The area expansion pushes the excavation pits right up against the property line with the Skyline Wilderness Park and initially required the displacement of some of the trails. In the above photo, taken from the park boundary, the entire foreground will vanish into a 300' pit (click to enlarge). One can anticipate a spectacular view of the operations while appreciating the natural beauties of Napa County, a "before and after" opportunity if ever there was one. The impacts on the park are "potentially significant" and the Park District is definitely not pleased with the mitigations proposed.
The amount of excavation each year will double (now reduced to 1.3 x) under the proposal from their current production. Their request is for both area and depth increases. Therein is the ominous harbinger for the future of Napa County. Syar is a supplier of materials to developers, and they obviously envision a lot of development happening in the next 35 years to justify increasing their output. There is plenty to envision in Napa County even now: Napa Pipe, Watson Ranch, the Gasser developments, the widening of highway 29 to 6 lanes. All of the new projects being built in the valley and of the many traffic mitigations that they will require. And then there is the maintenance of all those existing roads as more and more traffic arrives. A blip in their yearly output will be the 21 miles of roads on Walt Ranch. (Conveniently they can supply the engineered fill to raise the Napa Pipe Site 6' and the concrete for the new county jail without having to go over public roads!)
Syar should not be allowed to chew into any more wilderness area of the county. Who, in this day and age, wants to turn wilderness parks into gravel pits? Even if there is success in curbing the urbanization of Napa county, a fantasy among preservationists at this point, Syar's interest in expanding gravel mining will still be necessary for the urbanization that is happening elsewhere in Northern California, and the quarry expansion will never end. Perhaps it is time for the county to put Syar on notice that an ever expanding quarry should not be a part the county's future and that they might consider using the 35 years to wind down rather than ramp up production.
Using Federal funds, Syar is also engaged in the natural habitat restoration of abandoned mines. Perhaps one mitigation as a condition of approval would be to restore, at its own expense, one acre of existing excavation on the Napa site for each new acre of excavation.
Update 6/10/21 Syar 5-yr review(5 years already?!) Under the Conditions of Approval for Syar's 2016 expansion Surface Mining Permit, monitoring data must be presented to the PC every 5 years. That review is upon us and will be heard by the Planning Commission on June 23, 2021.
"One of the principal project locations is the so-called Pasini Parcel, which has a General Plan designation of Agricultural, Watershed, and Open Space (AWOS). Of note, it appears as though the EIR contains no discussion of the apparent inconsistency between the General Plan's stated goal of preserving agricultural land use, and the conversion of this parcel into use for mining operations."
It's becoming clear that residents have valid legal complaints about the development that Napa County has been pursuing in the last few years. There are impacts that have not been properly considered in the approval process, flagged by residents in the numerous hearings that vet projects, with Supervisors ignoring those concerns as being less-than-significant in order to move the projects ahead. In the past, residents may have been intimidated by the business and government forces arrayed against them. But the level of impact that development is beginning to have on the rural character that residents treasure is no longer possible to ignore, and appeals and lawsuits are becoming the norm.
In this case the judge has highlighted a primary inconsistency not properly discussed in the EIR as required by CEQA: the County is nominally committed in its General Plan to the protection of agriculture, but at the same time has approved a project that is not agriculture on land zoned for agriculture. (like the AmCan solar farm) The judge is not saying that the two are incompatible; only that the EIR failed to discuss and mitigate the conflicting attitude about mining operations on ag land.
If only it were possible to reconsider the same inconsistency of using agricultural lands for entertainment venues and housing estates.
Thank you for pointing out to me that you believe that my statement during the Syar hearing on April 26 contending that air filtration as a mitigation at the Napa Pipe homes is a result of the Syar operation.
I am in the process of researching the issue and will get back to you as I certainly do not wish inaccurate statements attributed to me inserted in the record.
You mentioned that you would email me David Morrison's related analysis on but I have not received it. It would be very helpful in getting to the truth of the matter.
Diane Dillon to George 4/29/16:
I asked David Morrison about the home filtration mitigation that you mentioned. This is what he sent to me.
