This week we celebrate the news that the Center for Biological Diversity is appealing the mitigation plan approved by Director David Morrison for the Walt Ranch project to the Board of Supervisors. Walt Ranch (Hall Brambletree) plans to cut 14,000 oaks to plant vineyards in Ag Watershed lands, crucial to the replenishment of city reservoirs and the well servicing Circle Oaks community. The accepted mitigation plan for greenhouse gases is a shell game with little science behind it.

Last week David Campbell, executive committee member of the Napa Sierra Club, wrote a Letter to the Editor of the Napa Valley Register entitled “Our water security as a whole, not as a part,” a title which says it all. As the Groundwater Sustainability Plan Advisory Committee (GSPAC) drafts its plan to present to the Board of Supervisors to meet the State’s required Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP), the source of the water in our groundwater subbasin must be considered. Projects such as Walt Ranch demonstrate the great divide in thought. Is this mainly an issue of property rights within Ag zoned lands, or is it a much larger issue of climate stabilization or disruption–and resultant water security?

Campbell states that “approaching the problem of sustainability of the subbasin from a systems perspective means we realize that the groundwater in our aquifers is not some self-contained, self-sustaining entity but that it depends on inflows…(and) outflows….” Consideration of the health of our hillside watersheds must be a part of the equation. Preserving trees and other native vegetation in the watershed is necessary to keep the “faucet” of our subbasin’s primary water source open.

Then there is Climate Disruption. We are in a climate emergency, and we cannot afford to release any more carbon into the atmosphere nor replace oak woodlands and forests with vegetation such as vines which sequester far less carbon. Disposing of 14,000 trees releases hundreds of years of stored carbon. The mitigation proposes planting 16,000 trees to replace them, but it will take decades for surviving young trees to perform the carbon drawdown of 14,000 trees. We don’t have time for this if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate disruption. Trees are our greatest hope of reaching climate goals. The push of the wine industry for business as usual will harm us all.

One thing we know:
Public Comment makes a difference.

We are all going to need to stay on board on both of these issues. After GSPAC finalizes its draft Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP), there will be another time of public comment. Public, we have to comment! Your comments are why the BOS didn’t slide by before, saying they successfully managed the subbasin. The Department of Water Resources listened to the larger story you told through letters and then required the county to establish a Groundwater Sustainability Agency. Is the county trying to slide by again?

Trees are crucial to climate stabilization and water security. Our politicians have not been able to provide the leadership necessary to make substantial change. It is up to us! Please sharpen your pencils and get ready for a wild ride these next months. We will keep you informed when your comments will be needed.