Letters To The Editor

An Initiative can be changed later

Letter to the Editor by Mary Lu Kennelly, May 29 2018


There is a major error being made, and it needs to be corrected.

An initiative is not forever. The Farm Bureau and others are leading voters to believe that once an initiative passes, there is no way to change course. That is not only incorrect, it is trying to scare voters.

To amend an initiative is really simple: A majority of the Board of Supervisors proposes the change. The majority then polishes the language and submits it to be placed on the next ballot. The voters choose 'yes' or 'no', and that’s it.

The key ingredient is that, since the voters chose to pass the initiative, it requires a vote of the people to change the language.

That’s not scary. It just protects the right of the voters to choose.

Measure C may well be our only chance, as citizens, to protect our hills, our forests and our water supply. Recent actions by county government have shown us that we cannot fight to protect our water on an case-by-case permit basis, (The Walt Ranch) and that the present board refused to place the protections on the ballot when they had the chance.

Please vote 'yes' on Measure C. Be on the safe side.

Mary Lu Kennelly


Vineyard development isn't appropriate everywhere

Letter to the Editor by John Dunlap, May 29 2018


It was 50 years ago that Napa County supervisors took the brave vote to create the Ag Preserve.

With that beginning, land was set aside for agriculture, and within a few short years, the Napa Valley became known world-wide for wine.

After these years, it is becoming clear that vineyard agriculture is not the right choice for everywhere in the Valley. Clear-cutting our forested hills to plant vineyards turns out to be a threat to our climate, our air quality, and especially, our water supply. Vineyards use about 70 percent of our water, and the weather is changing to periodic droughts.

I am supporting Measure C , because it gives citizens the chance to protect our woods and hills. Voting Yes on Measure C is protecting our future, both for the vineyards and our homes.

John Dunlap



Tired of Being Ignored by Napa County Officials

Letter to the Editor, By Lisa Hirayama, May 28, 2018


Once, I was naive enough to believe that Napa County was concerned about its residents, but my eyes have been glaringly pried wide open. I have attended many Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings and realized that rarely have the boards met a winery development they didn't like.

Former Supervisor Keith Caldwell said at one meeting that Napa County's policy is not to punish violators but to bring them into compliance. That certainly explains why so many permit violators barely get a slap on the hand, i.e. The Caves, Reynolds Family Winery, Reverie, and Summers to name a few.

However, that opens another can of worms because there is little enforcement for code violators, so why shouldn't wineries get away with as much as possible.

I learned that in 2008, Napa County changed the definition of agriculture to include "wine marketing and sales," which, in effect, became a zoning change from agricultural to commercial use. That opened the floodgates and "farming" now includes everything from selling a winery's souvenirs (plates, cups, hats, etc) to hosting a wedding for 300 people.

The "No" side states that if Measure C passes, it will be the end of agriculture and farming. Since they are making so much more money on the new Napa definition of "agriculture," no wonder they aren't interested in protecting the trees and water quality. I admit, I wasn't paying attention to the change being made to zoning because I wasn't personally seeing the effects, but I now realize how detrimental that revision has been.

In October 2016, Supervisor Diane Dillon visited Circle Oaks and I asked what would happen if our wells went dry and we had to truck in water because of the Walt Ranch development (in watershed). She said I'd have to pay for it.

Given what has happened in the Carneros area, I have every reason to believe that it could happen to me. The same consulting firm that said there was plenty of groundwater to support the Carneros Resort and Spa development also said there's plenty of water for Walt Ranch.

The Carneros residents told the county supervisors back then that there wasn't enough groundwater in that area, yet the county approved it. Now, 10-plus years later, the city has been trucking in water to that area and just voted to start the process to connect the resort to city water pipes. Once again, another example of fixing a problem that should never have been given the green light in the first place.

I no longer trust Napa County to protect my property and water supply because I have seen how extremely solicitous they are to the wine industry. Supervisor Belia Ramos said at the Feb. 27 meeting when the supervisors voted to place Measure C on the ballot, that she felt this was the wrong way to initiate change and that the citizens should have come to the government to work out their issues.

I've had a front-row seat for the last four years and the commissioners and supervisors consistently ignore residents' concerns about every new winery and event center that keeps getting approved. The initiative route was the only way citizens felt they could have their voices heard.