Mitigation Measure AQ-4 in the Napa Pipe EIR requires the following:
To lessen air quality nuisances from exposure to adjacent heavy industrial uses, the following measures shall be implemented prior to construction of new residences near barge loading/unloading areas:
Prior to occupation of the project by sensitive receptors (e.g., residents), the applicant will develop a detailed site plan that includes features to reduce dust nuisance exposures to future potential residences located near industrial activities. These features shall include the following:
Wind break in the form of mature trees with sufficient density to reduce wind flow. BAAQMD recommends consideration of tiered plantings of trees such as redwood, deodar cedar, and live oak to reduce TAC and PM exposure.
Buffers to avoid placement of residences near or adjacent to active or planned active industrial uses. Adequate buffers shall be determined through site-specific studies that take into account designs for new residences and anticipated future industrial activities or establish a 200-foot buffer.
Install and maintain air filtration systems of fresh air supply either on an individual unit-by-unit basis, with individual air intake and exhaust ducts ventilating each unit separately, or through a centralized building ventilation system. The ventilation system should be certified to achieve a certain effectiveness, for example, to remove at least 80 percent of ambient PM25 concentrations from indoor areas. The air intake for these units shall be located away from areas producing the air pollution (i.e. toward the south).
Require re-routing of nearby heavy-duty truck routes.
Enforce illegal parking and/or idling of heavy-duty diesel trucks in the vicinity.
[Emphasis added for your ease of reading]
This mitigation measure only applies to residences built near the barging operation.
George Caloyannidis to Diane Dillon 5/2/16:
Below is the rationale regarding the need of home air filtration mitigation at the Napa Pipe development as a result of Syar expanded mining operations:
The barge facility operation which is the trigger for the Napa Pipe home air filtration mitigation requirement was purchased by Syar from the Basalt Rock Company in 1986. The pollutants created from that facility are mainly created as a result of importing sand which is an essential ingredient to the Syar products. Asphalt for example consists of 95% aggregates and only 5% of asphalt oils. Lacking sand, Syar is reduced to a mere rock producing quarry.
It follows that the transport, storage and handling of any materials essential to the Syar products and operation - the barge operation in this case - ought to have been part of the Syar expansion EIR. Transportation by barge is not exempt from scrutiny.
All mitigation measures in both kind and duration are contingent on the continued presence of the impacting activity. Once such activity ceases to exist, so does the requirement for its mitigation.
As David Morrison confirmed, the home filtration systems are required as a result of the adjacent industrial facilities and specifically at ones "near barge loading/unloading areas". Any increase in the quantity of imported sand as well as in the duration of this activity, also extends the need for the filtration systems for some 35 years. I may point out that while the filtration systems mitigate indoor activities, they do not do so for outdoor activities for which the Napa Pipe development prides itself. This impact on outdoor activities remained unmitigated. and extending it due to the Syar expansion is a defect in the scope of the Syar expansion EIR.
While one can argue that the barge activity predates and constituted the CEQA baseline for the Napa Pipe development, the expanded activity as a result of the Syar application under consideration does not. No grandfathering argument may be made for the Syar expansion. Outdoor human activity mitigation at Napa Pipe continues to lack and indoor mitigation by air filtration is being extended.
In short, since the barging operation triggers the requirement for the air filtration systems and since that same barging operation is essential in the manufacture of the Syar products, the Syar operation is directly tied to the filtration requirement. While the existing Syar/barge operation predated the Napa Pipe project and may be grandfathered, its expanded activity under consideration does not.
The further issue which I did not hear addressed, is whether homes other than at Napa Pipe which are "near" the barge operation are also negatively impacted and would require air filtration systems. To my knowledge, while "near" is a serious safety issue, it has to be quantified in the EIR.
Stop Syar Expansion had a brilliant presentation of its many issues with the expansion of the mining operations over the next 35 years.
But it was the Supervisors' demeanor that had my attention during the long day. It was obvious that there was an intention to try to wrap up the appeal hearing in one day, despite the fact that the appellant presentations were scheduled to take up almost 9 hours. As the meeting approached 5:00 pm, a normal time to continue the hearing for another day, Chairman Pedroza, obviously anxious not to have to spend another day listening to resident angst, took the pulse of the board: "I don't have any appointments until tomorrow morning" Sup. Luce offered. I didn't sense that a lot of concentrated decision making would be needed after the appeal presentations were done.
SInce the FIrst Supervisor review of the the APAC recommendations in early December 2015 (in which Dario Sattui pressed his employees into pro-development service before the board) the wine barons behind the development of Napa county are beginning to become impatient with the collection of residents demanding that the county live up to its ideals, and getting between them and their profits.
