Frequently Asked Questions -
What does Measure C do?
Measure C protects our water and oak woodlands in 3 simple ways:
It increases the area around from streams and wetlands where trees and vegetation can't be cut or disturbed. This helps keep pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals as well as sediment out of our water supply.
It Increases the oak replacement requirements when trees are cut from the current 2-to-1 to 3-to-1 (requiring 3 trees planted or preserved for everyone cut).
It sets a limit on the acres of oak woodland that can be removed for vineyard development, the primary cause of clearcutting oak woodlands in the AWOS zoning district. The limit of 795 acres was determined in conjunction with the Napa Valley Vintners to align with County General Plan estimates of near-term vineyard development. Once this limit is reached, the county would enact a permit system for oak removal. (Currently all cities in the County have tree removal permit systems.)
Where does Measure C apply?
Measure C only applies to land in Napa County’s Agricultural Watershed zoning district.
The Ag Watershed is primarily the hillside areas away from the Valley floor and parts of Carneros. It applies to parcels of one acre and above, but most of the parcels in this zone are 40-160 acres and cannot be subdivided per Napa County’s Measure J.
Isn't Napa County already highly regulated? Why do we need more regulation?
This measure is a natural complement to Napa County’s Agricultural Preserve. It puts essential regulations in place to protect the water supply that both the wine industry and local residents rely upon. The County government is in the habit of giving the green light for mass clearing of oak woodlands to make way for new vineyards. This measure is designed to protect the Agricultural Watershed zone lands, which is the source of our local water supply.
The current regulations have not stopped deforestation for projects such as Walt ranch, where 14,000 trees will be removed with County approval. Current regulations have also not prevented the Napa River from continuing to be listed as impaired for sediment. Current regulations have not stopped the State Water Board from upgrading Napa’s aquifers status from medium concern to high. That’s why Measure C is so important.
How does Measure C relate to Measure J? Doesn't Measure J protect water quality and oak woodlands?
Measure C supports the protections of Measure J. Measure J prevents changes of land use designations without a 2/3 vote of the people. Measure J does not regulate planting next to streams or wetlands or limit the acres of oak woodlands that can be destroyed. Measure C complements Measure J by protecting the watershed and water that all of Napa County - including agriculture - relies on. Many early champions of Measure J foresaw the necessity of extending protections for the watershed areas of the valley.
Does Measure C hurt farmers - especially small ones?
This initiative does not stop any current farming, nor does it stop any development – including vineyard planting – that is already in progress. It would not prevent any replanting of existing vineyards or crops, or the construction of any structures that are permitted under County law.
Measure C benefits all farmers because it protects the water supply that farmers need. Over 70% of the groundwater in the Valley is used for vineyard irrigation. The major source for this groundwater is oak woodlands.
Once the oak woodland removal limit is reached, both large and small vineyards would be under same restrictions. Both large and small vineyards would have to comply with stream setbacks because being small is not a license to pollute shared resources.
What does the science say?
The peer-reviewed science that supports the provisions of Measure C is contained in documents prepared by and for the County.
Measure C’s stream setbacks are recommended by a 2002 County-generated Stream Setback Technical Memo.
The proposed 3:1 replacement ratio is recommended in Napa County’s draft Climate Action Plan.
Napa’s Voluntary Oak Woodland Management Plan explains the critical role of oak woodlands in our watershed: (“Oak woodlands capture 20-30% more precipitation than grasslands” thus every time an oak tree is lost to fire, drought, or development, our watershed’s capacity to absorb and retain groundwater is diminished.) The County’s report on groundwater levels explains the critical role the hillside watersheds play in groundwater recharge.
The California Department of Water Resources recently classified the status of concern for Napa County's groundwater as high.
Will Measure C cost taxpayers?
