The Good News First! The 2018 Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative is now Measure C on the June 5 ballot! On February 27, the Board of Supervisors okayed the Measure for the Ballot.
Now the bad news. The Board of Supervisors hired the law firm of Miller Starr Regalia for the legal analysis of the Watershed initiative (9111 report). This is the same law firm the Supervisors used to keep the 2016 initiative from going on the ballot even though thousands of Napa County voters signified their support by signing the petition. In the words of Robert Perlmutter, attorney at Shute, Mihaly, & Weinberger, LLP, representing the sponsors of the initiative, The report “is not a fair assessment of the Initiative’s effects. Rather, it is fundamentally misleading and biased, reading as if it were prepared for an opponent of the Initiative who asked its lawyers to prepare a comprehensive catalogue of every conceivable ground—no matter how flimsy—for challenging the Initiative in court. Indeed, it is a stretch to call the Miller Starr Report a “9111 report” at all. It does not, for instance, ever identify the seven specific impacts and effects that the Legislature itemized as appropriate for consideration in a 9111 Report. Nor does it even purport to set forth an unbiased analysis of the impact of implementing the Initiative. And it contains no discussion of how and to what degree the Initiative will further its stated goals of ensuring long-term protections for Napa County’s oak woodlands, streams, and wetlands that are so essential to the County’s future.”
It has never been so important to get the facts!
Q: What is the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Measure C about?
A: It’s about water. Napa’s primary sources of water are the watersheds – the hillsides and higher elevation areas that feed into the Napa River. That source is at risk, from climate change, from overuse, and from deforestation of the watershed. The oak woodlands help direct water into the underground stores where it supplies wells and creeks. When developers cut down the woodlands, it increase erosion and decreases the supply of clean water for agriculture and home use. This measure protects the woodlands and the areas next to rivers and creeks to preserve our water security.
Q: Where is Napa’s water now?
A: The most visible water in our county is the Napa River. Less apparent, but equally important, are the valley’s underground aquifers and seasonal creeks that spring to life with the rains and flow down the hillsides to replenish the river, the aquifers, and the cities’ reservoirs.
Q: Why is Measure C needed?
A: With the Napa Valley floor now covered with vineyards, wine-processing buildings, tourist facilities, and urbanization, there is mounting pressure to build on the still-wooded hillsides. That would inevitably involve cutting thousands of trees, and interrupt the free flow of creek water into the valley. The loss of trees leads to erosion and further compromises the natural ecosystem.
Q: How is Napa’s ecosystem being affected?
A: Napa County harbors over 1,300 plant and animal species in an environment known the world over for its natural beauty. That ecosystem of biological diversity helps maintain water quality and climate stability. Commercial development irreparably jeopardizes that unique environment.
Q: So how will Measure C help?
A: The measure limits the removal of oak woodlands to 795 acres, after which a permit would be needed. This limit is consistent with the vineyard growth anticipated by the county’s 2008 General Plan. It will establish “no-cut” buffer zones for forests along streams and wetlands.
Also, it will strengthen existing standards to require a 3:1 ratio for replacing or preserving oak trees when oaks are lost to development. Oak trees not only reduce erosion, they also capture and filter rainfall, provide habitat for wildlife, and improve the soil’s nutrient retention.
More questions? Attend the Panel Presentation by Napa Sierra Club and Napa County League of Women Voters on March 12, 2018 at the Napa Main Library. For more information, click here.