Freshman Supervisor Pedroza's ascention to chairman of the board this year is more than just numerical rotation into the position. It seems to herald a change in philosophy. Chair Dillion sought community understanding (some might say pacification) through an open political process. Chair Pedroza wants to push the development agenda, championed by his predecessor, back into its proper trajectory. (In its last review of the remaining APAC recommendations on Mar. 1st, the Board retooled and eviscerated the recommendations - behind the scenes as far as I could tell - to the benefit of the wine industry.)
Once it was realized that the Syar proceeding would go into another day, Mr. Pedroza with some insistence, sought out the next supervisor's meeting for a continuation. The sense of impatience was palpable as he was forced to put it off for a month.
The planning commission met the next day to consider the development agreement that Caymus owner Chuck Wagner had worked out with the planning department. The numerical rotation this year has brought Mr. Basayne, with roots in the tourism industry, into the chair position in place of grape grower and vintner Heather Phillips. A new sense of impatience about resident concerns has taken over the deliberations of the planning commission as well. Mr. Scott, responding to complaints at the Caymus hearing that the complexity of the development agreement and permit history required more time to evaluate, pushed back against the tendency in the last year to put off decisions for another day. Caymus was then moved on to the Supes for approval, 4-0 (reluctantly by Com. Cottrell). At the end of the meeting, during free discussion between the commission and Dir. Morrison, Mr. Scott returned to the subject, asking how many projects were in the planning pipeline and again expressing concern over the amount of time spent gaining approvals. Mr. Scott is very tactful and has proven himself capable of making independent (and courageous) decisions, but one sensed that his concern here was a reflection of the Supervisor he represents.
Since the beginning of the year, in decisions at the planning commission and the BOS, the emphasis has been on getting on with the development. Stags Leap, Dakota Shy, Bouchaine, SMR were each approved on their first hearing before the commission. The BOS denied the appeal on Bell and upheld the appeal on Girard, both developer wins.
The Chair of the Board is just one vote equal to the other 4. But there does seem to be a deference given to the chair that lets their view be the default starting point for debate, and hence sets the tone of the discussion. And I think it influences the outcome. Mr. Pedroza is clearly a developers' favorite. The amount of money he has received for his campaign from development interests is 3 times the amount raised by any other candidate. The amount of money he has received from developers that currently have projects sure to come before the board for approval in the next year, including Syar, borders on quid pro quo.
The Syar decision is a portent of the power of development interests in the county. Stop Syar Expansion has made a strong case that the mining company is creating potential environmental hazards. One look at the mushroom cloud of dust rising above the operation and wafting outward is enough to concede that a more thorough investigation of the effects of that dust is needed before Syar increases its operations. The mitigation at Napa Pipe requiring air filtration in housing units specifically because of Syar-created dust should give everyone pause. Is this new development-centered board willing to ignore those concerns and approve the expansion on Apr 26th? If the link is made between Syar pollution and actual health impacts, will the county, having known about the potential impacts when reviewing Napa Pipe and this expansion, be held responsible. Time will tell.
On Nov 18th 2015 Syar was granted an approval by the county planning commission to expand its mining operations along the Soscol gateway into Napa over the next 35 years. To many, the expansion has raised concerns of conflicting use with Skyline wilderness park next door, with health concerns of a polluting heavy industry to neighbors, and with the need for such a vast expansion for Napa's future urban development. Two groups, representing residents near the project and supporters of Skyline Park have appealed the approval.
The appeals cover a very wide range of issues and a technical glitch in the final planning commission hearing has caused this hearing to be "de novo" meaning new material may be admitted. The supervisors will have to spend well over 1 day in their due diligence to hear out the concerns of appellants before allowing the expansion to proceed. Official witnesses have been given over 9 hours of testimony time, plus the staff presentation, public comments, and supervisors' disscussion.The hearing will begin at 9:05am in the Board of Supervisors chambers, 1195 3rd St, Napa. Come early: the room is a very small venue to contain so much controversy.
As usual in all of the projects that have come up in the last 2 years, my interest seems to be somewhat removed from the course of public debate. In this case it is the sheer quantity of earth that is to be excavated in the next 35 years - an amount that must be several times greater than was excavated in the previous 100 years to build the Napa valley we know today. What will the county look like 35 years hence?