By protecting our water source from contamination, Measure C represents potential savings to taxpayers. Sedimentation in reservoirs from agricultural runoff could force expensive dredging operations. Just one recent proposed vineyard project led the Napa City water manager to warn that it could force the County to purchase additional water treatment equipment at a cost of $20 million to taxpayers. The county’s own legal analysis of the initiative concluded that Measure C would have negligible fiscal impacts would be in line with current County planning department protocols and would not lead to any loss in property tax revenue.
Will Measure C mean the end of agriculture in the Ag Watershed?
Measure C limits the number of oak trees that can be cut down for vineyard development in the Agricultural Watershed zone. It does not prohibit agriculture. According to research commissioned by the Napa Valley Vintners, who co-wrote the measure, there are still thousands of acres that could be developed to vineyard without cutting down a single oak tree. Agriculture requires water and protecting our water source will enable agriculture to continue throughout Napa County.
Does Measure C mean there will be more luxury houses and event centers?
No – saving oaks will not lead to more luxury homes or event centers in the Agricultural Watershed zone.
Event centers are wineries with extensive (oversized) hospitality programs and permits for their operation are approved by the Planning Commission. Limiting new vineyards in this zone will limit the addition of wineries and, as a result, event centers.
County code allows one main home - including luxury homes - to be built on every parcel in the Agricultural Watershed zone. Any parcel in the AWOS is also allowed a second unit, a cottage, and a day care center. County code prohibits the subdivision of parcels to less than 160 acres, so housing developments in the hillsides are not allowed. To change the land use designations would require a vote of the people.
Will Measure C cause more traffic?
Protecting oak trees doesn't not cause more traffic. Traffic increases with increasing development, which would not result from Measure C.
What about the 795 acres?
There is currently no limit to the acres of oak woodlands that can be removed for vineyard development. The 795 acres specified in Measure C is a limit to tree removal for vineyard development, which is the primary driver for large scale oak woodland clearing. Opponents of Measure C prefer the current system, which sets no limits on land that can be cleared to make way for more wine grapes.
What is the 9111 report and what does it say?
A 9111 report can be commissioned by the County for any initiative that will go before voters, per state law. The report is supposed to provide the electorate and Board of Supervisors with a fair and objective analysis of the impacts of a proposed initiative. However, the 9111 that was prepared about Measure C presented information in a biased and misleading way. The report appears to have been written to identify every possible ground for opposition, only to conclude that a court would almost certainly reject any potential legal claims against the measure.
Is Measure C well written?
Measure C was written by top land use attorneys representing the Napa Valley Vintners and community advocates. On behalf of the NVV, it was co-written by Tom Adams of Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty, a leading land use firm in Napa County that is the "go to" firm used by Napa Valley Vintners, Napa County Farm Bureau, Napa Valley Grape Growers, and many wineries working to get their projects approved, and by Robert “Perl” Perlmutter of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, a nationally recognized law firm that wrote and defended Napa County’s Measures J & P.
Will Measure C stop me from rebuilding my house or clearing a firebreak?
Measure C does not change building codes or requirements, and includes specific exceptions related to fire safety. To ensure fire safety, trees may be cleared up to 150' from an existing or permitted structure.
I live in the city - why should I care about Measure C?
City and town residents depend on water from Napa County’s watershed areas, many of which are in the unincorporated County. Water flows from headwaters and watersheds into municipal reservoirs that are vulnerable to sedimentation and pollution. Measure C protects both the purity and quantity of available water for all County residents. Water for Yountville and Napa comes from the Eastern hills, where there has been heavy vineyard development. St Helena's municipal reservoir has been affected by vineyard development in the past, which is why the City Council and Mayor endorses Measure C.
Who Supports Measure C?
Measure C is endorsed by a wide range of community groups and local elected officials who are committed to protecting Napa County’s water supplies for generations to come. Endorsers include
Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, Growers/Vintners for Responsible Agriculture, Latinos Unidos, Get a Grip on Growth, the St. Helena City Council and Mayor, the Vice-Mayor of American Canyon, representatives from the Yountville Council, Napa City Councilor Scott Sedgely, and a growing list of more than 600 community endorsers.