Vote on Napa Valley’s Measure C too Close to Call

By Virginie Booth | Wine Enthusiast | June 5th, 2018


The Napa County vote on the hotly contested Measure C, an initiative that seeks to limit vineyard development, remained too close to call Wednesday morning, as only 40 votes separated the two sides.

With 168 of 170 precincts reporting, the count was 7,188 for and 7,148 against Measure C, more formally known as the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative.

Voting officials said between 40% and 60% of the ballots remained to be counted. Napa County Registrar of Voters, John Tuteur, expected the next set of preliminary results to be released later this week.

The election results must be certified by June 25.


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Measure to restrict Napa County vineyards too close to call.

By Esther Mobley | San Francisco Chronicle | June 5, 2018

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle

A ballot measure to limit further vineyard development in Napa County to preserve oak trees and water sources was ahead by just 42 votes Tuesday, with 99 percent of precincts counted.

Measure C, the Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative, was running 7,191 votes in favor, to 7,149 against, in Napa’s all-mail-in system. A final count is expected later this week.

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Napa County voters deadlocked on vineyard development restrictions.



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A Napa County ballot measure that would limit vineyard development in woodlands and along waterways was leading by the slimmest of margins late Tuesday.

The fate of Measure C, widely viewed as a public referendum on whether the wine industry’s expansion should be reined in, was too close to call. Of more than 14,300 votes counted, the measure led by a mere 40 votes. Thousands of votes remain to be counted, most of which likely will be tallied next week, a county election official said Tuesday night.

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Napa County Measure C sharply divides wine industry

Angela Johnston for KALW, May 31 2018

Measure C proponent Warren Winiarski stands in front of his vineyards at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars.  CREDIT ANGELA JOHNSTON

Measure C proponent Warren Winiarski stands in front of his vineyards at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars.


"“When we passed the Agricultural Preserve there were almost zero number of acres that were irrigated in this valley — and now we have almost zero number of acres that are not irrigated,” he says.

Winiarski and the authors of Measure C say: if we don’t preserve the streams and oak trees of the Napa Valley hillside, there won’t be enough water to grow anything.

“There won’t be viticulture if you don’t have the water. Napa is a victim of its own success.”

...Measure C would put a cap on the number of oak trees a Napa landowner can remove. Once that quota has been met, landowners will have to apply for a permit to cut down additional trees. The Measure would also create a buffer zone around streams where no tree of any type can be removed."

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The simple being made confusing.

A Letter to the Editor by Joanne Yates, May 23, 2018


Measure C is simple; its opponents have made it confusing.

Measure C protects the only natural water system we have left in the county that filters our water, stores it, and recharges the aquifers. That system is the “watershed”, which are wooded hillsides divided by ridges directing the flow of water into the ground and to streams.

That water is groundwater, and right now about 70 percent of it is being used by agricultural development.

There are no woodlands left on the valley floor to act as a filter, collector, and recharger for the aquifers because the majority of land has been clear cut and planted in vineyards. The rest is urban development. That is why an abundant, dependable supply of groundwater is critical to the county’s municipalities and vineyards/wineries.

The only land left for ag development is the county’s hillsides. Corporate winery interests know that and are working diligently to develop plans for extensive vineyards on land that was never meant for grapes. After all, if Hall Winery could get permission to clear-cut the oak woodlands on Walt Ranch, then why not the next wealthy ag-industry conglomerate that wants a part of Napa County?

But here’s the hitch: if the woodlands are cut down and the watershed areas can no longer filter, store, and recharge the aquifers, then where do we get our water?

Measure C protects the property rights of all those who choose to farm their land responsibly. Measure C protects everyone’s right to clean water. If that’s what you want for your family, your grandkids, and for agriculture, vote yes. If you want to support corporate profiteers, then vote no.

I urge you to join your neighbors and do the right thing. Vote 'yes' on C.

By the way, Sierra Club endorses Measure C and just announced its endorsement for Cio Perez as supervisor.

Joanne Yates

St. Helena

Why would anyone oppose Measure C?

A Letter to the Editor by Nancy Carter, May 26, 2018


As I write this letter, I am at a loss to understand why anyone would have any objection to Measure C.

Obviously, any resident of Napa County will be adversely impacted financially if the measure fails, but who will be most catastrophically harmed are the very people who oppose it, the winery owners. Without water, they are out of business. No water, no grapes, no wine, no tourists, no business, no money, the end.

