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Eyes on Napa - April 17, 2022
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Walt Ranch: An Important Vote
Do No Harm!

Napa County Board of Supervisors Meeting
Tuesday, April 19, 2022,
Rally at 12:00 noon, Hearing at 1:30 pm

 
Walt Ranch returns to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, in perhaps one of the most regionally and nationally reported hearings in Napa Valley history. We hope you will be part of the ongoing story by sharing your concerns about this controversial project with potentially disastrous environmental consequences.

The Board of Supervisors will vote (again) on the appeal by the Center for Biological Diversity of the county's planned greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation measures for the cutting of over 14,000 mature trees. The Courts had remanded the case back to the Board of Supervisors for inadequately accounting for GHG. 

Only four supervisors will be voting as District 4 Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza has recused himself while the state FPPC (Fair Political Practices Commission) investigates numerous conflict of interest claims. On December 13, the original vote of 3 to 2 denied the appeal, with Pedroza voting to deny.  

But let's not let the drama of the vote eclipse the fact that one of the most important actions we can take is to do no more harm to our environment. It will take decades for the proposed 16,000+ seedlings, even if they survive, to do the carbon work of only one mature oak. It is absurd and unconscionable for our county to operate in this manner. Only magical thinking could make this a tolerable choice.  

We are now living in a time where we are deep within a climate emergency.
We can no longer continue with "business as usual" by relying on the 2008 General Plan in planning and making land-use decisions based on outdated data from the past. Trees are our biggest hope of carbon sink.

Tell our supervisors to do the right thing. Not only is our environment at stake, but our local democratic process as well. Below are some talking points you may want to include in your email or your public comment to the Board of Supervisors. 
Why This Matters - Top Talking Points
  • The Center for Biological Diversity’s Walt Ranch Appeal should be granted.
  • We are in a climate crisis. Hall Brambletree’s GHG mitigation plan is inadequate. We cannot afford to lose over 14,000 carbon-sequestering trees or to create the emissions associated with maintaining 209 acres of vineyard indefinitely.
  • We don’t have time for seedlings to grow into trees. The climate crisis is already happening. Since this project was initially proposed, Napa County has experienced several megafires, crop failure due to smoke taint, and extended drought. We can’t afford to lose our carbon stores.
  • The current proposal would likely lead to more development — and more GHG emissions — in the future. There is nothing precluding the sale of any of the 35 parcels separately, or future construction on each of them. New roads will open up formerly inaccessible areas. Each parcel could have two homes, a granny unit, and a winery under current regulations.
  • Staff report says there will be no fiscal impacts if project goes forward, yet this project could foul municipal water supplies, will increase traffic on local roads, and increase fire risk. Failing to address climate crisis will be incredibly expensive in the long-term, as well.
  • The climate crisis is contributing to a water availability shortage locally. The most recent proposal shifts much of the vineyard development into the Milliken watershed. Milliken Reservoir is presently a high-quality source of water for 86,000 Napans. Building a water treatment plant will cost tens of millions of dollars, and the public will pay for that — not the developer.
  • Vineyards are not firebreaks. The September 2020 Glass fire started near Bell Canyon Reservoir and embers were carried on strong winds across the floor of Napa Valley to the Mayacamas, leading to the destruction of 28 wineries, four resorts, and larges swaths of vineyard - especially on Spring Mountain, which features conditions similar to the Walt Ranch proposal. Walt Ranch plans show relatively small vineyard blocks scattered across the hills with moderate to high fuel loads next to them. CalFire designated the area as High and Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones. These vineyards are likely to burn.
  • Increasing human activity in an area increases fire risk. At least 95% of California fires are caused by humans.
  • We don’t need new vineyards to have a healthy economy. The wine and tourism industries are generating tens of billions of dollars annually. We need to focus on building a sustainable local economy. Recent years have featured both wine grape gluts on the market and crop failures due to smoke taint. Converting more wildland to vineyard moves us in the wrong direction.
  • Supervisors can use Napa County Conservation Element 65 as grounds for granting CBD’s appeal: “The County shall support efforts to reduce and offset greenhouse gas emissions and strive to maintain and enhance the County’s current level of carbon sequestration functions. [The County shall] preserve and enhance the values of Napa County’s plant life as carbon sequestration systems.“
  • The public needs more time to review the revised proposal that is being presented at the 4/19 hearing 


For hearing information visit the Board of Supervisors county website here. For the full time line and archive, visit the
Walt Ranch page of sodacanyon.org 

How to Participate
Details are provided by the county within each agenda for the meetings. Please visit here to download the agenda and then follow the directions for various methods for participation. 
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Eyes on Napa: Co-editors, Patricia Damery and Debby Fortune, Editorial Board: Eve Kahn, Gary Margadant, Rusty Cohn, Iris Barrie. Contact the editors at eyesonnapa@gmail.com