by Mike Hackett

There is a powerful environmental movement in Napa County that brought Measure C, the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative, to the ballot last year. The loss, 49.1% to 50.9 %, a mere 641 votes out of 36,000 cast, was devastating. However, the community’s need and desire for this, continues to flourish.

After a series of meetings between government, industry and watershed protection advocates, Congressman Mike Thompson ended his direct involvement by turning this environmental issue-turned political football into a call for action at the County Board of Supervisors, who oversee all land use policy in the County. He stated the need for enhanced environmental protections should be a top priority.

The Growers/Vintners for Responsible Agriculture shared their 9 essential points to increase the likelihood that our water quality and quantity will be enhanced, that our natural ecology will help us combat a fast-moving climate crisis, and that the habitat for all the species that live in the forests, river and streams will have a chance at survival.

1. Retention rate of 85% of the forest canopy and 40% of shrub and grasslands
2. Increase mitigation from 2:1 to 3:1 for any removal of forest. Preservation must be done on-site.
3. No planting on slopes over 30%. Lands not developable due to protected slopes or stream corridors or existing easements are effectively protected and do not constitute comparable lands eligible for preservation.
4. Water quality buffer zones to protect smaller streams (Class 3 streams),
5. 150’ minimum setback from wetlands,
6. 500’ setback from reservoirs,
7. Altering the ordinance would go to the voters,
8. On-going monitoring and enforcement programs to ensure compliance and
9. It would not apply to replants within existing footprints.

Those ideas are the basis for a matrix of choices discussed and evaluated at the Jan 29 meeting of the BOS. The results are mixed, but progress is apparent. Most troubling is that many of the protections have been weakened and are now with the Planning Commission for resident’s input and Commission opinion.

An important example of a shortfall: The County Draft Ordinance calls for a process that would allow preservation on steep land to mitigate development.

Raise your voice now. Call Supervisors, Planning Commissioners, local media and let’s rally around finishing what we set out to do in 2015: Limit the stripping of our hillside forests and protect our shared finite water resource.

The science is clear; our future is not.