Sunday, March 26, 2017

Now the Russians are coming to Napa, too

Apparently have come, in fact. With the head of the House Intelligence Committee on board. Get weirder.                                  

And from Daily Kos:
OK, this seems far-fetched and tenuous, but who wouldn’t have thought a Russian invasion of a US election and association with a US President was far-fetched and tenuous less than a year ago?  As a further caveat to this diary, I should also say I haven’t a clue who/what the source of this story is.
With all that in mind, here goes …
First, according to his 2014 financial disclosure report and reported in the LA Times, nearly all of Devin Nunes’ entire net worth of about $51,000 is apparently tied up in an investment in the Alpha Omega WInery of St. Helena, CA.
As reported in Addicting Info (the source I know nothing about), with distributors across the US, Canada and Mexico, this winery has few distributors worldwide and only two in other western countries, namely Switzerland and Russia.  The author of the piece in Addicting Info makes the point that there is no distributor in a NATO country in Europe.
From googling, I have not been able to find much information in depth about the Russian distributor, the Luding Trade Company.  Nor does there seem to be any suspicious information about the Alpha Omega Winery or its founders.  So for now this is likely a random factoid, and it’s possible everyone in Congress, Democrat and Republican, could be linked in some way to Russia.  But it sure seems that such a connection might be a prerequisite for those in the Trump orbit.
Again, for what it’s worth.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Napa Confidential: Limits on hillside development will rise again

     Last year's mandatory stream set-back and timber cutting initiative to protect Napa County's wooded hillsides was disqualified on a technicality. But it will not go away and could still end up before the state supreme court. There it might well be reinstated, but even if it isn't the initiative will rise again. And next time the number of signatories in the county will rise with it, as will stakes for both the undervalued watershed and those misguided organizations opposing its preservation.
    The so-called wine "industry" - they  used to be "farmers and "winemakers" - is working behind the scenes to propose a watered-down version of the initiative in hopes of saving some face and forestalling stricter regulations next year. But any compromise in this age of The Donald is opposed by what I guess we must now refer to as "wine industrialists." For instance, a spokesman for the Napa Valley Vintners still publicly refers to development in  the hills as "farming."
To order Napa:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A week for watching the woes and determined saviors of the only world we have

From the organizers of Washington's DC's enduring - and quite wonderful - annual Environmental Film Festival:                                                                        

                                         Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman
Thanks to The Reva and David Logan Foundation for its support of this evening. 
From the Montana Rockies to the Kansas wheat fields and the Gulf of Mexico, families who work the land and sea are crossing political divides to find unexpected ways to protect the natural resources vital to their livelihoods. Based on Miriam Horn’s book and narrated by Tom Brokaw, Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman is the next chapter of conservation heroism, deep in America’s heartland.
A Discovery Documentary Film. Directed by Susan Froemke & John Hoffman. Co-directed by Beth Aala. (Saturday at 4 at the Carnegie Institution of Science on 16th St. NW)
For more than 20 years, the Environmental Film Festival has played a critical role in bringing together filmmakers, policymakers, scientists, educators, and citizens committed to the future of our planet.
Each March in Washington, D.C., we host America’s largest environmental film festival, presenting 150+ films to an audience of over 27,000.
By partnering with leading museums, embassies, universities and theaters, we aim to advance the public’s understanding of the environment and inspire action, through the power of film.
Founded in 1993, DCEFF is the longest-running environmental film festival in the United States. It has grown into a major collaborative, cultural event, both during the festival season and all year-round.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Can fiction foretell?

From the New York Times Book Review:


CreditEleni Kalorkoti 

In the spring of 1984 I began to write a novel that was not initially called “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I wrote in longhand, mostly on yellow legal notepads, then transcribed my almost illegible scrawlings using a huge German-keyboard manual typewriter I’d rented.
The keyboard was German because I was living in West Berlin, which was still encircled by the Berlin Wall: The Soviet empire was still strongly in place, and was not to crumble for another five years. Every Sunday the East German Air Force made sonic booms to remind us of how close they were. During my visits to several countries behind the Iron Curtain — Czechoslovakia, East Germany — I experienced the wariness, the feeling of being spied on, the silences, the changes of subject, the oblique ways in which people might convey information, and these had an influence on what I was writing. So did the repurposed buildings. “This used to belong to . . . but then they disappeared.” I heard such stories many times.
Having been born in 1939 and come to consciousness during World War II, I knew that established orders could vanish overnight. Change could also be as fast as lightning. “It can’t happen here” could not be depended on: Anything could happen anywhere, given the circumstances.
By 1984, I’d been avoiding my novel for a year or two. It seemed to me a risky venture. I’d read extensively in science fiction, speculative fiction, utopias and dystopias ever since my high school years in the 1950s, but I’d never written such a book. Was I up to it? The form was strewn with pitfalls, among them a tendency to sermonize, a veering into allegory and a lack of plausibility. If I was to create an imaginary garden I wanted the toads in it to be real. One of my rules was that I would not put any events into the book that had not already happened in what James Joyce called the “nightmare” of history, nor any technology not already available. No imaginary gizmos, no imaginary laws, no imaginary atrocities. God is in the details, they say. So is the Devil.
Continue reading the main story
Back in 1984, the main premise seemed — even to me — fairly outrageous. Would I be able to persuade readers that the United States had suffered a coup that had transformed an erstwhile liberal democracy into a literal-minded theocratic dictatorship? In the book, the Constitution and Congress are no longer: The Republic of Gilead is built on a foundation of the 17th-century Puritan roots that have always lain beneath the modern-day America we thought we knew.
So the tale unfolds.

PhotoThe immediate location of the book is Cambridge, Mass., home of Harvard University, now a leading liberal educational institution but once a Puritan theological seminary. The Secret Service of Gilead is located in the Widener Library, where I had spent many hours in the stacks, researching my New England ancestors as well as the Salem witchcraft trials. Would some people be affronted by the use of the Harvard wall as a display area for the bodies of the executed? (They were.)In the novel the population is shrinking due to a toxic environment, and the ability to have viable babies is at a premium. (In today’s real world, studies are now showing a sharp fertility decline in Chinese men.) Under totalitarianisms — or indeed in any sharply hierarchical society — the ruling class monopolizes valuable things, so the elite of the regime arrange to have fertile females assigned to them as Handmaids. The biblical precedent is the story of Jacob and his two wives, Rachel and Leah, and their two handmaids. One man, four women, 12 sons — but the handmaids could not claim the sons. They belonged to the respective wives.And so the tale unfolds.When I first began “The Handmaid’s Tale” it was called “Offred,” the name of its central character. This name is composed of a man’s first name, “Fred,” and a prefix denoting “belonging to,” so it is like “de” in French or “von” in German, or like the suffix “son” in English last names like Williamson. Within this name is concealed another possibility: “offered,” denoting a religious offering or a victim offered for sacrifice.Why do we never learn the real name of the central character, I have often been asked. Because, I reply, so many people throughout history have had their names changed, or have simply disappeared from view. Some have deduced that Offred’s real name is June, since, of all the names whispered among the Handmaids in the gymnasium/dormitory, “June” is the only one that never appears again. That was not my original thought but it fits, so readers are welcome to it if they wish.At some time during the writing, the novel’s name changed to “The Handmaid’s Tale,” partly in honor of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” but partly also in reference to fairy tales and folk tales: The story told by the central character partakes — for later or remote listeners — of the unbelievable, the fantastic, as do the stories told by those who have survived earth-shattering events.

Over the years, “The Handmaid’s Tale” has taken many forms. It has been translated into 40 or more languages. It was made into a film in 1990. It has been an opera, and it has also been a ballet. It is being turned into a graphic novel. And in April 2017 it will become an MGM/Hulu television series.
In this series I have a small cameo. The scene is the one in which the newly conscripted Handmaids are being brainwashed in a sort of Red Guard re-education facility known as the Red Center. They must learn to renounce their previous identities, to know their place and their duties, to understand that they have no real rights but will be protected up to a point if they conform, and to think so poorly of themselves that they will accept their assigned fate and not rebel or run away.