Much is made in public hearings about the acreage of unexcavated natural landscape that will be removed (shown in the blue areas below), especially as it pushes up against the Skyline Park property line. Less has been made about the vast deepening of the existing excavated areas (hundreds of feet down) shown in purple that are now permitted to take place. An accusation has been made in the appeal that much of Syar's product is shipped to construction sites out of the county. Assuming this expansion is allowed to go ahead, for the sake of the rural environment that we treasure in Napa county, I hope they are right. Because if that quantity of building material is used for construction within the county in the next 35 years, anything rural about this place will be gone.
(Click to enlarge) This is a profile (at the white line above) of the intended excavation below the existing ground level. A person is about the size of the dot on the "i" in "Property Line". The right property line is Skyline park. The vertical distance between the Skyline trail and the bottom of the pit is 650', the height of a 60 story building.
Napa, California. Napa citizens raised "Flint-like" public health concerns to the Napa County Board of Supervisors as Napa has the highest incidence of cancer in whites and children, and the number two incidence in Hispanic adults, in the state. We have particular concerns about air borne toxins due to mining, vineyard and traffic-related emissions," said Daniel Mufson, of NapaVision2050.org.
The Napa Valley Register ran a Washington Post story (1/31/16) "The staggering economic cost of air pollution" which highlighted that the bulk of the cost of this pollution is the result of health impacts on morbidity and mortality. "The more info we have about what sources of pollution are responsible for those deaths-who's emitting them, where they're emitted, and what can be done to clean them up-the more likely you are going to have interventions that have their intended effect."
Kathy Felch, of StopSyarExpansion.com, asked the county HHS to explain why the levels of cancer are so high and trending upward; what the levels of respiratory disease are in the Imola community; and then asked the county to establish airborne monitoring programs.
Syar's EIR and scaled down proposal (1.3 x current yearly production vs 2 x, and a couple of chunks removed at the edges of the new excavation area) were approved after a marathon day for the planning commission. Only one 4 acre bit of the staff recommendated 35 acre 'hybrid' reduction, crafted to put some space between Skyline Park and the pits, was included. The staff still needs to tidy up things so that a final vote, not a public hearing, can be made on Nov 18th.
Given the complexities of the issues and the 7 years, and thousands of pages of documents, and hundreds of letters and petitions and public comments, and dozens of meetings, and vast amounts of time and money spent on technical studies to get to this point (see here), the closing presentation by staff and discussion by the commission had a distinctly superficial feel to it. And it was a particularly sad end to the valiant effort made by residents over the last year to reduce the impacts on Skyline Park and their community.
Wilderness preservation or gravel pits. The vote was an ominous vision for the future of Napa County: the current rate of urban development isn't fast enough, apparently; it needs to be increased 1.3 times. It does not bode well for all of us devoting so much time trying to protect the rural character of the county, and our quality of life, from urban consumption.
The Register articles have consistently failed to accurately report the causes for opposition to the Syar project ("Napa County a victim of CEQA abuse," Oct. 19). The primary problem is the flawed, inadequate EIR (environmental impact report) -- which is based on incomplete or faulty analysis.
It is not just that the opponents want less or no expansion -- what citizens want, and what has yet to happen, in all the years this project has been in the works -- is a comprehensive, accurate and unbiased evaluation of its environmental impact. Such an EIR -- which would truly give citizens and planners a sound basis on which to make decisions affecting Napa for the 35 years of the permit and beyond -- is not the document we have.
The EIR as it stands does not allow a full evaluation of the risks and benefits of the project. Folks who have a lot of experience with these things say it is the worst EIR they have ever seen. Major flaws exist in the areas of traffic, air quality, water, noise and health risk assessment. Opponents have not just "done their own research" as the Register article claims. They have hired experts in these fields and submitted extensive reports that detail the flaws -- undercounting truck trips, misclassifying vehicle trips, missing primary noise reports, impermissible deferment of GHG reduction plans, reducing traffic and air quality impacts by claiming without documentation that 100,000 tons of aggregate are shipped by rail per year within a 14-mile distance.
The list goes on. That citizens have done this on their own dime is an unacknowledged benefit to the county.
Last week, for the first time, county said that the EIR does not have to prove the need for the expansion, flippantly comparing it to requiring a winery having to demonstrate the need to produce more wine. It is difficult to see why the county would make such a statement since Syar has argued from the beginning that its primary objective is to ensure a reliable local source of aggregate. The county echoes these comments, using language in reports and recommendations about meeting the project's objectives of meeting local need. Napa citizens and taxpayers are getting GHG impacts from the project's impacts on groundwater, air quality, traffic, noise, loss of ag land, loss of a nonrenewable resource in the aggregate.
