|Mar 11, 2014|
Update 6/20/21: The Great Napa Fires
The Atlas Fire of 2017 and the Hennessey and Glass Fires of 2020 have changed the landscape of Napa County. The knoll in the photo above was probably burned along with hundreds of thousands of acres of woodland on both sides of the Napa Valley. What impact will that have on the silting of Napa's reservoirs?. Will there be an impact from the millions of gallons of fire retardant sprayed on the fires? Will there be enormous pressure to plant vineyards as a way to restore the hillsides? Will the fire encourage or discourage more vineyard estate development? Will the concept of a watershed initiative to protect woodlands be even more important now that much of the woodlands have burned? Time will tell.
Update 10/20/18: Measure C aftermath
In the June 2018 primary election Measure C, the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative, failed by 650 votes out of 37,500 votes cast. The contentiousness of the campaign was seen by many as not just a vote on the protection of watersheds but a referendum on the pace of development in the county as a whole. The supervisors, mindful of the community split that the vote represented, have renewed a Strategic Plan process to seek out a consensus on County priorities over the next three years.
Update 9/15/17: Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018
Following the disqualification of the 2016 Woodland Initiative despite the effort made to collect over 6300 signatures, the initiative authors spent this last year revising the initiative in consultation with members of the Napa Valley Vintners. They have made a new proposal which, unfortunately is taking a bit of push-back from other stakeholders.
Update 11/6/16: County alternative to state-required SGMA plan
The County has held a WICC workshop on Nov 3rd to present and take comments on a draft of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Basin Analysis report that will be presented to the BOS on Dec 13th 2016. (No mention of groundwater impacts in the watersheds or of the impacts of continued tourism growth, of course!) The report is presented as an alternative to the requirements of the State's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The County is documenting its groundwater management activities here. And more links to the ongoing County's Groundwater Sustainability Management Alternative are here
Update 4/2/16 GW management report
The county has produced their 2nd annual Napa County Comprehensive Groundwater Monitoring Program 2015 Annual Report. One of the documents included in the presentation of the report to the Supervisors (Item 9H here) is PW Dir. Leaderer's letter to Dir. Morrison regarding the possible expansion of the MST groundwater deficient area into the area of Soda Canyon Road at the Trail. Also included is the Luhdorff & Scanlamini proposal ($89,000) by the hydrologic engineer to provide a study of the area. More on this area is here
Update 1/28/16 Oak Woodland Initiative
A proposed initiative has been put forward for inclusion on the June 2016 ballot. Its purpose is to begin to preserve the forests of Napa county and the protection that forests provide watersheds, stop the depletion of the aquifers under the watersheds and the depletion of wildlife habitat all of which are in danger as a result of continued vineyard development in the hills surrounding the Napa Valley. It is the Water, Forest, & Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2016. More about it is here.
Original Post 3/11/14
For the past few years the county has approved 500,000 gal/yr of additional winery capacity per year. Assuming 75% of source grapes must come from Napa, that implies 500-750 new vineyard acres planted each year. Most, if not all, must be planted in hillside areas. Four major hillside projects have been in the works for years: Soscol Mountain Vineyards, Upper Range Vineyard Project , the Circle S Ranch project already approved near us on the Milliken watershed and adjacent to it the Walt Ranch Project (it's site is just visible on the left flank of the ridge in the photo from Atlas Peak) and which I will continue to follow on our Walt Ranch page.
There are now also more vineyard conversions on our Rector Watershed. I have created a separate page to document issues concerning the Rector Watershed.
We do know that some areas are beginning to experience shortages. The Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay (MST) area just south of Soda Canyon has been an area of investigation since the 1960's and is now the County's poster child for water recycling (Walt Ranch will further deplete Milliken Creek). Mt. Veeder ridge is already having to truck water from the valley to supply it's needs, and wells are beginning to go dry. [And as of 2018, the Rector watershed has become a concern.]
Only now with the acceptance in April 2014 by the Board of Supervisors of the Napa County Groundwater Monitoring Plan is the problem beginning to be studied. The work is the result of the Groundwater Resources Advisory Committee (GRAC) and documented on their final presentation on groundwater monitoring. Unfortunately, the eastern and western mountains of the County have not been included in the monitoring program. Given that most new vineyard development seems to be taking place in these areas that seems a shame. Perhaps it is felt that knowing the state of the aquifer under the valley floor says something about the aquifers in the hills. It is our hope that a monitoring program may also be instituted here to insure that the enormous amount of watershed conversion that is taking place does not produce the shortages that are beginning to happen in the western hills around Mt. Veeder road.