The Handmaids sit in a circle, with the Taser-equipped Aunts forcing them to join in what is now called (but was not, in 1984) the “slut-shaming” of one of their number, Jeanine, who is being made to recount how she was gang-raped as a teenager. Her fault, she led them on — that is the chant of the other Handmaids.
Although it was “only a television show” and these were actresses who would be giggling at coffee break, and I myself was “just pretending,” I found this scene horribly upsetting. It was way too much like way too much history. Yes, women will gang up on other women. Yes, they will accuse others to keep themselves off the hook: We see that very publicly in the age of social media, which enables group swarmings. Yes, they will gladly take positions of power over other women, even — and, possibly, especially — in systems in which women as a whole have scant power: All power is relative, and in tough times any amount is seen as better than none. Some of the controlling Aunts are true believers, and think they are doing the Handmaids a favor: At least they haven’t been sent to clean up toxic waste, and at least in this brave new world they won’t get raped, not as such, not by strangers. Some of the Aunts are sadists. Some are opportunists. And they are adept at taking some of the stated aims of 1984 feminism — like the anti-porn campaign and greater safety from sexual assault — and turning them to their own advantage. As I say: real life.
Which brings me to three questions I am often asked.
First, is “The Handmaid’s Tale” a “feminist” novel? If you mean an ideological tract in which all women are angels and/or so victimized they are incapable of moral choice, no. If you mean a novel in which women are human beings — with all the variety of character and behavior that implies — and are also interesting and important, and what happens to them is crucial to the theme, structure and plot of the book, then yes. In that sense, many books are “feminist.”


Why interesting and important? Because women are interesting and important in real life. They are not an afterthought of nature, they are not secondary players in human destiny, and every society has always known that. Without women capable of giving birth, human populations would die out. That is why the mass rape and murder of women, girls and children has long been a feature of genocidal wars, and of other campaigns meant to subdue and exploit a population. Kill their babies and replace their babies with yours, as cats do; make women have babies they can’t afford to raise, or babies you will then remove from them for your own purposes, steal babies — it’s been a widespread, age-old motif. The control of women and babies has been a feature of every repressive regime on the planet. Napoleon and his “cannon fodder,” slavery and its ever-renewed human merchandise — they both fit in here. Of those promoting enforced childbirth, it should be asked: Cui bono? Who profits by it? Sometimes this sector, sometimes that. Never no one.
The second question that comes up frequently: Is “The Handmaid’s Tale” antireligion? Again, it depends what you may mean by that. True, a group of authoritarian men seize control and attempt to restore an extreme version of the patriarchy, in which women (like 19th-century American slaves) are forbidden to read. Further, they can’t control money or have jobs outside the home, unlike some women in the Bible. The regime uses biblical symbols, as any authoritarian regime taking over America doubtless would: They wouldn’t be Communists or Muslims.
The modesty costumes worn by the women of Gilead are derived from Western religious iconography — the Wives wear the blue of purity, from the Virgin Mary; the Handmaids wear red, from the blood of parturition, but also from Mary Magdalene. Also, red is easier to see if you happen to be fleeing. The wives of men lower in the social scale are called Econowives, and wear stripes. I must confess that the face-hiding bonnets came not only from mid-Victorian costume and from nuns, but from the Old Dutch Cleanser package of the 1940s, which showed a woman with her face hidden, and which frightened me as a child. Many totalitarianisms have used clothing, both forbidden and enforced, to identify and control people — think of yellow stars and Roman purple — and many have ruled behind a religious front. It makes the creation of heretics that much easier.

In the book, the dominant “religion” is moving to seize doctrinal control, and religious denominations familiar to us are being annihilated. Just as the Bolsheviks destroyed the Mensheviks in order to eliminate political competition and Red Guard factions fought to the death against one another, the Catholics and the Baptists are being targeted and eliminated. The Quakers have gone underground, and are running an escape route to Canada, as — I suspect — they would. Offred herself has a private version of the Lord’s Prayer and refuses to believe that this regime has been mandated by a just and merciful God. In the real world today, some religious groups are leading movements for the protection of vulnerable groups, including women.
So the book is not “antireligion.” It is against the use of religion as a front for tyranny; which is a different thing altogether.
Is “The Handmaid’s Tale” a prediction? That is the third question I’m asked — increasingly, as forces within American society seize power and enact decrees that embody what they were saying they wanted to do, even back in 1984, when I was writing the novel. No, it isn’t a prediction, because predicting the future isn’t really possible: There are too many variables and unforeseen possibilities. Let’s say it’s an antiprediction: If this future can be described in detail, maybe it won’t happen. But such wishful thinking cannot be depended on either.



So many different strands fed into “The Handmaid’s Tale” — group executions, sumptuary laws, book burnings, the Lebensborn program of the SS and the child-stealing of the Argentine generals, the history of slavery, the history of American polygamy . . . the list is long.
But there’s a literary form I haven’t mentioned yet: the literature of witness. Offred records her story as best she can; then she hides it, trusting that it may be discovered later, by someone who is free to understand it and share it. This is an act of hope: Every recorded story implies a future reader. Robinson Crusoe keeps a journal. So did Samuel Pepys, in which he chronicled the Great Fire of London. So did many who lived during the Black Death, although their accounts often stop abruptly. So did Roméo Dallaire, who chronicled both the Rwandan genocide and the world’s indifference to it. So did Anne Frank, hidden in her secret annex.
There are two reading audiences for Offred’s account: the one at the end of the book, at an academic conference in the future, who are free to read but who are not always as empathetic as one might wish; and the individual reader of the book at any given time. That is the “real” reader, the Dear Reader for whom every writer writes. And many Dear Readers will become writers in their turn. That is how we writers all started: by reading. We heard the voice of a book speaking to us.
In the wake of the recent American election, fears and anxieties proliferate. Basic civil liberties are seen as endangered, along with many of the rights for women won over the past decades, and indeed the past centuries. In this divisive climate, in which hate for many groups seems on the rise and scorn for democratic institutions is being expressed by extremists of all stripes, it is a certainty that someone, somewhere — many, I would guess — are writing down what is happening as they themselves are experiencing it. Or they will remember, and record later, if they can.
Will their messages be suppressed and hidden? Will they be found, centuries later, in an old house, behind a wall?
Let us hope it doesn’t come to that. I trust it will not.
To order my novel, Nose, click on:  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Will they climb that wall?


Another Jaguar discovery in Southern Arizona adds ro border wall dispute

By Tony Davis in The Arizona Daily Star

The discovery of a jaguar in the Dos Cabezas Mountains near Willcox marks the third time since 2015 a new one has been photographed in Arizona, and the seventh time the elusive cat species has been documented in Arizona or New Mexico in the last 21 years.
But this new addition to the region’s known jaguars, disclosed Thursday, does little to quell the longstanding dispute between state and federal biologists and conservationists over their significance in Arizona. The discovery has also amplified environmentalist concerns about President Trump’s plans to build a fence or wall spanning the entire U.S.-Mexican border.
The jaguar was photographed in the mountain range near Willcox in November by a trail camera run by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. But the photo’s existence wasn’t discovered until recently, the Game and Fish Department said in announcing the jaguar finding.
Game and Fish said five biologists have determined this jaguar was a different animal from one photographed in December 2016 and January 2017 in the Huachuca Mountains, and one photographed from 2011 to 2015 in the Whetstone and Santa Rita mountains.
They couldn’t tell the animal’s gender from the photo. All six jaguars previously found in Arizona and New Mexico since 1996 have been males. No female jaguars have been seen in Arizona since 1963.
Because of the lack of females, authorities have downplayed the biological importance of jaguars discovered in Arizona for years. Some scientists and conservationists have said these males could be harbingers of a future population and future breeding, however.
Game and Fish and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials say this new jaguar discovery still doesn’t signify an Arizona population. That’s because the various discoveries have been scattered and sporadic, spanning several mountain ranges.
“I see biological significance in its discovery, because any time you have a rare species showing up with some regularity that used to be here historically,” it’s significant, said Steve Spangle, Arizona field supervisor for Fish and Wildlife.
“Obviously, we’re looking a lot harder. Like many things, the more you look, the more you see,” Spangle said. “That this species is using this portion of its historical range, we think it’s good news. To say this is a harbinger of a future population is way premature.”
The discovery does show that jaguars, who once lived as far north as the Grand Canyon, are trying to re-establish a population, said Kieran Suckling, director of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, which got jaguars listed as an endangered species in the United States in 1997.
“They’re consistently coming up over time, moving through every possible mountain corridor,” Suckling said. “It’s not like a jaguar is just randomly wandering up.”
Jaguars are far more prevalent in Mexico. But Sergio Avila, a scientist for the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, said what matters is that the jaguars still exist at all in the broader region — not which country they’re in.