Responsible analysis requires the production of data on the assertions of local need and analysis of remaining reserves of the existing quarry. Syar could, but will not, provide the weigh tag data to support its arguments.
During the period of the EIR, according to traffic reports, the majority of the aggregate went out of county. Now, Syar states the opposite. Public Records Act requests to the county for weigh tags from the baseline study period 2004-2008 to corroborate this have only yielded incomplete, heavily redacted records for one year – 2014. Syar refuses to release this information now contending it is proprietary -- not open to public inspection. There is no way to independently confirm what Syar claims. Supporters of the quarry expansion who are concerned about length of the CEQA review process should really be asking why this essential information has been withheld.
Opponents of the quarry expansion are accused of being NIMBYs. This is not "my" backyard, this is not "your" backyard. This is OUR backyard, this is our air, our water, our open space, our watersheds.
As with the other issues currently being debated countywide -- where developments threaten community character, drain resources and affect the environment -- the problem here is that the Valley's finite resources are not being managed wisely. To do so will take a change in the business-as-usual culture of approval by the county.
What can one expect from someone with a strong real estate development background but a lament on the abuse of a process set up to protect communities from the impacts of urban development. Is this really what the voters of district 2 want? More development, more buildings, more roadways, more traffic - a substantial increase in Syar's production over the next 35 years. Certainly there are many who have a financial interest in the continuing development of Napa's open spaces who would welcome a lower price for Syar products and wish them relief from the pesky residents concerned merely about the quality of their lives. Call them the n-word, that will put them in their place. NIMBYS are to be reviled for trying to protect the place that they live in, while those who profit from consuming that place are to be considered suffering victims of an abusive governmental process.
NIMBYS are rising everywhere in Napa County because urban development is beginning to affect everyone that thought they were living in paradise. Traffic is the main symptom - more than we can bear right now yet much, much more coming once all of the development projects already approved come on line in the next few years. But the NIMBY concern is also about neighborhoods hollowed out to accommodate short term rentals, and local stores priced out for the tourist trade, and schools converted to shopping malls, and the forested hillsides clear cut for resorts and vineyard estates, and event centers cropping up in the vineyards next door, and warehouses and tractor-trailers filling the marshlands that separate Napa from rest of the bay area. And wilderness areas being converted to gravel pits.
The character of everyone's backyard is changing rapidly. It seems that those who will profit from more development often denigrate those who oppose them as NIMBY's. In their eyes, the self-interest of protecting the quality of life that residents enjoy has no value compared to the self-interest of making money. That attitude needs to change if this place that everyone lauds for its scenic beauty and agricultural environment, everyone's beautiful backyard, is to survive as something other than an extension of bay area urban sprawl.
Syar is not the cause of the sprawl, merely the necessary ingredient. Syar's future is the future of this county, and our attitude toward it reflects what we want this county to be in 35 years. Is that future to be about a growth economy with ever more construction, ever more buildings, ever more roadways, parking lots, and traffic in which Syar will play a major part? Or is it to be about a stabilized economy that includes the protection of our agricultural industry, water resources and natural environment and the maintenance of a rural community that attempts to reduce traffic, in which Syar may play a smaller role that it does now? It is the vision of Napa's future that makes this decision so compelling for us all.
The name of our group is Stop Syar Expansion (SSE), not Close Down Syar. We acknowledge the need for aggregate, even while we know aggregate mining to be one of the the most destructive and polluting of land uses. However, quarries do close. They extract a material that is non-renewable in human time scale. They grow as far as they can based on surrounding uses, or they run out of rock. The Syar Napa Quarry will not be operating forever.
It is precisely because the rock is a non-renewable resource that it must be properly managed for Napa's needs. Like groundwater. Although the aggregate is under land that is privately owned, because of its critical nature to many kinds of construction processes, the county is obligated by its exercise on our behalf of management of the public trust. It cannot allow a company to plunder this resource.
