like the Rector watershed pictured here the deforestation is substantial. And another 300 acres of vineyard conversion is currently under review by the county.

As the California drought continues, concern has again heightened over the loss of forest and woodlands that retain and filter surface water for municipal reservoirs, over the depletion of groundwater and toxic runoff from ever more agriculture, and over the urban development of the watersheds for tourism facilities and vineyard housing estates. The relationship between the deforestation process and GHG emmisions has also become a concern in the county's climate action plan. The threat to the water resources and the rural environment of the county has never been greater. As with the impact of expanding tourism and industrial development on traffic and affordable small town community on the valley floor, the question of the long term viability of the watersheds and the commitment to the sustainable rural community envisioned in the county general plan is now back on the agenda.

Articles
NVR 3/4/04: Setback for setbacks: O, P lose
SF Gate 2/27/04: Napa Valley divided over competing land-use measures (O & P)
NVR 1/8/04: Advocates line up behind ballot measures O and P
LTE 7/11/03: Setback foes feed fear, lack facts
John Tuteur LTE 4/2/03: Setbacks might boost land values
NVR articles on the the 2002-2004 conservation battle

Documents:
Napa County Conservation Regulations (1991, 2007)
County Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan (2010)

Books:
James Conaway: The Far Side of Eden: New Money, Old Land, and the Battle for Napa Valley The watershed conservation battle at the turn of the millennium.




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