Why it took an 85-year-old retired woman to point this out is a mystery. This does not bode well for the future of the industry. Napa County, however, will be fine with or without the wine business. The beauty and natural resources of the valley will remain regardless of the self-destructiveness of the wine industry.

With best wishes for our mutual survival.

Nancy Carter

Santa Rosa

Measure C is long-term good for the Napa Valley

A Letter to the Editor by Bernard Portet, May 26th, 2018

I have been reading with much attention many comments pro and con the proposed Measure C.

I respectfully disagree with several of the reasons expressed on the roadside panels, which I find of a very populist nature. They try to scare the electors, so they reject Measure C and I find difficult to agree with them: Hurt Agriculture? Increase traffic on Highway 29? Some claim that we should leave the decision up to the Board of Supervisors.

Fine, but does not the elimination of 14,000 oak trees strike you as way out of common sense? That is what the supervisors did approve.

Basically, the two positions, for a No or a Yes differ on their respective perspective: In my view, the No is a very short-term decision while the Yes looks towards the future and the well being of our children and grandchildren and generations past these.

We should all realize that availability of water and more particularly of drinking water is going to be one of the major issues of the future and therefore should seriously take into consideration the major importance of the protection of the water catchment surfaces we have and protect to a maximum our forested areas.

I do add my voice to Warren Winiarski’s comments, who has shown to be a long-term visionary for the protection of Napa Valley.

For our grandchildren and generations beyond, I urge you to vote Yes on Measure C.

Bernard Portet


What are the true motives on each side of Measure C?

A Letter to the Editor by Lynna Roberts, May 26, 2018


I am voting Yes on Measure C. I trust those who wrote it. With good character, high intellect and a proven heart for the conservation of natural resources their only motive is to save the oak woodlands and the watersheds.

Do not be deceived by language used by those who want to destroy the diverse beauty of the Napa Valley hillsides for sheer profit. Those opposing are concerned that their desire to expand vineyards across every hillside in Napa will be prevented by the people of the valley who think we have enough wine and enough vineyards as it is.

And don't be confused by the many mail outs and advertising that say No on C. Remember their position is funded by big money and those who apparently have little concern for conservation.

The true conservationist wrote the initiative with nothing to personally gain except the protection of our valley. They created a grassroots movement of hard working volunteers to get enough signatures of caring residents needed to bring it to the ballot for you to decide. The bottom line is more grapes equals less trees and less water.

Supporters of C fought in court for fair and truthful verbiage to be used on the voting ballot pamphlet instead of deceptive and misleading language used by the opposition to C. The opposition had to revise several of their statements and pay $54,000 for attorney fees to the Yes on C side.

Because of these grassroots conservationists' relentless commitment and their efforts, the public will now have truthful information on the ballot pamphlet on the "Con" side. But the No on C people can say whatever they choose on their brochures. And they intend on confusing those who really do care about our hillsides, oaks, wildlife, and watersheds.

If you care about saving and conserving these things, please vote Yes on C. Vote Yes on C to save the trees. Remember, the signs and brochures for "No" are paid for by those who stand to gain big financial profits. Think Yes on C for "C-onservation."

New vineyards are devastating to the environment. These projects strip, clear cut, burn, fence, contaminate and use millions more gallons of water than other possibilities and have the serious potential for damaging our water quality.

New vineyards bring the serious and highly probable potential for many more wineries; and with them event centers. This creates more use of resources including additional major traffic on our already crowded highways and roads.

I hope when people vote they will know what they are really choosing. Thanks to all those who show they care about our natural resources by voting Yes on C and preserving them for our future generations.

When considering your vote, ask yourself what the true motives are on each side of this Measure. And if in doubt follow the money.

Lynna Roberts


Napa Sunset

Book Review by Jonah Raskin for the Bohemian

Napa at Last Light: America's Eden in an Age of Calamity


"Geoff Ellsworth was a willing and a candid source. A St. Helena council member, artist and supporter of Measure C, Ellsworth has lived in Napa County for 50 years. For decades, he watched the slow, steady chipping away of the forests, the privatization of watersheds and the spread of roads, vineyards, wineries, tasting rooms, event centers and estate homes. Like Conaway, Ellsworth decries what he calls the "erosion of democracy" in Napa. He worries that if the dominance of the industry goes unchecked in his hometown, it can happen anywhere in the United States."

"We're nearly at the point where advocating for clean water for everyone is beginning to look revolutionary," Ellsworth says. "It looks like Napa is turning into the 'valley of the oligarchs.'"

Read the full review here