Look at the environmental impact report, the document of record for the project, the document that, according to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), is supposed to contain the information necessary for reasoned analysis by the public and county officials, and rational planning decisions by the county officials.The environmental report states: "Currently, the majority of truck trips travel south on SR 221 to SR (Highway) 29 south to SR 12 (Jameson Canyon Road) and access to I-80 or further south to American Canyon and deliver aggregate materials throughout the Bay Area. In discussion with Syar Industries, this pattern is expected to continue in the future." Taking that scenario to its logical conclusion, we can see that we would soon arrive at the scenario the expansion's supporters tell us we should fear - that we will run out of rock for Napa.
The quarry, properly managed and right-sized, could continue to serve Napa for many years. But not if it is producing more than what is needed to satisfy local need and exporting that to other counties. This is just one of the many areas of the environmental report is lacking in objective analysis.
Another area of deficiency is with regard to mitigation, which in several key areas is inadequate, impermissibly deferred or lacking proper enforcement mechanisms. As just one example, the formulation of a mitigation plan for greenhouse gas emissions is deferred to at least three years beyond the point where allowable levels are exceeded.
Regarding mitigations and environmental protections more generally, Syar has promised mitigations to such an extent that the expansion is being sold as a net environmental gain. This is, in fact, proof that all that could be done to protect the environment is not being done - despite Syar's claims in the environmental report that all "best practices" are already being implemented. If the best is already being done, what could be improved? The county acknowledges that the past permits were lacking in environmental and community protections. The question is what is stopping Syar industries from improving the operating conditions now? Why must they wait for a new permit to, for example, upgrade their fleet of mostly tier 0 and tier 1 vehicles-the most polluting?
Our citizen group, Stop Syar Expansion, has submitted expert comments in the areas of traffic, hydrology, noise and air quality, detailing the numerous flaws and inadequacies of the environmental report, and demonstrating why it cannot be certified. We spent a great deal of time and money to gather this information to assist the county and its citizens in making a good decision for the future of Napa.
We have shown that environmental impacts have been systematically and grossly underestimated through basing analysis on faulty data and methodology.
The decision for a 35-year project must be made with a long view, on the basis of sound reasoning and with comprehensive understanding of fundamental facts. Not on the basis of politics, personalities or scare tactics. The planning commission is mandated to evaluate projects for the benefit of local residents-including the environment- as a whole, not to serve business interests. To fully evaluate a project, we all have to know the true price tag. The true price tag of this project, now in its seventh year, is still unknown.
The need for the project is also unknown. When we are about to undertake any project, we have to know: "Why are we doing this?" We have to ask, "What is the need?" Let's say you are at the grocery store, and someone in your household says, "Let's get more apples," don't you ask, 'how many do we have at home? How many have we been eating? What are we doing in the next week, and how many will we need?'
For a project that undeniably impacts the environment and our community, how can we not ask the same questions: What are the reserves of the quarry? How much aggregate has Napa actually used? How much will we actually need, based on factual analysis, not hypotheticals, assumptions, or mere assertions.These fundamental questions are missing from the environmental report.
In the interest of space, I won't repeat here all the analyses provided in the expert comments we have submitted, which are or will shortly be on the county's website. However, to touch on just one point: The environmental report uses the number of 8.9 tons per year per person for the analysis of county need for aggregate. Where does this number come from? It is an average for the North Bay region from studies carried out from 1960 to 2011. Napa is a slow-growth, agriculturally-based county with an Agricultural Preserve. Even for the larger region, can we possibly believe that the same amount of growth will occur from now forward for 35 years that occurred in the rough half century between 1960 and today? What agricultural ground in Napa are we planning to pave over?
Stop Syar Expansion has looked at the information from weight tags for Syar Napa quarry aggregate use by all county entities for the last 10 years. We do not have access to contractor purchases, but we have seen Public Works purchase orders from all the cities, the township of Yountville and from the county's Public Works department.
Although it can readily do so, Syar Industries has chosen not to provide the weight tags for the years used to establish the baseline for the environmental report. By not making public the records that actually establish the true need for the quarry's need to expand, Syar Industries disserves the community and its governing bodies. The amount of Syar Napa Quarry aggregate known publicly to be used in Napa is far lower than the regional average calculated over a time-frame of rapid growth. Furthermore, there are other companies (Cemex, Shamrock, Mark West BoDean, for example) that supply aggregate to Napa County. It is simply not believable that only Syar Industries will be providing all of Napa County's aggregate needs for the next 35 years instead of sharing the market with other companies as it currently does.
