Walt Ranch: who's accountable if they're wrong
Gerald Cohn | Jun 2, 2016
In Mr. Warfield's May 8 article in the Napa Valley Register, "So who is missing the point,” he describes the Halls as very nice and generous people because they follow the rules and give to charities. I wonder what the point of view would be from someone raising a family in Circle Oaks and who will have to put up with four years of construction?
The Walt Ranch is 2,300 acres. Divide that by 640 acres per square mile and the result is 3.4 square miles. In all of that property the only place they could find to develop a vineyard with a strong probability that it could be as large as 500 acres and require up to 30 acre-feet of water is right next to Circle Oaks? Circle Oaks is a middle-class community of about 180 homes that has existed since the 1960s. I wonder if this project would be considered if Circle Oaks was a high-end community like Silverado or St. Helena.
To add insult to injury, the plan is to run heavy equipment right through the center of the community on Circle Oaks Drive.
On April 4, I attended a meeting chaired by David Morrison. It was brought up (with pictures) that the road in question and the land surrounding Circle Oaks is unstable and subject to slippage and the environmental impact report did not address this problem.
This problem was illustrated in an article in the Napa Valley Register on May 2, 2016 that reported the damage to Highway 121 due to slippage could cost up to $5.5 million and take several months to repair. As the meeting on April 4 discussed, these are the similar problems that Circle Oaks Drive exhibited, i.e. ground slippage.
It is also interesting that Mr. Morrison had most of April and all of May, but is waiting until June 11 to disclose his findings, after the election on June 7.
To put things in perspective, a 500-acre vineyard is over ¾ of a square mile and can require to 30 acre-feet of water a year. An acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons times 30 equals 9.77 million gallons of water a year just for this one development. There are more than 30 individual parcels on the Walt Ranch. What effect the development of all of these parcels would have on water use, drainage, and possible contamination of the Milliken Watershed is unknown.
Water use: To sum this up, the environmental impact report paid for by the Walt Ranch states that the water use will be mitigated by the monitoring of well water levels. Nowhere is there any provision on who is accountable if Circle Oaks runs out of water and what steps should be taken if this happens. It should be noted that the groundwater study conducted by Slade & Associates states that the irrigation demands of the Walt Ranch Vineyard would not affect the ground water levels in offsite wells. This is the same company that said that the water needs of the Carneros Inn and the Carneros residents could be met. Instead, the Carneros Inn and Carneros residents have to track in water purchased from the city of Napa.
Drainage: The environmental impact report for the Walt Ranch also states that the vineyard will not increase sediment and pollutants being washed off the property during storms because of measures taken by the Walt Ranch project. When Joy Eldredge, Napa Water's General Manager, expressed concerns about the vineyard's runoff polluting the Milliken Reservoir and asked if the Walt Ranch would help pay for the $20 million that would be necessary to upgrade the water treatment plant, the Walt Ranch's response was that the request was "disproportional, given that the project's impact will be less than significant"
Trees: The Halls say that only 12.1 percent of the total trees on Wall Ranch will be cut down. What they do not tell us is that 12.1 percent is approximately 28,000 trees. This makes it hard to believe that the Halls are stewards of the land.
The bottom line is the Wall Ranch project will seriously impact Circle Oaks because the environmental impact reports are a sham. They offer no accountability if the mitigations fail. Who is going to be accountable if Circle Oaks Drive fails, if the Circle Oaks community runs out of water, or if the Milliken Reservoir gets polluted?
It is a sad day when the corporate mantra of profit without accountability trumps the right of locals who give to charities and obey the rules to be able to live in harmony with one's environment. Shakespeare said that it is a fool's prerogative to utter truths that no one else will speak.
NVR version 6/1/16: Who is accountable if they're wrong?
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