Letters To The Editor

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


Don't wait to protect our environment

A Letter to the Editor by Wayne Ryan, May 27th, 2018


Please take a careful look at what's at stake with Measure C.

Like everyone else in Napa, I am overwhelmed with daily mailers from the "No on C" camp, and after doing my homework have decided that a lot of their argument is inaccurate and some of it downright untrue.

Measure C promotes the health of our natural environment, conservation and high standards of water quality. Maintaining pristine streams, rivers, wetlands and our watershed are of the utmost importance to ensure reliable water for the future.

Measure C is pro ag since the future of agriculture in California depends on water.

Who opposes this? Big corporate winery and vineyards interests who focus on the bottom line and short-term profit.

We have all seen the expansion of vineyards and the clear cutting of forests over the last 30 years. Now is the time to protect our oaks and watershed. The problem won't go away, so vote yes on C now or we'll be wishing we had done so 10 years from now.

Wayne Ryan


Voting without fear

Letter to the Editor by Michelle Montgomery, May 28 2018


I would like to share my experience of Napa as a relative newcomer with fresh eyes.

To be clear, this description doesn’t pertain to everyone; this is also a welcoming and generous community of which I am proud to be involved.

Placing my children into elementary school here, it was clear that there are families in the wine industry, and those who are not. Those not in the wine business are often invisible, and don’t speak out for fear of not being included.

Many belonging in the wine industry blindly support what is happening even when it is not in their best interests for fear of ridicule.

Often, those who work for the industry are afraid to make waves and be shunned by the community.

Worst of all, those working in the vineyards do not speak for fear of losing their livelihoods.

People being afraid to speak is, sadly, the way Napa County likes it.

I am voting Yes on Measure C because citizens are being bullied so that unsustainable corporations can deforest the land and use up water for profit.

They are taking limited resources from our children, and they cannot survive without them.

I oppose No on C because -- what’s in it for me? I’m not voting for someone else's short-term private gain, simultaneously stealing our future’s water and trees that will leave nothing behind for our next generation.

Despite our county government catering to Big Developers, we still have the freedom to vote. Fear not: How you vote is no one’s business but your own and counts now more than ever.

I am voting for my children.

I am voting to protect our water and trees.

I am voting 'yes' on Measure C.

Michelle Montgomery


The science is elementary

Letter to the Editor by Susan Rushing-Hart, May 29 2018


The science supporting the Yes vote on Measure C is elementary; we need water.

As little children we were aware of the earth, air, sun, water and plants, primary things needed to sustain us. By the time we reached 15, we’d learned about plants and photosynthesis (though the formula may have been forgotten). We remember the basics, like, where our oxygen comes from. We know, almost instinctively, that the plants best suited to perform these duties are our oak trees.

We are now adults and should be aware as adults. We are not self-sustaining within our cities; we rely on the State Water Project to meet our needs. During minimal rain years, supplies are decreased. Some of our rural neighbors or small farmers must continuously worry about digging deeper wells. We live under drought conditions.

Our oak woodlands capture and contain rainwater preserving it both as surface water and replenishing basin groundwater. Respect our riparian resources; think of our oak trees as our lungs and our watershed as our circulatory system.

Over 15 years ago, in 2002, the Napa County Planning Commission directed staff to review the justification for recommended stream setbacks. An environmental consulting firm was hired to review scientific research (we, as taxpayers, paid the fees). It seems that the primary goal was to find minimal setbacks required to reduce erosion and sedimentation (or meet state and federal regulations).

The overall health and functions of our watershed inclusive of soil types, plant species, and wildlife were neglected. Little consideration was given to effectiveness of oak trees as buffers within the riparian habitat, their functions of capturing water (quantity), nor abilities of filtration (removing chemicals/toxins and pathogens/germs or better water quality). We should have much wider riparian buffers -- let the oak trees do their jobs.

It was a disappointment to read that “…findings should be viewed as optimistic estimates of the function of buffers...” where land has been disturbed or are buffers are not intact. And “In summary, the setbacks proposed in this technical memo generally represent the minimum setbacks needed…or regarding Class I Streams the proposed setback … should be considered extremely conservative from a scientific perspective.”

Materials presented to the county supervisors and the general public advised that we don’t have a healthy, effective watershed. We didn’t pay attention.

“Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something.” -- Carl Sagan

Vote Yes on Measure C the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection initiative.

Susan Rushing-Hart


Don't be an impulse voter

Letter to the Editor by Dave Loberg


It can be generally assumed that some voters are “impulse voters,” especially when confronted with complex propositions that require study to make an informed choice. And “impulse voters” tend, I believe, to more often vote “No.”

Prop C has considerable potential to attract “No” voters, and the campaigns have tended to simplify a complex issue with catch phrases and buzz words that are confusing, if not misleading. Recall that one of the original bases for proposing Proposition C was the Walt Ranch plan to destroy thousands of oaks to plant a vineyard between the valley and Berryessa.

I repeat, the owners of Walt Ranch planned to remove thousands of oaks to allow a vineyard in the oak woodlands, and not much could be done under existing law and regulation to prevent this disaster.

Advocates of No on Measure C want this reckless status quo to continue.

I want protection for oak woodlands and our water. I want Measure C. I fully expect that in the future, adding this protection for the oak woodlands and water will be as appreciated as the pioneering Ag Preserve is today.

Do not be an “impulse voter;" think about the consequences of thousands of oak trees being sacrificed for speculative vineyard projects.

