Napa, CA, July 12, 2016 --(PR.com
)-- Recent widespread news reports concerning controversy over a San Luis Obispo County wine company bulldozing hundreds of acres of oak trees to plant vineyards have left many Napa County residents scratching their heads: The same devastation is taking place in Napa, much faster and on a far greater scale, says the Napa County Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Committee.
“This deforestation project (by Justin Wines) in central California is heartbreaking, and should help bring awareness to the current onslaught in Napa County,” said Mike Hackett, spokesman from the Napa County Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Committee for the Initiative. “We are right now confronting project after project calling for deforestation in our watersheds, and residents are alarmed -- our County officials have yet to act.”
Consequently, Hackett and other Napa County citizens have drawn up and collected over 6,300 signatures on a voter initiative for the Nov. 8 ballot -- the Napa County Water, Forest and Oak Woodlands Protection Initiative of 2016. Its primary aim is to safeguard the County’s watersheds, water sources and forests. “We need this ballot measure to restore balance between the wine tourism industry and the rights of local residents and communities, and to provide long-term protections for our oak woodlands and our water future,” Hackett said.
“This should concern residents of the greater San Francisco Bay Area as well,” Hackett explained. “The Napa River is the second-largest freshwater source emptying into the bay - a water body shared by millions. The Napa River has been impaired for decades and we need protections for the water sources that drain into it.”
According to Hackett, Napa County Planning Department records show nearly 3 million gallons of additional wine will be needed to satisfy the myriad of winery expansions on file with the County. That would require an estimated 6,000 additional acres of new vineyards, sacrificing much of the county’s water supply and natural beauty - its forested hillsides and watersheds - to meet the demand.
"Right now we have at least 29 erosion control/vineyard conversion applications on file awaiting approval," says Jim Wilson, vice-president of Defenders of East Napa Watersheds. “We don’t have any current protections for our oak woodlands, so we need the Initiative for a healthy eco-system.”
"California has lost more than a million acres of oak-related lands in recent decades. These oak woodlands," he said, "are responsible for water purification and replenishment and are essential to the environment and watershed health."
"Napa has the highest concentration of oak woodlands of any County in California, and this iconic ecosystem is disappearing at an alarming rate,” Wilson added. "This is significant because two thirds of Napa County’s drinking water comes from its oak-dotted watersheds."
Joy, Eldredge, Napa City Water General Manager has written: “The County should prevent the shifting of vineyard development impacts onto the City and its public drinking water customers.” The water manager goes on to state that "the City has seen a 400% increase in the level of effort required to treat Hennessey Reservoir for algae problems.”
"This water quality degradation is due to vineyard development and run-off above the reservoir’s watershed," says Hackett. "At times, 70% of Napa city’s water supply comes from Hennessey Reservoir."
"Large vineyard developments above water reservoirs could require tax payer money to clean up these reservoirs, if such developments take place," according to Hackett.
“The juggernaut of the wine industry’s encroachment into hillside forests threatens to bring serious impacts for humans, animals and the environment and after five years of drought, it’s only going to get worse,” says Wilson.
Napa Valley, one of the world’s most prestigious viticulture regions, is noted for its ideal terroir and climate for grape growing. “Over 40 years ago,” Hackett said, "visionary Napa County activists such as Volker Eisele pushed through farsighted policies to protect the valley floor for what was considered it's highest and best use - agriculture, including wine grape production."
Now, however, the accelerating demand from international corporations and wealthy individuals to convert thousands more forested acres to vineyards is pushing development onto sensitive hillsides and natural areas, threatening Napa County’s microclimates and future water security.
The Napa County Water, Forest and Oak Woodlands Protection Initiative recently garnered over 6,300 petition signatures to qualify for the November ballot. It is currently held up by the County over an alleged “minor technical issue," Hackett explained.
A lawsuit filed by Initiative proponents will be heard in Napa Superior Court on July 15 and a favorable ruling would allow the measure to go forward on schedule. In the case of an unfavorable ruling, the matter will be appealed to a higher court.
The Superior Court hearing is set for Friday, July 15, 9:00, Napa Superior Court, 1111 Third St., Napa, CA. 94559
The Napa County Water, Forest and Oak Woodland Protection Committee. Learn more at http://www.protectnapawatersheds.org/
Mike Hackett (707) 965-9640 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Wilson (707) 226-2155 email@example.com