Many people believe that the complex matters of protecting the watersheds and oak trees should be left to the county supervisors. With all due respect, have any of these people actually attended a county meeting when winery projects and appeals are being discussed?

I think not, because they would see that the commissioners and supervisors continuously approve every project and appeal before them in favor of the winery. Every concern by residents is mitigated away to a less than significant impact, always by the same environmental consulting service that the county uses for every environmental impact report.

This has been going on for years, which is why citizens have worked hard collecting signatures, not once but twice, to get Measure C on the ballot. They're tired of being ignored by the supervisors and planning commissioners.

Water is a limited resource, and climate change will make droughts more extreme and water sources more scarce. Napa County lost tens, if not hundreds. of thousands of trees in the Atlas Fire, yet Napa County will still allow remaining healthy trees to be cut down in the name of wine.

The effects of losing trees and not protecting the watersheds won't occur overnight---it will takes years or decades, but it will happen. San Francisco is planting 2,000 trees over the next two years to curtail global warming because they absorb carbon dioxide. Napa County will cut down trees instead.

If there was ever a time that a citizen initiative was sorely needed, this is the time. If you're unhappy with the direction that Napa County is heading, vote 'yes' on C.

Lisa Hirayama


Say 'no' to deception, Yes to Measure C

A Letter to the Editor by Linda Kerr, May 27th, 2018


"Deception: noun.  Per the Merriam-Webster dictionary - "the act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid."

The No on Measure C campaign of deception continues. They troll in the gutter for new ways to deceive the voters. “Event centers”, “traffic” – they know these words and all of their deceptions invoke strong negative emotions for many in the community. And they know these assertions are false.

Their mailers have included the name of a strong and outspoken supporter of the Yes on C campaign. And a deceased individual. And those that were neutral. Deception.

And now the latest mailer, makes it appear, in an oh so subtle sleight of hand, that the Napa Land Trust is against Measure C. The Land Trust is neutral. Deception strikes again.

They will say and do whatever it takes to make sure you are confused and dissuaded from supporting your own best interests. Don’t let them. Know the facts.

What will your 'yes' vote on Measure C do? It’s as simple as one, two, three. It will:

1. Place a cap on oak woodland removal. Current county practice places no limits on removal – the result, clear cutting of hillside oaks has become business as usual.

2. Increase water quality buffer zones along streams and wetlands.

3. Increase oak tree replanting.

Together, this will protect the quality and quantity of water flowing to our reservoirs and groundwater aquifers.

Don’t let deception guide your choice. Water is a limited resource. Say “Yes” to a more secure, stable, and cleaner water future for us, for our businesses, for our agriculture.

Linda Kerr


You’ve had bad habits all along; Now it's just official

A Letter to the Editor by Angela Camp, May 27, 2018



Say you are a 6-foot, 2-inch man and weigh 239 pounds. Just a random example.

By the official categorization, you’re overweight, but not obese. You think, “I’m a little heavy, but everything is fine.” Then, you go into a doctor and see you weigh more like 245.


Have you experienced a major weight gain? Not really, just a few pounds. However, you’re now in the obese category.

Your doctor says to watch your eating and get better exercise. You need to be on a program. This needs your attention. Bad things will happen if you don’t do something. You automatically get enrolled in programs by your health care provider.

You argue that nothing has changed much from your last weigh-in, so why all the fuss now? It’s just a couple pounds. Did the change from "overweight" to "obese" suddenly change what you need to do?

Actually not. You should have been watching what you eat and getting exercise all along. You should have been on a program to get into a healthy weight and watch all the things that lead to a healthy state. You should have been exercising regularly for many years.

Now, there’s a spotlight on it and everyone is paying attention and offering help. What do you do? Fight the idea that you need to get healthier or start jogging?

This is the situation with the Napa water basin. The state Department of Water Resources just recategorized Napa from Medium priority to High priority in a preliminary report.

The actual evaluative score went up just a few points, from being very high in the Medium category across the line into the High priority. It’s not a major change, numerically.

There was no single egregious action that screwed up the water table. It’s all of the things that happen - more wells being drilled, more vineyards planted, more people living here that put pressure on our natural water resource that are tripping alarms.