“What matters is that the habitat supports jaguars in Sonora, Arizona and New Mexico and that there is habitat connectivity between those places,” said Avila, a conservation research scientist. “This discovery once again shows this state’s connection to northern Mexico — it proves that jaguars are here to stay.”
But while this is a unique find from a biological diversity standpoint, “that’s not to be confused with saying that we have a population of jaguars that’s breeding, that’s established, that’s producing young,” said Jim deVos, an assistant Game and Fish director for wildlife management. “If you look at the number of animals we’ve seen, we’ve had periods of a year and two years where we haven’t seen any.”
If the latest jaguar is female, that would certainly be more important, “but I would still be hard pressed to say we have a population,” deVos said. “To me, a population is one that is thriving and producing young.”
Certainly, the discovery of two jaguars over a short period speaks to the presence of good habitat in the borderlands, said Susan Malusa, who was project manager for a three-year University of Arizona-run jaguar study that tracked the male cat in the Santa Ritas.
“As long as we have movement corridors that are intact, the wildlife can move,” Malusa said. “We have stewards of public land, whether it be Forest Service land or BLM land and the ranches out there, providing healthy habitat and open space for wildlife.”
That jaguar movement could be stopped if Trump’s plan to build a continuous border wall goes through, activist Suckling said. So far, all recently discovered jaguars have been found in mountain ranges away from existing stretches of border fence in Arizona, he said.
“If Trump succeeds in blocking these open passage areas with fences, future jaguars will not be able to get through,” he said.
Today, Arizona has about 123 miles of pedestrian border fencing, out of 372 total border miles, that are high enough to potentially block large animals. Another 189 miles have vehicle barriers low enough for jaguars to cross. The rest are unfenced.
The wildlife service won’t take a position on a border wall unless asked by the Department of Homeland Security to formally determine the wall’s impact on endangered species.
“We need to see what the wall would look like” to determine if it will block wildlife migration, deVos said.
“I believe the president said it doesn’t have to be a continuous solid wall — could be virtual wall in some places,” he said. The department will work with whoever builds the wall to try to design areas to assist wildlife movement, deVos said.

To order Memphis Afternoons click on:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Napa Confidential: Official back-channeling?

     Reports of a ranking member of the Napa County board of supervisors in close email contact with ranking members of the Napa County Grapegrowers. If the subject's business - and it is - it should, according to the California supreme court, be public. See

Monday, March 13, 2017

A lifestyle vintner's now president. What's it mean?

     A story in Politico ( was about Trump's environmental policies, if that's the right word, and raise interesting questions for the increasingly broad community of American wine. Trump bought a fait accompli Virginia vineyard, winery and manor house at a fire-sale price back in 2011. His - Trump's - profile perfectly matchers that of the typical lifestyle vintner, with one big exception: he doesn't even like the stuff.



Sunday, March 12, 2017

Can California stay clean?

              Stakes are high for the Environment

                      By Noah Feldman, from The Napa Register

    The Trump administration is considering a new assault on American legal and constitutional structures by taking on federalism — and vehicle emissions. Specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency reportedly will try to revoke a waiver that California has enjoyed for 45 years, which allows the state — and any state that wants to copy it — to regulate tailpipe emissions more stringently than the federal government does. 
    A revocation by President Donald Trump and the executive branch is almost certainly unlawful. The Clean Air Act expressly says that California must be granted the waiver if its emissions rules are “at least as protective of public health and welfare” as the federal government’s. That means anything more protective must be granted. If the revocation happens, there is sure to be a protracted legal fight.
    The stakes are high for the environment. Because 15 states follow California, and cars sold in states bordering those states may comply with California rules, 130 million people are potentially affected.
    But the stakes are also high for the federal design of the Constitution. The California waiver provision reflects the delicate balance between states and the federal government in environmental regulation. Revoking it falls within Congress’s power, not the president’s.
    The Clean Air Act’s waiver provision is unusual — and it flows from federalism principles.
    Under the Constitution, as a default, both states and the federal government share the capacity to regulate most activities. The states have an inherent regulatory power, known as the “police power.” The federal government gets its power to regulate from Congress’s authority to make laws on matters affecting interstate commerce. State and federal power can overlap, as in the case of the punishment of drug crimes.
    Because federal law is the supreme law of the land, according to the Constitution, federal law trumps state law when the two conflict.
    Congress has a special power that allows it to deal with that conflict by barring states from regulating in areas where they might interfere with federal rules. This power is called “preemption”: Congress “preempts” state law when it has occupied the whole field of regulation to the exclusion of the states. Sometimes Congress says expressly that it’s preempting state laws; sometimes the preemption is implicit.
    The Clean Air Act is an example of federal preemption — in part. Section 7543 of the law says that no state “shall adopt or attempt to enforce any standard relating to the control of emissions from new motor vehicles.” That includes “certification, inspection, or any other approval relating to the control of emissions from any new motor vehicle.”
    Yet as soon as the law takes away states’ regulatory power, it restores it to California. The law says the EPA administrator “shall ... authorize California to adopt and enforce standards.” It’s up to California (not the federal government) to determine “that California standards will be, in the aggregate, at least as protective of public health and welfare as applicable Federal standards.”

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    The only ways to block California from using its own standard are if the EPA administrator determines that the California rules are arbitrary and capricious — which they aren’t — or if “California does not need such ... standards to meet compelling and extraordinary conditions.” So long as Los Angeles has smog, the conditions for restricting emissions are going to be compelling.
    The historical reason for this design is that California had been regulating emissions long before the federal government got into the act.
To order my book about the loss of American place go to:

Monday, March 6, 2017

Stealing water under cover of wine: sneak preview

"... this isn't about wine, but water. Vines are just the cover crop."                                                                        
    To be shown in full on March 14, opening day of Washington's Environmental Film Festival:

Monday, February 27, 2017

Center for Biological Diversity enters Napa fish fight

     The highly reputable Center for Biological Diversity in Oakland, which has reportedly never lost a legal case, has entered the fray surrounding the prospective La Colline vineyard development above Conn Creek. Juvenile steelhead were recently discovered there, and below is the letter from CBD's attorney to Cal-Fire, the government agency charged with approving any timber cutting.
     It's worth taking a long look at this to understand how such determined efforts help prevent the eradication of threatened species, and why radical landscape alteration is going to be a lot more arduous and expensive in the future (also see postings for 10/4/16 and 10/9/16 in menu, right).

To: Bill Solinsky
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection P.O. Box 944246
Sacramento, CA 94244-2460

Re: Administrative Draft Environmental Impact Report for Le Colline Vineyard Project

Dear Mr. Solinsky:
     These comments are submitted on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity (the “Center”) regarding the Administrative Draft Environmental Impact Report (“ADEIR”) for the Le Colline Vineyard Project (the “Project”). The Project will degrade the current ecosystems on the Project site, contaminate Conn Creek, and harm imperiled wildlife. Yet, the CEQA mandated environmental review for the Project is wholly inadequate and fails to comply with the requirements of the statute. For the reasons detailed below, we urge approval of the Project be denied, or at the very least substantial revisions to the ADEIR to better analyze, mitigate or avoid the Project’s significant environmental impacts.
     The Center is a non-profit, public interest environmental organization dedicated to the protection of native species and their habitats through science, policy, and environmental law. The Center has over one million members and online activists throughout California and the United States. The Center has worked for many years to protect imperiled plants and wildlife, open space, air and water quality, and overall quality of life for people in Napa County.

I. The Alternatives Analysis in the ADEIR does not Comply with CEQA.

     CEQA mandates that significant environmental damage be avoided or substantially lessened where feasible. (Pub. Res. Code § 21002; Guidelines §§ 15002(a)(3), 15021(a)(2), 15126(d).) Moreover, although “an EIR need not consider every conceivable alternative to a project . . . it must consider a reasonable range of potentially feasible alternatives that will foster informed decision decision-making and public participation.” (Guidelines § 15126.6(a).) Additionally, the “key to the selection of the range of alternatives is to identify alternatives that meet most of the project’s objectives but have a reduced level of environmental impacts.” (Watsonville Pilots Assn. v. City of Watsonville (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 1059, 1089.) Accordingly, a rigorous analysis of reasonable alternatives to the Project must be provided to comply with this strict mandate. The ADEIR fails to meet this requirement because (a) the ADEIR’s analysis of the alternatives proposed is inadequate and (b) the ADEIR fails to include a reasonable range of alternatives.