Dave Loberg


Help prevent deforestation

Letter to the Editor by Sue Wagner, May 29 2018


Napa County has delayed far too long to put into place meaningful protections of our hillside watersheds. With fewer parcels of acreage on the valley floor available for development into vineyards, wealthy landowners are increasingly encroaching into the Napa Valley hillsides and watersheds to plant new vineyards and develop more wineries.

This has created a collision course with the environment and will likely have serious implications for water availability in the future.

Contrary to the assertions that Napa County's current ag policy and the Napa County General Plan protect both the environment and agriculture, continuing to allow unchecked development of vineyards into our hillside watersheds is a dangerous policy with far reaching adverse effects to the health of our watersheds and ultimately to the water supply relied upon by Napa County residents.

Current policies allow the wine industry's unrelenting quest to plant yet more vineyards into the hillside watersheds, without concern for the sustainability of this practice. Fortunately there are a growing number of wine industry visionaries such as Andy Beckstoffer and Warren Winiarski who recognize a growing body of evidence demonstrating that conversion of oak woodlands into vineyards in our hillside watersheds is unsustainable.

Last fall, during an aerial tour of the Napa Valley, I personally observed hillside watersheds in both the eastern and western mountain ranges that define the Napa Valley. Substantial acreage of these hillsides are located in the agricultural watershed which once thrived with oak woodlands and are now clear cut and littered with vineyards.

Most of these vineyard conversions are hidden from view, high above the Valley floor, while they quietly suck the water out of hillside aquifers and deplete neighboring property owner's wells, as well as disrupting eco-systems that rely upon the many benefits of a fully functioning watershed. Sadly, once these oak woodlands are destroyed to make way for new vineyards, the damage cannot be undone.

Mature oak trees perform many functions in the eco-system. They act as mini-reservoirs. Each tree is capable of storing up to 50,000 gallons of water, soaked up during the rainy season and then released back into the soil and air during the non-rainy season. This has a cooling effect on the air and the soil is stabilized by massive root structures.

Loss of these mature oak woodlands also means that they can no longer contribute to cleansing our air and helping us to meet air quality goals. Loss of the carbon sequestration benefits from clear cutting naturally forested watersheds will impact air quality. For example, a mature coastal live oak tree (35-40 years old) removes about 467 pounds of atmospheric carbon. It takes over 25 trees to offset carbon dioxide created by an average passenger car, driving 12,000 miles per year which creates 11,000 pounds of CO2 annually.

Presently, landowners are able to convert oak woodlands into vineyards without first obtaining a permit for oak tree removal. There are no protections, such as Measure C, in place to impose mandatory restrictions on removal of oak woodlands unless the project triggers a discretionary review process under Napa County code or ordinances.

Rarely, an Erosion Control Permit is required, and only then does an Environmental Review occur which may require the property owner to "mitigate the loss." Current mitigations afforded for the loss of each oak tree allowed to be destroyed in the name of vineyard conversion are typically replacement of a mature oak tree by an oak seedling. The "replacement seedling" does not replace the benefit of the lost mature oak tree that has been felled in the name of agriculture, yet, this is how "the loss" is quantified.

Approval of Measure C will beneficially change this process by no longer permitting random cutting of oaks without first following a prescribed list of rules and regulations designed to protect the our oak woodlands and hillside watersheds.

Napa County's unprecedented approval of the removal of more than 14,000 trees for the Walt Ranch vineyard project clearly demonstrates the need for protection of our oak woodlands and watersheds.

Napa County government is responsible for balancing land use rights against the greater good. Unfortunately, it has failed to implement sensible regulations to prevent further deforestation within the county, as it continues to approve conversion of forests and oak woodlands into new vineyards in the hillside watersheds.

Rod Taylor, director of World Wildlife Fund's Global Forest Program says that, ‘...deforestation is entirely avoidable today, and its persistence “is fundamentally a problem of governance”.’ Further, "…uncertainty around land rights and poor enforcement are among the lapses which allow deforestation to continue.”

When government fails to act responsibly to safeguard our environment for the benefit of all, citizens must act. Measure C will offer voters the chance to do what our elected representatives have not accomplished. Please support Measure C and vote "yes."

Sue Wagner


Wait and see is not an option

Letter to the Editor by Ellen Sabine,  May 29 2018


Campaign ads aren't legally required to be truthful. The COPS flyer delivered to our mailboxes is one of many blatant examples of intentional deceit. It wasn't endorsed by police. The opposition to C campaign chose to create and pay for its whopper falsehoods. There are no tax increases from Measure C, and no resulting loss of fire or police protection.

I look for truth in advertising and honesty in general. We also need proactive approaches to anticipated problems instead of allowing ourselves to be caught behind the curve. Unfortunately, we now have countywide traffic that is out of control and are lacking thousands of units of workforce housing.

Water quantity and quality are crucial, with statewide trends toward less availability, not more. In Napa County we see lower flows in feeder streams and more development proposals at sites nearby. The California Dept of Water Resources recently raised the priority of the Napa River basin for potential oversight. We can commit to simple protective actions now for our water supply or do nothing and bear the consequences.

Wait and see isn't an option. Now is when we need to act to protect our water, not down the road when it's too late. It's up to us, not our leaders who aren't providing leadership on this water issue. Please vote for foresight and integrity, Yes on Measure C.

Ellen Sabine