Each new vineyard or winery project may or may not have impacts on the availability of neighbors water supply. These potential issues are presented by neighbors at each hearing for new projects and are generally dismissed (along with other issues that might change the quality of life in the neighborhood) by the County and developers as NIMBYism.
No testing is done before these projects occur so no one knows what the water situation is. And the State refuses to make public secret well logs filed by drillers at the time wells are dug which might be enlightening. [The 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in response to the state's water crisis now has made this information public]. The county uses a nice round .5 acre-ft per acre when calculating the availability of water on hillside sites - regardless of how many other adjacent wells have come into production. It is an arbitrary and unverified number. [The County has responded to this concern and their Water Availability Analysis was modified in 2015 to require site-specific Tier 2 analysis in the watersheds].
New wells, of course, are dug at greater and greater depths to insure that the neighbors run out before they do. If a neighbor's well runs dry the developer and the County tend to claim that the old wells just aren't deep enough and need to be replaced (at whose expense?).
The County needs to take a more serious approach to these issues at the approval stage with monitoring of neighbors wells before and after a new well is dug. The depletion of the water that supplies a neighbor's well water is not just a NIMBY issue - it is a depletion of the water that supplies us all.
2018 Groundwater Sustainability; Northeast Napa Management Area (trail at soda canyon rd)
County comprehensive Timeline of Water Availability Analysis efforts from 1963 to present
Napa County Groundwater Sustainability Annual Report: Water Year 2017
Map and table of new vineyards under review by the county
11/3/16 WICC workshop documents with draft alternative to SMGA requirements
County's groundwater management page
2015 Napa County Comprehensive Groundwater Monitoring Program Report.
The Trail at Soda Canyon is drying up!
Walt Ranch Page
County General Plan Conservation Element
County Ordinance #1219 (60-40 rule) 2003
County Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan
Watershed Information Center & Conservancy (WICC)
Mt Veeder Groundwater and Watershed Information
2012 County MST presentation with map
2015 Napa County Water Availability Analysis
2007 Napa County Water Availability Analysis Fair Share
USGS Circular 1376 Streamflow Depletion by Wells
UC Oak Woodland Management Policy Links
Policy Analysis:Conversion of Native Habitat to Vineyard UC OWM paper
USGS 1960 Geology and Ground Water in Napa and Sonoma Valleys
Geoff Ellsworth LTE 9/29/21: Consider Napa countywide/unified water management system
Guardian 9/3/21: Prosecco protesters rise up against ‘ruthless expansion’ of Italian winemakers
Rob Rhyno LTE 8/12/21: Recommendations for Napa County’s water, forested woodlands and watersheds
NVR 8/5/21: Potential long-term drought makes Napa Valley grapegrowers nervous
NVR 7/2/21: Napa County's vineyard growth debates continue beneath surface
SH Post 11/4/20: Sorry Lester Hardy, but the Farm Bureau PAC is NOT our friend.
NVR 2/10/20: Watershed forum looks to defuse Napa County water issues
Ross Middlemiss LTE 10/17/19: Napa County doesn't need more vineyards
NVR 10/25/18: Environmental group files a lawsuit to stop Napa mountain vineyard
LA Times 12/5/17: Climate scientists see alarming new threat to California
NVR 10/181/7: Napa County wildfires bring water quality challenges
Harmon-Stornetta LTE 5/29/17: Help us save our watershed
NVR 2/25/17: Napa County says groundwater picture continues to be good
Donoviel LTE 2/26/17: Concerns over water plan
NVR 4/11/17: Proposed vineyard runoff controls worry Napa vintners
Hackett LTE 1/29/17: Stand up for your rights
Wagner LTE 9/2/16: County has failed to protect city of Napa's last high quality water supply
Desert Sun 3/15/16: California in Overdraft
NVR 1/27/16: Proposed initiative targets watershed protection
SR PressDemocrat 3/21/15: Sonoma gets set to tackle groundwater
NVR 3/8/15: Napa valley water table holding steady in drought
NVR 1/3/15: City water hits the road by truck
Sacramento Bee 7/6/14: Frustration mounts over secrecy of California's well drilling logs
NVR 6/28/14: Groundwater pumping will be under county scrutiny this summer
NVR 3/2/14: Dry wells spur Mount Veeder water dispute
SH Star 8/5/14: Hall Wines vineyard project concerns neighbors
NVR 2/9/09: Big vineyard plans for east side of valley
Wines & Vines 1/6/09: Major Vineyards Proposed in Napa
NVR 12/24/2000: Dodd's backers have fought county on hillside issues History as prologue.
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