     A. The ADEIR does not adequately consider the No Timber Conversion Alternative and Reduced Oak Impact Alternative.
The “No Timber Conversion Alternative” would result in the planting of vineyards on approximately four acres of non-timberland on the property, including chaparral, manzanita, and grasslands. Accordingly to the ADEIR, no trees would be cut down. (ADEIR at 2-3.) The ADEIR claims that this alternative – which would allow the Project area to retain its natural erosion control features – would be inferior to the Project: “[Under the No Timber Conversion Alternative,] the ECP would be reduced in size and scope when compared to the Proposed Project ECP, and would not improve existing sedimentation conditions by the 58± percent reduction proposed.” (ADEIR at 2-3.) The ADEIR does not cite substantial evidence supporting the claim that the No Timber Conversion Alternative would “improve” sedimentation conditions. Indeed, the significant alterations to natural erosion control features proposed by the Project will diminish sedimentation conditions.
Nonetheless, the ADEIR does concede that the No Timber Conversion Alternative is the “environmentally superior alternative” among the development alternatives.
     However, the ADEIR does not specify which project objectives (if any) the No Timber Conversion Alternative would fail to meet. Instead, the ADEIR vaguely claims that the No Timber Conversion Alternative is not “economically viable.” (ADEIR at 5-4.) The ADEIR’s failure to cite any facts or evidence supporting this claim violates CEQA. (See Citizens of Goleta Valley v. Board of Supervisors (1988) 197 Cal.App.3d 1167, 1180 (upholding trial court’s ruling that project alternatives did not adequately analyze project alternatives in terms of comparative costs, profit or losses).) In addition, whether a particular alternative is “more expensive or less profitable is not sufficient to show that the alternative is financially infeasible.” (Id. at 1181.)
     The ADEIR similarly fails to demonstrate that the Reduced Oak Impact Alternative would not meet project objectives. This Alternative would only reduce the project size from 36 acres to 32.4 acres (a 3.6 acre reduction). Despite this small reduction in project size, the ADEIR states that the Reduced Oak Impact Alternative would not meet the goal of ensuring “economic viability” of the Project. Again, the ADEIR fails to cite any facts or evidence supporting its claim that this small reduction in vineyard size would render the project economically infeasible.

     B. The ADEIR attempts to “fix” the outcome of the alternatives analysis by narrowly defining the project objectives.
     The ADEIR employed improperly narrow project objectives in order to reject environmentally superior alternatives. The objectives for a project cannot be so narrowly defined so that they essentially preordain the selection of the agency’s proposed alternative. Case law under CEQA’s federal equivalent, the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) can be helpful in interpreting CEQA. Early CEQA cases relied heavily on NEPA case law. (No Oil, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles (1974) 13 Cal.3d 68, 80; Friends of Mammoth v. Board of Supervisors (1972) 8 Cal.3d 247, 261.) California courts agree that “NEPA cases continue to play an important role in adjudication of CEQA cases, especially when a concept developed in NEPA decisions has not yet been applied to CEQA cases.” (Del Mar Terrace Conservancy, Inc. v. City Council (1992) 10 Cal.App.4th 712, 732.) The position of the Seventh Circuit in
Simmons v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng’rs (7th Cir. 1997) 120 F.3d 664, 669, is therefore relevant to this case:
     The “purpose” of a project is a slippery concept, susceptible of no hard-and-fast definitions. One obvious way for an agency to slip past the strictures of NEPA is to contrive a purpose so slender as to define competing “reasonable alternatives” out of consideration (and even out of existence). The federal courts cannot condone an agency’s frustration of Congressional will.
     Applied here, the ADEIR “fixes” the results of the alternatives analysis by stating that the project goals are to develop a vineyard of the exact size proposed by the preferred project alternative. (ADEIR at 3-5.) Given that extremely specific project objectives, there is no room for meaningful consideration of alternatives to the preferred project. By including such specific elements as required objectives of the Project – and refusing to analyze a range of reduced size alternatives – the ADEIR preordains the development of the Project as proposed, in violation of the authorities cited above.
     The ADEIR also does not contain an adequate discussion of whether the Project can be accommodated in lands already used for agriculture. This analysis should have been included in the No Project Alternative section.
C. The ADEIR should have analyzed a range of alternatives and included meaningful analysis of the impacts of these alternatives.
     The ADEIR should also include quantitative and meaningful comparisons between the Project’s impacts and proposed alternatives’ likely impacts, including analysis of forestry impacts, wildlife impacts, GHG emissions, and water quality and availability resulting from each proposed alternative.
The ADEIR’s general statements regarding these topics are insufficient.

II. The Project is not Consistent with the General Plan.
     Land use decisions must be consistent with all applicable land use policies, including the General Plan and all of its elements. (See Pfeiffer v. City of Sunnyvale City Council (2011) 200 Cal. App. 4th 1552, 1562-1563.) The Project is inconsistent with multiple General Plan policies, as set forth below.
     A. The Project is not consistent with general plan polices relating to wildlife movement.
Napa County’s General Plan requires that vineyard projects ensure habitat connectivity. (Napa County General Plan: Conservation Section CON-25 (2009).) One of the County’s programmatic goals is to “[p]rotect connectivity and continuous habitat areas for wildlife movement.” (Id. (Policy CON-5).) Napa Policy CON-18 states:
     Under CEQA, “the public agency bears the burden of affirmatively demonstrating that, notwithstanding a project's impact on the environment, the agency's approval
of the proposed project followed meaningful consideration of alternatives and mitigation measures.”
Mountain Lion Foundation v. Fish & Game Com. (1997), 16 Cal. 4th 105, 134.)
     The County shall require discretionary projects to retain movement corridors of adequate size and habitat quality to allow for continued wildlife use based on the needs of the species occupying the habitat.
     The County shall require new vineyard development to be designed to
minimize the reduction of wildlife movement to the maximum extent feasible. In the event the County concludes that such development will have a significant impact on wildlife movement, the County may require the applicant to relocate or remove existing perimeter fencing installed on or after February 16, 2007 to offset the impact caused by the new vineyard development.

The County shall disseminate information about impacts that fencing has on wildlife movement in wild land areas of the County and encourage property owners to use permeable fencing. (Id. at CON-28 – CON-29 (Policy CON-18) (emphasis added).)
     Patrick Higgin’s letter of September 30, 2016 (the “Higgins Letter”) cites a California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff report (the “CDFW Report”) which found that the portion of the property that would become vineyard block E-2 is an active wildlife corridor used by raptors, foxes, bears, deer and other wildlife. Higgins further cites the CDFW Report for the claim that the fencing proposed by the Project would be highly disruptive to wildlife migration and would have negative impacts on local wildlife populations.
     The ADEIR does not adequately address these concerns. The ADEIR claims that “there was no evidence of distinct wildlife corridors within the project site” but then states that “Conn Creek, located adjacent to the property, is considered a wildlife corridor” and that the project likely abuts a “significant local wildlife corridor.” (ADEIR at 4.4-22.) The ADEIR claims that vineyard fences will “facilitate wildlife movement within and through the property.” (Id.) The ADEIR’s conclusions appear somewhat contradictory since it states that the property abuts a wildlife corridor but also that there are no wildlife corridors on the property. And the ADEIR’s conclusions are plainly inconsistent with the CDFW Report.
The ADEIR also claims that the Project could conflict with general plan policies regarding wildlife movement (ADEIR at 2-11) but later makes the clearly inconsistent claim that the project would not conflict any applicable land use plan. (ADEIR at 2-17.) The ADEIR fails as an information document because it contains contradictory statements and does not accurately appraise the public and decision-makers of the impacts of the Project.
    B: The ADEIR’s“mitigation”for scenic  resources will further impair wildlife movement.
The proposed mitigation for scenic resources will interfere with wildlife movement. As mitigation for significant impacts on visual character/scenic resources, MM 4.1-3 states that adjacent property owners may request construction of a “solid board fence” around the project. This fence would significantly restrict wildlife movement. A “solid board fence” would also clearly conflict with CON-5, which directs landowners to use “permeable fencing.”
The ADEIR makes other inconsistent claims regarding whether the Project will interfere with wildlife corridors. On the one hand, the ADEIR states that the Project “could interfere with
existing wildlife movement corridors” but in the next sentence states that the project design would render “impacts to wildlife movement [] less than significant.” (ADEIR at 2-11; see also ADEIR at 4.4-46.) The ADEIR concludes that no mitigation measures are required for wildlife movement. (ADEIR at 2-11.) The ADEIR’s conclusion is not supported by any facts or evidence.

