SodaCanyonRoad | Gallo Stagecoach North ECP/EIR

Gallo Stagecoach North ECP/EIR
Bill Hocker | Jun 28, 2023 on: The Rector Watershed

DEIR reduction aternatives

Update 6/27/23
NVR 6/30/23: Napa County approves pared-back Stagecoach Vineyard expansion
Notice of Tentative Decision
The Tweedledum Alternative (on the left) wins the battle.

An interesting article in the NY Times a few days ago: Something Was Messing With Earth’s Axis. The Answer Has to Do With Us.
The pumping of water resources has become as existentially significant to the planet as the pumping of fossil fuel resources.

Stagecoach North will suck up 45 acre feet of groundwater each year, a drop in the groundwater bucket which consultants confidently predict will be replaced by future rainfall. But the reality, shown in the NY Times article, is that, in aggregate, groundwater, just like oil, will never be replaced as long as humanity doesn't drastically change its ways. And the county, as is evident in vineyard approvals, seems reluctant to change its ways. (The project will also add 317 metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere each year toward that other existential threat.)

Despite a significant amount of rainfall this winter, my pond, which used to retain some water through the year, is now dry at the beginning of June. At a micro level it shows that even enough precipitation to recreate Tulare Lake will do little to replenish the groundwater we've used up. No consultant predictions will ever be more convincing to me than the reality on (or in) the ground.

At least in the case of Stagecoach, the water is used for an industrial product that is efficiently distributed worldwide - unlike the many vanity vineyards being created as one-off come-ons for the tourism industry, itself an additional cause of climate change and water depletion.

Update 1/17/23
The county has unveiled the FEIR for the project. Acting County Planning Director Donald Barrella has sent a notification that the County will be shortly certifying the FEIR, perhaps in mid Feb. Contact donald.barrella@countyof with questions or comments.

The FEIR proposes some mitigations to the DEIR in response to pushback from commenters and perhaps the changing political climate within which the County now operates. The principal change is the reduction in vineyard acreage by about 25 acres. Two alternatives are preresented to reduce the acreage: one reduces vineyard area by adding to the open space to be preserved on the property. The other reduces vineyard area by increasing stream setbacks.

Reducing the developed area might have a positive impact on the amount of GHGs the project would have produced under the DEIR and will add to the land put into conservation easements to insure wildlife migration and species survival. And yet... the project will still be adding about 870 metric tons of CO2 each year including initial deforestation and uprooting and yearly operations, continuing to exacerbate a climate catastrophe that is already occuring. Our governments are still not ready to make the decisions needed to change the apocalyptic climate trajectory if it means constricting capitalism, in this case a few more bottles of wine sold by the largest wine maker in the world.

The FEIR Documents may be here. (The county website is working on fewer and fewer browsers.)
Center for Biolgical Diversity Letter
Amber Manfree Letter

Update 7/2/21
NVR 7/2/21: Napa County's vineyard growth debates continue beneath surface

Update 3/29/21
County Documents including comments submitted on the DEIR have been collected here
Center for Biological Diversity DEIR CEQA rebuttal
Amber Manfree DEIR CEQA rebuttal
Bill Hocker letter of concern

Update 3/11/21
Amber Manfree writes that a public notice of the Draft Environmental Impact (DEIR) for the Gallo Stagecoach North ECP/EIR has been posted requesting public comment, with comments due by Mon. Mar. 29, 2021 to

Manfree 7 page synopsis of the 300+ page DEIR

You can access Erosion Control Plan documents via the State of California EIR site here. Alternatively, you can access them along with additioanl documents on the County website (here's a direct link to documents [in a very frustrating cutoff format]).

The Soda Canyon Road materials from the Mountain Peak Winery project will be very helpful!

  • Likely negative impacts
  • Increased traffic
  • Reduced fire safety
  • Impacts of runoff on downstream waterways, including threatened species and water supply for the Veteran's Home and Town of Yountville
  • Loss of biodiversity
  • Loss of carbon storage
  • Potential groundwater impacts

Again, questions or comments regarding the project may be addressed to County Planner Donald Barilla at

Update 10/14/19
The County has just sent a Notice of Preparation for the Stagecoach North vineyards EIR. The Erosion Control Plan has been available for some time.

Notice of Preparation of the Draft EIR for Stagecoach North Vineyard Conversion
The County's Stagecoach North documents

Note below the concern that this expansion will become the precedent for the vineyard development of all the ridges surrounding the watershed, in a watershed already burdened by the greatest level of watershed development in the county.

4/23/19 4/23/19: E&J Gallo to Expand Stagecoach Vineyard

Gallo has taken up an expansion of Stagecoach Vineyards first proposed by Jan Krupp but then abandoned when he sold the property. The expansion adds 116 more acres to their existing 600 acres on the Rector Reservoir watershed.

The County documents page is here.

It's interesting to compare the Gallo proposal to Bloodlines, both similar sized proposals. Other than a couple of blocks which may not be developed, the Bloodlines proposal infills a development pattern that has already been established on the Rector Plateau which stays away from the ridgelines. The Gallo proposal pushes all the way up to the ridge, breaking the de facto development boundary and establishing a precedent for development on the rest of the ridges.

The Rector watershed is already the most heavily developed by percentage in the county. The impact of siltation on the capacity of Rector Reservoir has already been raised, and continued development of the the ridgeline slopes will only continue the process as well as further constraining wildlife movement. And of course will add that much more traffic on the road.

The County, at the 4/23/19 BOS meeting, requested $330,000 to contract for an EIR on the project (paid for by Gallo). The EIR will probably take a year of so to be finalized.