A letter to the Editor by Chris Malan - Napa Valley Register.
The science is solid and long settled that all watersheds in Napa County have impaired water quality from human land activities providing undeniable evidence that a yes vote on Measure C, the Watershed and Oakwood Protection Initiative is justiﬁable.
Napa County has three major watersheds: Napa River, Putah Creek, and Wooden Valley Creek, where the conﬂuence is our San Francisco Bay. These watersheds have been listed as impaired water bodies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since the 1970s.
Our watersheds continue to have new impairment listings due to pollution. In 2016, the Napa River was listed by the EPA for Chlordane, DDT, Dieldrin, PCBs and mercury (mining). Mercury is a legacy pollutant from past mining operations leaching into our surface waters and bioaccumulating in the aquatic food chain.
Out of all these pollutants fouling our health and water, the water boards have only one of these pollutants, sediment, that has a clean-up plan. Understaffed water boards are overwhelmed with new pollutant listings each year.
In addition to these pollutants fouling our water, the Napa River is over pumped due to surface water diversions for vineyards, thus further harming water quality and often stranding endangered salmon and steelhead.
In Napa County, much of the land use is agriculture/tourism, causing most of the pollution to water and air. All of the wastewater treatment plants have carelessly discharge partially treated sewer water into the Napa River for years.
Measure C will protect water quality by prohibiting deforestation near streams and limiting oak woodland removal. One-third of our potable water comes from four municipal reservoirs in Napa County; Kimball (Calistoga), Bell (St. Helena), and Hennessy and Milliken (Napa). Our public reservoirs have been polluted with fertilizer runoff that feed algae blooms via runoff from vineyards.
By 1993, eleven US governmental agencies ﬁnalized lengthy scientiﬁc studies of stream damage from deforestation. Their ﬁndings were published in the Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team Report of 1993. The ﬁndings recommend that no deforestation should occur within a minimum of 300 feet of streams to promote water quality buffer zones for endangered salmonids. Measure C doesn’t go this far but in- stead will prohibit deforestation within water quality buffer zones of 125 feet in ﬁsh-bearing streams and 75-25 feet on non-ﬁsh-bearing streams.
In December 2015, the California State Legislature passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which will begin to regulate the management of California’s precious groundwater resources. California was the last state in the USA to pass groundwater regulations.
Napa County’s major groundwater aquifer, the Napa Valley Sub-Basin, has been determined to be in moderate depletion of groundwater recharge by the Department of Water Resources. Because the Napa Valley Sub-Basin aquifer is unable to recharge itself sufﬁciently over time (due to 60 percent groundwater demand by vineyards) and because of polluted groundwater areas, salt water intrusion, land subsidence, and surface water depletion of streams, Napa County is required to develop a Groundwater Sustainability Agency and Groundwater Sustainability Plan, which could regulate triggers to stop pumping if over drafting is causing harm. Napa County chose to side-step this science too and represents to DWR that a groundwater monitoring program should sufﬁce. Napa County’s groundwater is in peril.
Measure C will be proactive in protecting critical groundwater recharge areas, such as streams, and forests. Scientist Dr. Reed Noss determined in 1998 that Napa County wildlife habitats are highly fragmented, due to vineyardization of wild lands. Our wild lands are where 99.9 percent of all new vineyards are being developed. Vineyardization of wild lands means utter destruction of wildlife habitat. Because our wild lands/watershed areas are being industrialized by vineyard development, we have a precipitous decline in endangered species, such as Northern Spotted Owl, Chinook salmon, and steelhead.
Severe climate events worldwide have increased five-fold since 1970. Recent California ﬁres were severe climate events on the heels of four years of drought. These ﬁres alone caused more greenhouse gases than all other GHG sources in the State in 2017. Yes on Measure C will help protect remaining precious forests to absorb carbon .
We must protect the earth’s natural defenses to ameliorate global warming.
Sadly, Napa residents, including children, suffer the highest cancer rates in the state. Our water and air is persistently and perniciously contaminated by pesticides, including herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. We cannot afford to keep polluting our home. Yes on Measure C will minimize future pollution that would further harm our water and air and save some wildlife habitat for the incredible ﬂora and fauna with which we share this landscape. Passing Measure C is a responsible legacy for our generation.
Living Rivers Council