     III. The ADEIR’s Analysis of The Project’s Water Quality Impacts is Flawed.
     The Project is located in the Conn Creek watershed. Conn Creek is a blueline stream that feeds the Linda Falls waterfall, which is a popular local hiking trail situated on a wildlife preserve. Conn Creek also is designated as a sensitive domestic water supply, and drains into Lake Hennessey, which is a municipal water supply. The Project would entail the development of vineyards in close proximity to the Conn Creek and other onsite streams. (See ADEIR Figures 3-3 and 4.4-1.)
     Despite its close proximity to Conn Creek, the ADEIR misleadingly suggests that the Project will not impact Lake Hennessy, into which Conn Creek Flows. The ADEIR states: “Lake Hennessey is surrounded by existing vineyards, with some as close as approximately 400 meters (1,300 feet). In comparison, the project site is located approximately five miles northwest of Lake Hennessey.” (ADEIR at 4.8-11.) This sentence is misleading because it omits the fact that the Project will develop vineyards within a few dozen feet of Conn Creek.
     A. The ADEIR does not disclose the baseline conditions for water quality in Conn Creek.
     The ADEIR does not include sufficient data regarding existing water quality conditions to provide adequate baseline information from which to assess Project impacts on local and regional water quality. The ADEIR cites some publicly available information regarding water quality the Napa River (ADEIR at 4.9-3), but does not contain any information regarding water quality in Conn Creek. The ADEIR further claims that there is “no risk” of chemical loading for the Napa River (ADEIR at 4.9-19), but fails to address the risk of chemical loading to Conn Creek, which is the creek adjacent to the project (Conn Creek eventually flows into Napa River). Without this data, the ADEIR fails to provide sufficient baseline information that would allow the public to evaluate significant adverse impacts the Project will have on the environment. (CEQA Guidelines § 15125(a); Communities for a Better Environment v. South Coast Air Quality Management District (2010) 48 Cal.App.4th 310, 315[hereinafter CBE SCAQMD].)

     B. The ADEIR concludes  without citation to evidence that the Erosion Control Plan will address erosion and sedimentation impacts.
     The ADEIR states that the Project would alter drainage patterns, but concludes without citation to facts or evidence that the Erosion Control Plan (“ECP”) will reduce impacts to less than significant levels and that no mitigation is required. (ADEIR at 4.9-18.) The ADEIR appears to base this claim on the assumption that the ECP will address all erosion impacts because a licensed engineer prepared it. (See ADEIR at 4.9-3.) The ADEIR further states that the ECP will also address impacts from sedimentation. (ADEIR at 4.9-18.)
     The Higgins Letter disputes this claim, and cites comments by a SFRWQCB staff person: “Please direct the project proponent to revise the Hydrologic Model, and as necessary the related vineyard development plan and BMPs to attenuate storm runoff increases. Absent such changes, we would expect the proposed vineyard development to cause or contribute to potentially significant increases in storm runoff peak and volume, contributing to potentially significant on-site and off-site erosion and sedimentation.” The ADEIR fails to establish that the Project will not increase onsite and offset erosion and sediment.
IV. The ADEIR does not Adequately Mitigate the Project’s Pesticides Impacts.
     CEQA requires that “the EIR must propose and describe mitigation measures that will minimize the significant environmental effects that the EIR has identified.” (Napa Citizens for Honest Gov’t v. Napa County Bd. Of Supervisors (2001) 91 Cal.App.4th 342, 360.) Furthermore, CEQA requires that agencies “mitigate or avoid the significant effects on the environment of projects that it carries out or approves whenever it is feasible to do so.” (Pub. Res. Code § 21002.1(b).) Mitigation of a project’s significant impacts is one of the “most important” functions of CEQA. (Sierra Club v. Gilroy City Council (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 30, 41.) Only when the mitigation measures are “truly infeasible” can the lead agency reject mitigation measures for significant impacts. (City of Marina v. Board of Trustees of California State University (2006) 39 Cal. 4th 341, 369.)

     A. The ADEIR’s reliance upon IPM is misplaced.
     Unfortunately, the ADEIR does not adequately mitigate the harmful effects of pesticides on sensitive species such as the foothill yellow legged frog and coast range newt. Pesticides, insecticides, rodenticides, fungicides have damaging effects on amphibians. (See EPA (2013); Miller (2006); Litmans & Miller (2004).) For frogs, pesticides cause birth defects, brain defects, reproductive disorders, immune system dysfunction, cancer, and neurological disorders. (Litmans & Miller (2004), at 10-15.)
The ADEIR’s reliance on integrated pest management (“IPM”) for mitigation is ill- placed. IPM is voluntary; it does not legally bind the Applicant to employ IPM strategies.
     The ADEIR does not even appear to define which chemicals are approved for IPM use. Because the Applicant is under no legal compulsion to adhere to this promise, the ADEIR cannot and should not rely on this mitigation measure to reduce harm to aquatic wildlife on or near the Project area. (CEQA Guidelines § 15126.4(a)(2); Federation of Hillside & Canyon Ass’ns v. City of Los Angeles (2000) 83 Cal.App.4th 1252, 1261 (mitigation measures must be “fully enforceable).)
     Even if the Applicant were required to implement IPM techniques, the ADEIR does not provide substantial evidence that IPM will address pesticide impacts. (See ADEIR at 4.9-19.) Instead, it claims that compliance with standard operating procedures for pesticides will render impacts less than significant. (ADEIR at 2-14 & 2-15; see also 4.8-14.)
     The “Hazardous Materials” section of the ADEIR contains similarly vague and inadequate language regarding mitigation. The ADEIR states under “Impact 4.8-2” that “[i]n the event IPM techniques are found to be inadequate for vineyard maintenance during long-term operation, the Proposed Project would include the use of organic-certified pesticides for vineyard maintenance.” This sentence does not even amount to a binding mitigation measure – it is just an observation about what the Applicant might do in certain circumstances.
     The mitigation measure (MM 4.8-2 in Table 2-2) corresponding to this sentence does not require use of organic- certified pesticides. Even MM 4.8-2 did require the use of organic-certified pesticides, the ADEIR contains no analysis as to what is meant by “found to be inadequate” and thus contains no performance standards as to when (if ever) organic-certified pesticides would be required in lieu of conventional pesticides. And even if organic-certified pesticides were required by MM 4.8-2, the ADEIR contains no analysis as to the degree of harm organic-certified pesticides pose to wildlife and water quality (and whether they are environmentally preferable to conventional pesticides).

     B. The ADEIR implicitly concedes that existing approaches to pesticide contamination are inadequate.
     The inadequacy of IPM is borne out in the ADEIR. The ADEIR observes that the Safe Drinking Water Information System reported “a recent uptick in various pesticides and herbicides within Lake Hennessey. . . .” (ADEIR at 4.8-11.) Despite this increase in harmful pesticides in the municipal drinking water supply, the ADEIR states without evidentiary support that “[t]he guidelines set forth in the IPM that limit the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers will prevent contribution of such chemicals into the Lake Hennessey watershed.” (Id.) If IPM and existing approaches are effective, then why is the body of water to which Conn Creek flows already contaminated with pesticides?
     The ADEIR also never provides further information about these “various pesticides and herbicides” that are contaminating the watershed. This amounts to a failure to describe the baseline conditions; the ADEIR should specify the types and amounts of pesticides which are currently in Lake Hennessy (and Conn Creek).

     C. The ADEIR does not provide for adequate buffers to protect wildlife and water quality.
      The ADEIR fails to require buffers that will protect water quality, prevent erosion, and safeguard wildlife from pesticide impacts. In the Land Trust of Napa County’s letter of May 11, 2016 (the “Land Trust Letter”), the Land Trust cited a herpetological report of Conn Creek that a recommended avoiding use of pesticides or fertilizers with 100 meters (328 feet) of Conn Creek. It does not appear that the ADEIR follows this recommendation, as it only requires “setbacks ranging from 35 to 125 feet ... from all onsite drainages and the onsite wetland.” (ADEIR at 4.4-40; see also ADEIR at 4.4-46.).)
     The ADEIR claims that buffers from five to 262 meters (16 to 829 feet) have been between 50 to 98 percent effective. (Id.) However, this broad range of buffers listed have varying degrees of success, and the studies cited by the ADEIR do not demonstrate that mere 35 to 125 foot setbacks have high levels of effectiveness (e.g., over 90 percent).
     Indeed, the ADEIR grossly misrepresents the conclusions of the studies it cites. For example, the ADEIR claims that Dave Christensen’s study concluded that “maintenance of setbacks ranging from a minimum of 35 to 125 feet is expected to significantly decrease sediment delivery to the streams located on the project site.”1 In the study, Christensen does note that there is a “range of effective buffers” of 10 to 400 feet, but states that the “minimum buffer width” for “majority sediment removal” is 100 feet. Christensen also cites an earlier study for the conclusion that “buffers of 30 m (100 feet) were necessary to provide adequate sediment control, pollutant removal and water temperature control.” Christensen concludes that the “minimum buffer” recommendation for “waters of high use & important water quality” is 150 feet.
      Furthermore, the Land Trust Letter states that stream restoration work funded by Napa County has been occurring on Conn Creek and suggests that the project will undermine this work. The Center shares the Land Trust’s concern that restoration work will be undermined by the Project.