We need to do more. We need to have been doing more all along to protect water resource and quality, both underground and on the surface. We need to control the growing consumption better, and protect the supply. We need to get formal about this to protect the future. What we have been doing is not enough.

One thing we can do is protect the watersheds. That’s where the water comes from that ends up in the groundwater and in the surface streams. We can slow down and stop deforesting watersheds, because those forests capture water and guide it into the water table, so it is available all year round and finds its way to the basin under the valley.

One thing we can do right now, before any meetings, is to vote Yes on Measure C, which very simply protects the watersheds. We need to control our tree-cutting diet.

Angela Camp


California’s water pollution laws languishing without enforcement

There is nothing more Californian than our ability to swim, surf and fish in clean water. And yet, we have fallen behind Kentucky and Texas when it comes to clean water enforcement. With industry advocates in the federal driver’s seat, we need state leaders in California to hold polluters accountable for harming our precious water resources.

Jared Blumenfeld for The San Francisco Chronicle, May 24th, 2018.

Photo: Russian Riverkeeper

Photo: Russian Riverkeeper

"Two years ago, I hiked the length of California and waded the Kern, Feather and San Joaquin rivers. At their beginnings, these waters are crystal clear, cold, flowing strong and clean. More than 40 years ago, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to protect these national treasures from pollution.

When California’s rivers leave the mountain snowmelt behind, they embark on a difficult journey. Many are diverted, drained and pumped dry before they reach the Pacific Ocean. Those that keep flowing are often polluted with heavy metals, pesticides, bacteria, plastic bottles and runoff from industrial operations. In fact, the number of California rivers that failed to meet basic water quality standards for swimming, fishing and drinking shot up 170 percent from 2006 to 2010, (the last time our state undertook this legally required biannual task)."


Read the full article here:

Replanting alone is not enough. Support Measure C

Letter to the Editor by Patricia Damery, May 26 2018

To the Napa County Board of Supervisors: I applaud your decision supporting the planting of oaks in Napa County, as well as considering the replanting of conifers lost in the October fires ("Napa County wants to help with post-wildfire oak planting," May 24). We have been supporting RCD’s re-oaking the valley efforts for two years now, and it is great to see our board behind these programs.

However, I have been concerned about the effectiveness of these efforts. In Alston Park many of the new shoots that make it (and many do not) are taken by voles and other rodents. On our own ranch I see that oaks already grow where they grow best. Planting where oaks are not growing often results in failed attempts. We need more research on oak woodland and conifer restoration, which would be an important area for you to fund.

This is one reason that I support Measure C. To cut oak woodlands where they naturally grow, even if the replanting is only 2-1, or 3-1, is a net loss in the functions they provide (erosion control and groundwater restoration, carbon sequestration)— even when successful— for many years. Oaks grow slowly.

It does not make sense to keep cutting oaks— or conifers, for that matter, and then think replanting is going to mitigate that loss. We need you as our elected governing body to think more broadly about our hillsides, watersheds, and water supply. The most recent finding by the DWR reclassifies the Napa River basin as an area of high concern for water supply into the future and for our cities. It is critical you address this dire situation. Permitting more (irrigated) vineyards and development into our hillsides won’t do it.

Please address this serious situation. Supporting the replanting of acorns/trees is a baby beginning, but we need serious planning to protect our ecology so Napa County remains a jewel into the future.

Wine industry interests are threatening this, and increasingly these interests are corporate and outside interests. We need you to act on the behalf of the larger population of Napa County and on behalf of our environment.

Patricia Damery





Your Water: Who has your back?

Letter to the Editor by Gary Margadant, May 27 2018


In our county, many homes and businesses use water to stay viable and meet the needs of their owners and renters. If water is to be available to all in disaster, drought and plenty, are all users willing to share responsibility to make sure your water sources are sustainable, clean and drinkable? Can you rely on your neighbors to be good neighbors?

Water passes through all our properties on the way to groundwater, rivers and reservoirs that serve us all, so what must we do to make sure this passing water meets our neighbors needs? Are we good at this sustainable thing? A couple of California water agencies say 'no' and are sending us warnings. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) says our groundwater basin has problems we need to monitor and fix. The Regional Water Quality Board says our rivers are chocked with high levels of silt that essentially make the native fish homeless, and we need to fix this too.

