Do You C?

James Knight for the Bohemian


""We've entered this era, starting with the national election, of these alternate truths." Hackett says it's all about polling. After the Napa Valley Vintners turned against the measure they'd initially helped craft—in part because polling results showed they'd almost certainly lose such a fight, according to Hackett—they turned to polls showing that traffic, hillsides and water were among Napa residents' top concerns.

"They took them and flipped them 180 degrees," Hackett says. "It doesn't matter that it isn't real or true; they just say it to confuse voters.""

Read the article here

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


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