     V. The ADEIR does not Accurately Disclose the Project’s Impacts on Water Supply.
     The ADEIR is the correct place to raise issues regarding adequacy of water supply under CEQA. (See California Water Impact Network v. Newhall County Water District (2008) 161 Cal.App.4th 1464, 1488 (“The lead agency has a separate and independent responsibility to assess the sufficiency of water supplies for the proposed project.”).)
     The ADEIR states that the project will use 13.24 acre feet per year of groundwater, which is supposedly 29.95 percent of the “allowable groundwater allotment for the property.” (ADEIR at 6-12.) The ADEIR does not explain how it arrived at either of these figures. Even if these figures are accurate, the Higgins Letter suggests that the Project’s groundwater usage will harm Conn Creek: The project calls for extracting groundwater from a well to water 36 acres of grapes and operating a second well for residential use. This has the potential to turn the Class II stream within the project area into a Class III and to reduce flow and possible dry up Conn Creek below the project. Neighbors of the Le Colline project express concern about their ability to maintain their domestic water supplies after increased groundwater withdrawal for irrigation of grapes (Stagg 2016). Professor Wyrick-Brownworth (2016) noted that Cold Springs also creates perennial and seasonal wetlands that may be negatively impacted by increased groundwater withdrawal associated with the project.
      The ADEIR does not address the risk that groundwater pumping will impact flow rates or water quality in Conn Creek or other domestic water supplies. (See Christensen, Dave 2000. Protection of Riparian Ecosys A Review of Best Available Science. Jefferson County Environmental Health Division. October 27, 2000, available at
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     VI. The ADEIR Fails to Adequately Analyze or Mitigate the Impacts of the Project on Plants and Wildlife.
      CEQA requires the lead agency to disclose, analyze and mitigation all impacts on special status species, as well as species listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act or California Endangered Species Act. The ADEIR fails to comply with this requirement.

     A. The ADEIR does not demonstrate that adequate surveys were conducted for special status wildlife.
      An EIR must accurately identify the significant impacts would result from a proposed project. (CEQA Guidelins § 15126.2(b).) An EIR must determine significance in relation to an analysis of the physical conditions in the project area as they exist at the time of the notice of preparation. (CEQA Guidelines § 15125(a) & (e); “[T]he significance of a project’s impacts can be ascertained only if the agency first establishes the physical conditions against which those impacts are to be measured.” (MICHAEL H. REMY ET AL, GUIDE TO THE CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ACT (11th ed., Solano Press 2007).) CEQA then requires the lead agency to compare “what will happen if the project is built with what will happen if the site is left alone.” (Woodward Park Homeowners Assn, Inc. v. City of Fresno (2007) 150 Cal.App.4th 683, 687.)
     This process involves conducting surveys for species that may be present onsite. However, the ADEIR does not contain or reference such surveys. For example, the ADEIR states that the foothill yellow legged frog has “No” potential to occur on site: “Suitable habitat does not occur within the project site. Conn Creek may provide habitat for this species, although it has never been documented in this stream. This species was not observed during biological surveys of the project site.” (ADEIR at 4.4-28.) These sentences in the ADEIR suggest that the applicant’s consultants did not even search for the foothill yellow legged frog in Conn Creek because the ADEIR defined “Conn Creek” as outside the project site. The ADEIR also states that there is no suitable habitat for California red legged frogs, but does not state that any surveys were conducted to verify whether habitat exists. (Id.) Moreover, the ADEIR offers no details on whether surveyors were qualified to identify surveyed species, or whether the surveys were even focused upon specific special status species.
     The ADEIR’s conclusions are also at odds with the surveys described in the Land Trust Letter. As part of the Conn Creek restoration work discussed in the Land Trust Letter, a herpetological survey was conducted in 2014. The herpetological survey concluded that the stretch of Conn Creek adjacent to the Project area is highly suitable for foothill yellow legged frog and coast range newt. The Land Trust Letter further states that Land Trust staff members have observed yellow legged frogs in Conn Creek in the last six months. These conclusions directly contradict those in the ADEIR.

     B. The ADEIR fails to disclose, analyze, or mitigate the Project’s impacts on plant species.
     The ADEIR fails to adequately mitigate impacts to special status plant species because it does not even analyze or disclose those impacts. For instance, the ADEIR acknowledges that two special status plant species are located on the property – the Napa false indigo and the narrow-anthered California brodiaea. (ADEIR at 4.4-24.) The ADEIR claims that impacts will be less than significant because the populations shall be “avoided” when a biologist puts orange construction fencing around them. (ADEIR at 2-9.) The ADEIR does not appear to discuss where on the property these plant populations exist, or whether they are sited in areas that are planned for vineyards. Thus, it is difficult to ascertain whether they will be permanently “avoided” or whether they will left in an area where they will lack suitable conditions to continue surviving and reproducing.
Additionally, of the 26 plant species listed in Table 4.4-2, the ADEIR only states that the two species listed above were present on site. In Table 4.4-2 which lists the various plant species, the ADEIR has a column called “Potential to Occur on Site.” Within this column, some answers read, “No. Suitable habitat and vegetation associates for this species does occur within the project site.” (Table 4.4-2.) The ADEIR is inconsistent because it maintains that a species that can have both (a) “No” potential to occur on site but also (b) suitable habitat for the species on site.
C. The ADEIR fails to disclose, analyze, or mitigate the Project’s impacts on special status wildlife.
     By way of background, CDFW defines a species of special concern as a species that, among other things, “is experiencing, or formerly experienced, serious (noncyclical) population declines or range retractions (not reversed) that, if continued or resumed, could qualify it for State threatened or endangered status.”2 CDFW aims to “achieve conservation and recovery of these animals before they meet California Endangered Species Act criteria for listing as threatened or endangered.” (Id.) CDFW states that species of special concern “should be considered during the environmental review process.” (Id.; CEQA Guidelines § 15380(b)(B).) An impact to wildlife is significant where it “substantially reduce[s] the number or restrict[s] the range of an endangered, rare or threatened species.” (CEQA Guidelines, § 15065.) CDFW interprets this provision to apply to species of special concern. The ADEIR must mitigate significant effects whenever feasible. (Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 21080.5(d)(2)(A).)

Northern Spotted Owl
     The ADEIR does not disclose or mitigate the Project’s impacts on the Northern spotted owl. On the one hand, the ADEIR concedes that the Project site contains suitable habitat for the federally threatened Northern spotted owl. (ADEIR at 4.4-29.) The ADEIR also states that three acres of the Project site are suitable nesting/roosting habitat for Northern spotted owls. (ADEIR
See California Dep’t of Fish & Wildlife, Species of Special Concern (available at
at 4.4-42.)
     On the other hand, the ADEIR later makes an inconsistent claim – it states that “the project site lacks potential nesting habitat” for the Northern spotted owl. (ADEIR at 4.4-29.) The ADEIR again refutes itself when it identifies specific trees (some of which are scheduled to be destroyed) that are “potential roost trees” for Northern spotted owl. (ADEIR at Table 4.4-3.)
Because the ADEIR provides conflicting information regarding the Northern spotted owl, the ADEIR does not serve its purpose as an informational document. In addition, the ADEIR does not include adequate mitigation measures to protect the Northern spotted owl. MM 4.4-5 only requires compliance with “California Forest Practice Rule 14 CCR 919.9(e) Scenario 4” in order for “take avoidance.” (ADEIR at 4.4-42.) The ADEIR does not describe that compliance with this rule entails.

     Townsend’s Big-eared Bat and Pallid Bat
     The ADEIR reports that two special status species of bats were observed onsite – the Townsend’s big-eared bat and the pallid bat. Unfortunately, MM 4.4-7 allows for the removal of trees that currently serve as roosts for these bats and only requires the Applicant to notify CDFW if special status bat species are injured when these trees are removed. The “preconstruction surveys” set forth in MM 4.4-7 also do not require the Applicant to cease construction if Townsend big-eared bats are identified – MM 4.4-7 merely requires that “CDFW shall be contacted about confirming the identity of the roosting species and about protecting the roost site.” MM 4.4-7 does not actually require that these roost sites be protected or left undisturbed.

Other Species Not Analyzed
     There are numerous other special status species that are not even mentioned in the ADEIR which inhabit similar habitats in Napa County. CDFFP should request species presence information from USFWS to help it establish biological resources its baseline. Such special status species include the white-tailed kite and steelhead. Because the ADEIR entirely neglected to discuss the above species—including impacts to these species from the Project—or to propose any mitigation, it is difficult to provide detailed mitigation commentary or suggestions for these species.