That the county proposes to make a decision affecting the future of Napa for 35 years (a very long time for a permit, given how fast technology, environmental understanding, and community needs can change) without this fundamental information is, frankly, frightening.
What forces are directing our local governments? What influences are guiding their decisions? I fear that the same influences are behind recent thinking and decisions and on large building projects, winery event centers, massive vineyard developments in our watersheds, and a permitting permissiveness that bends over backwards for applicants and rewards violators. If the county continues to serve the few at the expense of the many, we have to get involved and make changes.
Napa is the beautiful place it is because of people who had the wisdom to see the need to protect this agricultural treasure. We need a new wave of champions coming forth to protect the land, air of and water of this valley and to fundamentally reshape the way the county does business. Our new and evolving understanding of the health risks involved, as well as social responsibility, true sustainability, climate change, and social justice demand no less.
The cross section of the Syar quarry profile below says it all: dashed line existing grade, red line new excavation. A person is slightly taller than the dot of the "i" in "Property Line". The pit will drop steeply from the skyline trail 650 feet to the bottom of the pit. All of the land that you see in the photo below will disappear into the right edge of the pit.
Profile from skyline trail (true vertical height) - click to enlarge
On June 17th Syar Industries failed in its attempt to get a letter of support from the Napa County Transportation and Planning Agency. Syar representatives met with Agency Executive Director Kate Miller to pitch the alleged cost-savings to all the public entities within the County of Napa of having the Napa quarry expand. Miller, in turn, presented Syar's request to the Board for its consideration "pending receipt of further information from Syar."
Representatives of the citizens' group, Stop Syar Expansion, Vision 2050, the Green Party and Latinos Unidos urged the Board to deny Syar's request. Steve Booth of Stop Syar Expansion presented carefully researched information, based on the County's public entities' purchase records from Syar for the past 10 years and on Syar's own data, that there is sufficient material in the existing quarry to satisfy Napa County's needs for almost 7,000 years, not the 4-5 years Syar is marketing to support its expansion request.
Belying Syar's claim of necessity, Syar's own data, also presented to the Board, shows that 85% of trucks leaving its Napa quarry turn south and go out of Napa County, carrying its products to other areas and that this will pattern will continue if the expansion request is granted.
The Board was also alerted to Syar's exclusive dependence on groundwater and that its well for its industrial operation lies in the Milliken-Sarco-Tulocay Groundwater Deficient Area. Latinos Unidos representative, Xulio Sariano, cautioned the Board about the increased health risk to a largely Latino residential neighborhood just to the north of the proposed expansion area. Sariano's 8 year old niece warned of the loss of habitat for wild animals if Syar was allowed to chew up the hills bordering Skyline Park.
Thankfully, the Board saw Syar's request for a letter from the NCTPA as an end-run around the Planning Commission process and voted to stay out of what was considered an obviously controversial subject with seriously disputed facts. There were no votes in support of sending Syar's requested letter.
Securing Napa's future requires Skyline Park expansion
Michael Piazzola proposes the interesting possibility of selling the Napa Valley Expo property to be able to buy the Syar property for an expanded skyline park with the Expo site used more appropriately for housing. Syar would be a potential location for the Sxpo.
Kathy, many, many thanks for your thoughtful and provocative letter to the editor in this morning's Napa Register. This is the argument that is most likely to prompt thoughtfulness on the part of the policy-makers in Napa County and its cities. It has been my experience as a labor relations lawyer for 50 years that so-called decision-makers in government pay attention first to money for reelections and second to the numbers of citizens unhappy with their decisions sufficient to cause concern about their possibilities of being re-elected. While it's very nice and polite to curry good relations with decision-makers who make decisions affecting the local citizenry's lives and lifestyles, it is often necessary to band together to let them know that they can be defeated at the polls.
Articles and letters to the editors of newspapers strongly disagreeing with actions and policies of the boards of supervisors, city council members, and their appointees on planning commissions (ie. by beating them over their heads!) are what can prompt policy changes. Your letter does just that and to the extent Napa's policy-makers read the local newspapers such letters may actually cause them to modify their positions. We read in the Register that County Planning Commission members and certain Supervisors are now talking about the "temper of the times", the "new norms", and "land use", etc. and are at least mouthing their implied interest in reviewing and possibly revising policies affecting local residents. Their pro forma approvals of winery use permit applications for wine event centers, additional wine producing capacities and increased visitation by potential wine buyers, and their likely reactions to the expansion of businesses such as Syar's and strip malls along Hwy. 29 are good examples of their indiscriminate preferences favoring "development (where the money comes from!) and have the result of creating even more difficult problems for Napa County's citizens.
