While it is well documented that the Ag Preserve has been a remarkable protector of Napa County, it was not always so. We moved to the valley in late 1968 when there were still naysayers about the potential benefit of this first-of-its-kind zoning attempt. Family farming partnerships were at odds with each other as to the eventual outcome, and yet, 50 years later, everyone wants to say they supported it.
During those 50 years, it has been a struggle to try and retain the integrity of this so-called act of preservation. Certainly the most crucial of all threats to that preservation and the ability to care for the residents of Napa County is the availability of adequate water – water for our personal use as well as for continued success of agriculture.
In spite of enforced conservation by St. Helena and Calistoga and subsequent huge increases in their water rates for the next five years, a recent Napa Valley Register story announced that Rector Dam is running out of water for the residents of the Veterans Home and Yountville. Here we are in the middle of winter, and barely a drop of rainfall for January and February with little predicted in the future.
How do we overcome this dilemma? There is no crystal ball that will give us the answer, but only a pragmatic solution can help us through this current problem and into the future. And that solution is the preservation of our watershed areas of Napa County – watersheds that have been removed and destroyed all in the name of agriculture. Where do we get the water to sustain our agriculture if we degrade and destroy the very watersheds that can sustain it?
Enter the current June ballot measure titled the Napa County Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative as a means to achieve just that, a sustainable method of collecting and storing water as nature intended. And yet we have a similar group of naysayers, as we did 50 years ago, who can only see limitations looming before them that they feel will hurt their personal bank accounts.
And while the Watershed Initiative was originally drafted by a coalition of concerned citizens with the participation of the Napa Valley Vintners, controversy prevails just like it did when a similar group tried to implement the Ag Preserve.
Fortunately for all of us, a very responsible and respected group of our growers and vintners have stepped forward to praise and recommend a 'yes' vote for the Watershed initiative.
Perhaps you read the Letter to the Editor a few days ago from Warren Winiarski, Andy Beckstoffer, Beth Novak Milliken, Randy Dunn, Dick Maher, Bob Dwyer, Joyce Black Sears, Tom Clark, Yeoryios Appallas and Robin Lail, all urging a 'yes' vote on the Watershed Initiative. What better representation of what Napa County agriculture is and should be than the testimony of this outstanding group of growers and vintners? Thanks to each of them and all of you who recognize the need for the further preservation of Napa County and its agricultural success.