     D. The ADEIR does not disclose or mitigate impacts on steelhead/rainbow trout.
     The ADEIR does not disclose or mitigate the impacts to steelhead and/or rainbow trout arising from the Project. The ADEIR does not even mention rainbow trout, and only states without analysis that steelhead do not have “suitable habitat” in the Project site. (ADEIR at 4.4- 27.) The Higgins Letter cites a study by Leidy demonstrating that rainbow trout have occupied or still occupy the upper portions of Conn Creek In particular, Leidy notes that rainbow trout were observed in Conn Creek in 1945, 1959, 1979, 1988, 1994, and 2002. The Higgins Letter ( See Higgins Letter at 3 citing Leidy, R.A., G.S. Becker, B.N. Harvey. 2005. Historical distribution and current status of steelhead/rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in streams of the San Francisco Estuary, California. Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration, Oakland, CA. 246 p. also reveals that the author observed rainbow trout in the pools below Linda Falls, which is downstream of the Project. These rainbow trout likely have the same genetic makeup as the Napa River steelhead trout populations, such that they should be afforded protected status because they are part of a diminishing gene pool. As further noted in the Higgins Letter, Conn Creek has maintained some flows of cold water because of the water in the underlying volcanic terrain. This water would be extracted by the Project. Because this species requires cold flowing water, the Project may threaten the survival or recovery of this species in the Conn Creek watershed.
     The ADEIR does not acknowledge the risks to steelhead/rainbow trout of increased sedimentation, which decreases aquatic diversity and food sources for fish in the creek. In addition, the Higgins Letter states that the ADEIR obscures the true sedimentation impacts by inaccurately claiming that slopes on the property are only 7 to 29 percent, when in fact they are as steep as 63 percent. This means that sediment originating at the Project has a high likelihood of flowing into Conn Creek. The ADEIR contains no analysis or mitigation for these impacts.
     CDFFP should conduct surveys of Conn Creek in the vicinity and downstream of the Project (in the Linda Falls area) to determine current levels of rainbow trout and/or steelhead. Moreover, the DEIR must analyze and mitigate the impacts on this species from increased pesticide load, sedimentation, alteration of drainage patterns, and groundwater extraction.

     VII. The ADEIR does not Adequately Disclose or Mitigate the Project’s Impacts Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
     Mitigation of a project’s environmental impacts is one of the “most important” functions of CEQA. (Sierra Club v. Gilroy City Council (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 30, 41.) Therefore, it is the “policy of the state that public agencies should not approve projects as proposed if there are feasible alternatives or feasible mitigation measures which will avoid or substantially lessen the significant environmental effects of such projects.” (Pub. Res. Code § 21002.)
The ADEIR does not comply with these legal duties and instead relies upon the false conclusion that the Project will not result in significant GHG impacts. While the ADEIR rightly acknowledges the GHG impacts of “timber removal” (ADEIR at Table 4.7-1), the ADEIR claims a credit in GHG emissions from “retention of 15.24 acres of Oak woodland” and “planting 1,000 conifer seedlings.” (ADEIR at Table 4.7-1.) Because the ADEIR states that some trees will be retained and some seeds will be planted, the ADEIR concludes that the GHG impacts are not significant. (Id.) The ADEIR relies upon the illusory the “mitigation” of preserving some of the onsite forest and planting seedlings in order to get under the SMAQMD construction emissions threshold of significance of 1,100 MT CO2E. (Id.) Without this illusory mitigation, the Project’s emissions would be well above threshold of significance.
There are no legal authorities indicating that an applicant’s choice to (a) refrain from destroying all trees on a property and (b) plant seedlings amounts to a reduction in GHG emissions. Such purported GHG emissions reductions also are illusory because the ADEIR fails (See Higgins Letter at p. 10.) to demonstrate that these reductions comply with CARB’s Compliance Protocol for U.S. Forest Projects (the “CARB Protocol”). The CARB Protocol sets forth offset protocol standards to reduce or prevent GHG emissions through increasing and/or conserving forest carbon stocks.
     The ADEIR also fails to analyze whether the Project is consistent with CARB’s Scoping Plan and CDFFP’s 2008 Strategic Plan and Report to the California Air Resources Board on Meeting AB 32’s Forestry Sector Targets (the “Strategic Plan”).7 The Strategic Plan sets forth CARB’s “No Net Loss” target for the forest sector, and provides that the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (“CDFFP”) will develop a plan to “maintain current sequestration levels in a forest environment that is at risk of losses from land-use change . . . .”8 (Id. at 1.)
The ADEIR does not explain how the destruction of approximately 34 acres of trees is consistent with the state policy of maintaining current sequestration levels in forests that are at risk to losses from land use changes.

     Because the ADEIR wrongly concludes that the Project will not result in significant GHG impacts, the ADEIR concludes that absolutely no mitigation is required. (ADEIR at 4.7-11.)
The ADEIR cannot claim impacts are not significant merely because they are planting some seeds. These seeds will take many decades to mature into trees that have significant carbon sequestration benefits, and there is no guarantee that all (or even most) will survive.

     VIII. The ADEIR does not Accurately Disclose or Mitigate the Project’s Impacts on Forests.
     Related to the GHG analysis is the ADEIR’s failure to accurately describe the extent of impacts on forest resources. The ADEIR repeatedly states that approximately 32 acres of forests would be “harvested” for the vineyard. (ADEIR at 1-3 & 2-2.) The forests impacted include 17.43 acres of douglas fir, 7.52 acres of mixed oak alliance, and 9.19 acres of mixed manzanita . (ADEIR at 4.4-16.) These numbers equal 34.14 total acres, not 32 acres. While this is a fairly minor difference in reported acreage, the ADEIR later states that the Project would only harvest “20.5 acres of tree canopy.” (ADEIR at 4.9-21.) 20.5 acres is significantly different from 34.14 acres. The ADEIR fails its purpose as an informational document because it contains contradictory figures regarding the number of acres to be impacted.
     More importantly, the ADEIR appears to violate the “60/40 Rule.” As set forth in the ADEIR, the 60/40 Rule requires the retention of a minimum of 60 percent of the tree canopy cover and a minimum of 40 percent of the shrub, brush, and associated annual and perennial herbaceous vegetation within sensitive domestic supply watersheds. (ADEIR at 4.9-20.) The ADEIR states that the property is subject to the 60/40 Rule and that based upon aerial surveys (California Air Resources Board, “Compliance Offset Protocol for U.S. Forest Projects,” (Nov. 14, 2014) (available at  CARB Protocol See California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, “2008 Strategic Plan and Report to the California Air Resources Board on Meeting AB 32’s Forestry Sector Targets,” (Oct. 17, 2008) (available at [hereinafter “Strategic Plan”]. 
 Strategic Plan showing 57.45 acres of tree canopy on the property, “22.98 acres of trees may be removed from the property.” (Id.) However, as noted above, the ADEIR repeatedly states that at 32 acres of trees will be removed (and elsewhere the ADEIR indicates that 34.14 acres of trees will be removed). Such activities violate the “60/40 Rule.” Accordingly, the ADEIR is incorrect in concluding that the Project does not have a significant impact on forests and that no mitigation is required.
     IX. The ADEIR does not Accurately Disclose or Analyze The Cumulative Impacts of the Project.
     CEQA defines “cumulative impacts” as “two or more individual effects which, when considered together, are considerable or which compound or increase other environmental impacts.” (CEQA Guidelines § 15355.) The cumulative impact from several projects is the change in the environment which results from the incremental impact of the project “when added to other closely related past, present, and reasonably foreseeable probable future projects.” (CEQA Guidelines § 15355(b).) While an agency is not expected to foresee the unforeseeable, it is expected to use its “best efforts to find out and disclose all that it reasonably can.” (CEQA Guidelines § 15144; see also City of Richmond, supra, 184 Cal.App.4th at 96; Vineyard Area Citizens for Responsible Growth, Inc. v. City of Rancho Cordova (2007) 40 Cal. 4th 412, 428.)
The purpose of analyzing cumulative environmental impacts is to assess adverse environmental change “as a whole greater than the sum of its parts.” (Environmental Protection Information Center v. Johnson (1985) 170 Cal.App.3d 604, 625.)
Kings County Farm
Bureau v. City of Hanford (1990) 221 Cal.App.3d 692, 721.)