I really appreciate your taking responsibility for getting across the views of many individual residents regarding such unfortunate and uncaring policies and actions.
One person's presentation at the County Planning Commission review of the Syar expansion on Feb 18th, 2014
Skyline Wilderness Park has innate value that transcends its status as a natural "resource", or as a backdrop for human leisure. This is our home, with Skyline's inhabitants, both plants and animals, as part of our community, our neighbors with whom we share the land. So to that end, I implore the commissioners:
When do we say enough? So this quarry expansion may add a couple more jobs in the short-term, then what? Take another mountain top until there are none left? There's not even any guarantee that members of the local Napa community would be the ones hired or that the Napa economy would benefit.
In fact, evidence is to the contrary in that it would actually DECREASE Napa's revenue from real estate costs in south Napa, and that there would be less tourism and patronage of Skyline. Not to mention anyone living or working on Imola Avenue would suffer a decrease in quality of life due to the noise, chemicals and increased traffic.
Instead of destroying more wilderness for short-term bandaids that don't actually contribute to the long-term wellbeing of all species, how about we learn from our past and start investing in what we already have, and cleaning up what we've already created. There are plenty of jobs out there that have nothing to do with destroying more of our precious wildlife, and so much material waste already; Can't we use our human brains and create jobs by turning that into the raw materials we need to support our failing infrastructure?
I know that everyone here loves natural beauty, loves to look at trees, feel the sun, or take in a beautiful vista from a mountain top. Imagine the feeling of loss, if that were all gone. If we slide on Skyline, then what's to stop us from sliding on what else is left of the natural world? We have an opportunity here, to fully embody our ethics as human beings, as stewards of the Earth, and make a decision for the betterment of all life. Isn't that what we're ultimately living for? It is time to make a decision and act in accordance with the kind of world we want.
Skyline needs us, needs our help and protection, not our violence and greed. Let's not let her down.
Want to breathe Benz[a]pyrene and other Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), benzene, toluene, and formaldehyde vapors, all known or highly suspected human carcinogens? Or Hexane and phenol, which can damage the nervous system and kidneys? The Syar asphalt production expansion seeks to increase asphalt production by 300,000 tons annually. It's estimate that over 150 lbs of these chemicals will waft through nearby Napa neighborhoods just from the expansion alone. Direct stack measurements are believed to actually be much higher...except they're not required to moniter these known toxins and carcinogens.
I just signed the petition "Donald Barrella: PETITION to stop rock and gravel mining expansion impacting Skyline Wilderness Park." on Change.org.
I was touring Skyline Park prior to the Jan 7th PC meeting regarding the Syar expansion and came across a hiker making the best of the time and place. This tree and the ground below it will disappear into a pit when and if Syar expands it operations. The near row of trees is at the edge of the current excavations and obscures that pit from the park trails. The new excavations will go right to the edge of the Park's Ridge Trail leaving a wilderness on one side of the trail and a 600' deep pit on the other.
Several neighbors spoke to their concerns about the expansion. A most memorable comment about neighbor participation in these hearings came from Commissioner Basayne in his full-disclosure statement earlier in the day: he indicated that he had received a "litany of emails" from concerned citizens. The definition of "litany" became a brief topic of conversation. Those of us who have seen Mr. Basayne's attitude toward community opposition to development projects before the commission over the last year had no doubt about his intended meaning.
I'm currently following up on the greenhouse gas emissions, listed as significant in the FEIR. I've spoken with David Morrison at the County, who is responsible for completing the Climate Action Plan.
interestingly, it says this: A proposed CAP was recommended for adoption by the Planning Commission in early 2012 and later considered by the Board of Supervisors, who sent the planners back to the drawing board for more work. Among other things, the Board requested that the CAP be revised to better address transportation emissions, and to "credit" past accomplishments and voluntary efforts. The Board also requested that the Planning Commission consider "best practices" when reviewing projects until a revised CAP can be prepared and adopted. (Bolding added.) I don't believe this was mentioned in the FEIR? Going to check after walking my very antsy dog.
I'm also planning to contact the BAAQMD to see what information is available through them. I plan to attend their climate protection meeting on Jan. 15 Information on the meeting is here