The DWR says the major problems for the groundwater come from various sources: Population, total wells, public wells, irrigated acres, water quality, salt water intrusion. They require a Sustainable Agency to manage our groundwater with transparency of use, for we know not what we do without a water meter.

The Water Quality Board says the major problems are vineyard development in the hills that expose the soils to erosion that carry the silt to the rivers. They require the vineyard owners fix this with Best Practices.

Good neighbors cannot duck their responsibilities to us all and these agencies will be watching over us to make sure we do the sustainability things that benefits us all. We should do the same.

Measure C is proposing a tried and true good neighbor method of sustainability.

Vote Yes on Measure C.

Gary Margadant

Mount Veeder

Did You Know?

Letter to the Editor, by Norma J Tofanelli, Past President of Napa County Farm Bureau


Did you know that two experienced land-use lawyers wrote the legal text of the Measure C initiative? One, Tom Adams of Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty, represented the Napa Valley Vintners and the other, Robert Perlmutter, with Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, has often represented the Napa County Farm Bureau as well as Napa County itself.

Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger also wrote Measure J and successfully defended it before the California Supreme Court. Now, these organizations oppose Measure C Saying that it’s “legally misleading and confusing?”

Did you know that the boards of directors of the Napa Valley Vintners, the Napa County Farm Bureau and the Napa Valley Grapegrowers did not take any formal survey of their members before they voted to oppose Measure C? Many members, possibly even a majority, still support Measure C.

Did you know that Measure C allows the removal of 795 acres of oak woodlands - because this condition was required by the Napa Valley Vintners to get their original support? It effectively allows "business as usual" for the first 795 acres. That is why Measure C is needed to protect the rest.

Did you know that without Measure C, many thousands of acres more can be clear cut? With Measure C, once the 795-acre cap is reached, developers can apply for an oak removal permit, similar to what residents already do in every town and city in Napa County.

Reject corporate Big Money misstatement and deception. Reject deforestation as a means of expansion. Protect our reservoirs. Save our Watersheds. Yes on Measure C.

Norma J. Tofanelli

Napa County Farm Bureau Past President, 2013-16


Measure C Protects the Water We All Need

Letter to the Editor by Warren Winiarski, May 27 2018


I am replying to the May 20 letter by Garrett Buckland of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers (“Grapegrowers set the gold standard for land stewardship”). The grapegrowers are wonderful stewards of their vineyards. But their gold standard stewardship doesn’t address the main problem that Measure C targets, namely, preventing the exhaustion of the Napa Valley’s water resources.

Everyone in Napa County -- including towns, cities, small farmers, and residents -- depend on our common water resources, and these resources are supplied by oak woodlands. And, oak woodlands are finite. If we continue without limit to allow oak woodlands to be removed and replaced by vineyards and wineries, we destroy that land’s capacity to recharge water supplies in the Napa River basin. It’s not a question of how many more acres of farmlands we’ve protected than have other California counties. Thanks to our Agricultural Preserve, we’re doing great on that score.

It’s a question of supporting the existing farmlands and communities with enough water for their needs. If we keep chipping away at the oak woodlands we have, soon they’ll be gone and the vineyards that replace them won’t have the water they need to prosper. Everyone understands “overgrazing;” the sheep starve and the pasture is destroyed.

According to research by the Napa Valley Vintners, who helped write Measure C, Napa County could still add 5,000 acres of vineyards in the Ag Watershed without removing any oak trees. But sooner or later, we will hit the limit of how many acres can be farmed with the available water resources. We got ahead of the trend 50 years ago by creating the Agricultural Preserve and preventing urban sprawl. Now we need to get ahead of the trend again, this time by protecting the wineries, vineyards, communities and residents by preserving the water they all need.

Measure J (which was unopposed) included the following statement: “The unique character of Napa County and quality of life of County residents depend on the protection of a substantial amount of open space lands. The protection of such lands not only ensures the continued viability of agriculture, but also protects the available water supply and contributes to flood control and the protection of wildlife, environmentally sensitive areas, and irreplaceable natural resources.”

Please uphold Napa County’s long tradition of shared natural resources, and join us in voting 'yes' on Measure C.

Warren Winiarski