     A. The ADEIR does not adequately define the geographic scope used in the cumulative 
impacts analysis.

      The ADEIR does not properly “define the geographic scope of the area affected by the cumulative effect and provide a reasonable explanation for the geographic area.” (See Guidelines § 15130(b)(3)). In general, the ADEIR states that a three-mile radius from the Project area is the geographic scope, with the exception of “agriculture and forestry” and a few other categories. (ADEIR at 6-2.) Although the ADEIR never expressly describes this different geographic scope for forestry, the ADEIR later considers the entire acreage of forests remaining in Napa County in concluding that there are no cumulative impacts to forestry resources. (ADEIR at 6-4 & 6-5.) Yet, only a few sentences later, the ADEIR suggests that the geographic scope is once again the 3 mile radius when it observes that there are “4 pending or approved timber conversion projects within a 3-mile radius of the project site, all of them in the Angwin area.” The ADEIR needs to clearly specify the geographic scope and provide substantial evidence for using that particular geographic scope.
      To the extent the ADEIR is claiming that all of Napa County as the geographic scope for forestry resources, then such a scope is overly broad. The ADEIR should consider cumulative impacts in the vicinity of the Project Area, particularly with regards to existing ecosystems and analysis there would be no control of development and “piecemeal development would inevitably cause havoc in virtually every aspect of the environment” in watersheds such as Conn Creek. To the extent the ADEIR is using only a 3 mile radius, the ADEIR still fails as an information document because – as noted above – the ADEIR only generally states that there are 4 other timber projects in the area. The ADEIR does not provide any further detail regarding these projects – are they also within the Conn Creek watershed? Will they cumulatively contribute to erosion, impact wildlife movement, or contaminate water quality? The ADEIR does not answer these questions.

     B. The ADEIR’s cumulative impacts analysis for biological resources is conclusory and inadequate.
     The ADEIR inaccurately states that the Project’s cumulative impacts to biological resources would not be considerable since the Project would implement mitigation measures in the ADEIR. (ADEIR at 6-7.) This claim is not based upon substantial evidence because the referenced mitigation measures are designed to reduce the Project’s direct impacts; they are not designed to alleviate cumulative impacts as required by CEQA Guidelines 15130(a)(3).
Similarly, the ADEIR does not specifically discuss the cumulative effects the construction project and the continued operation of the Project will have on wildlife. (See DEIR at 6-6.) Instead of providing an informative cumulative wildlife impacts discussion in its cumulative impacts analysis, the DEIR dismisses the possibility that the Project will have any cumulative impact on special status species. (ADEIR at 6-7.) The ADEIR concludes the “[t]he County would similarly require future projects with potentially significant impacts to wildlife and plant species to comply with federal, State, and local regulations and ordinances protecting biological resources through implementation of mitigation measures during construction to reduce impacts to less-than-significant levels.” (ADEIR at 6-7.) The ADEIR essentially equates regulatory compliance with a lack of cumulative impacts.
     By the ADEIR’s reasoning, all approved projects would categorically never cause cumulative impacts, no matter how much the intensity of number of local activities increase. So long as the lead agency makes any significance determination that legally complies with CEQA requirements, then no project in the County can be susceptible, or contribute, to local cumulative impacts. This is pure fiction, and it nullifies the purpose of the cumulative effects analysis. This cannot be the purpose of the cumulative impacts reporting duties outlined in CEQA, which requires the lead agency to consider “individually minor but collectively significant projects taking place over a period of time.” (CEQA Guidelines § 15355(b).)
     The ADEIR’s conclusory cumulative impacts analysis does not provide the public and decision-makers with the meaningful cumulative impacts analysis that CEQA mandates. (Cal. Pub. Res. Code §§ 21001(g); 21002.1(a) & (e); 21003(b).)
Contrary to the DEIR’s flawed reasoning, most “less than significant” impacts, when combined with other “less than significant” impacts have the ability to cumulatively harm plant and animal species. “Less than significant” does not equate to “no impact,” so each individual “less than significant” impact has an additive quality that CDFFP should have discussed. The construction and vineyard operations, as well as other human activities in the vicinity, will still have a cumulative impact on wildlife and plant species despite the proposed mitigation measures. These species will lose habitat, there will be increased human presence and increased traffic, there will be added noise, species will be excluded from suitable habitat by fencing, suitable upland and riparian habitat will be destroyed, and species health may be affected by pesticide drift. The ADEIR should have fully accounted for all combined impacts before it concluded that the cumulative impacts would remain less than significant. The ADEIR cannot simply eschew full cumulative effects analysis for all biological resources by hiding behind a legalistic significance determination. Because the ADEIR determined that CEQA compliance equates to no cumulative impacts, it ignored potential off-site cumulative effects to local plants and wildlife both within and from the Project. This incomplete and inadequate cumulative impacts analysis is uninformative, and violates CEQA. (Cal. Pub. Res. Code §§ 21001(g); 21002.1(a) & (e); 21003(b); CEQA Guidelines § 15355(b).)
     C. The ADEIR’s cumulative impacts analysis for GHGs, air quality, and water quality is deficient.
The DIER does not list any related projects nor analyze their cumulative impacts on greenhouse gases or air quality. Instead, the ADEIR also incorrectly claims that there is no need to identify other projects which may contribute to or GHG or air quality impacts because “cumulative air quality issues in the SFBAAB are addressed through regional air quality control plans developed by the BAAQMD.” (ADEIR at 6-10.) The existence of other plans or policies does not excuse the agency or applicant from compliance with the CEQA.
     Similarly, the ADEIR does not contain any detailed analysis regarding potential cumulative impacts to hydrology and water quality. Instead, the ADEIR suggests that the Project will not contribute to cumulative impacts because the Project would comply with BMPs to reduce sedimentation. Such promises of regulatory compliance are insufficient to demonstrate a lack of cumulative impacts. (See Californians for Alternatives to Toxics v. Dept. of Food & Agric. (2005) 136 Cal.App.4th 1, 17 (compliance with existing environmental laws or regulations is not sufficient to support a finding that a project will not have significant environmental impacts).)
X. The ADEIR Fails to Adequately Assess or Mitigate the Project’s Noise Impacts.
     The ADEIR states that the Project’s construction activities would generate noise of approximately 83 dBA Leq at 130 feet. (ADEIR at 4.11-10.) The ADEIR acknowledges that this level of noise exceeds the County threshold of 75 dBA Leq and is therefore a potentially significant impact. (Id.) The ADEIR then immediately contradicts itself by stating, “At 130 feet, standard construction equipment would not exceed the 75 dBA, Leq County threshold. Therefore, this is not a significant impact.” The ADEIR cannot conclude that noise impacts will be both above and below 75 dBA at 130 feet.
     Furthermore, the ADEIR does not appear to contain any analyses of the impacts of construction noise on wildlife, despite the fact that construction noise can disrupt the wildlife. Given the undeveloped and undisturbed areas surrounding the Project, the ADEIR needs to analyze the impacts of noise pollution on sensitive wildlife species, such as bats. Despite concluding at one point that impacts are potentially significant, the ADEIR only contains very basic mitigation measures which appear to merely restate existing policies and ordinances (e.g., construction can only occur between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.). The ADEIR does not demonstrate that these meager mitigation measures will address the noise impacts of construction activities or risks to wildlife.
XI. Conclusion
     Given the possibility that the Center will be required to pursue appropriate legal remedies in order to ensure enforcement of CEQA, we would like to remind CDFFP of its duty to maintain and preserve all documents and communications that may constitute part of the “administrative record.” As you may know, the administrative record encompasses any and all documents and communications which relate to any and all actions taken by CDFFP with respect to the Project, and includes “pretty much everything that ever came near a proposed [project] or [] the agency’s compliance with CEQA . . . .” (County of Orange v. Superior Court (2003) 113 Cal.App.4th 1, 8.) The administrative record further contains all correspondence, emails, and text messages sent to or received by CDFFP’s representatives or employees, which relate to the Project, including any correspondence, emails, and text messages sent between CDFFP’s representatives or employees and the Applicant’s representatives or employees. Maintenance and preservation of the administrative record requires that, inter alia, CDFFP (1) suspend all data destruction policies; and (2) preserve all relevant hardware unless an exact replica of each file is made.
     Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on the Project. We look forward to working to assure that the Project and environmental review conforms to the requirements of state law and to assure that all significant impacts to the environment are fully analyzed, mitigated or avoided. In light of many significant, unavoidable environmental impacts that will result from the Project, we strongly urge the Project not be approved in its current form. Please do not hesitate to contact the Center with any questions at the number listed below.
Attorneys for the Center for Biological Diversity 1212 Broadway, Suite #800
Oakland, CA 94612