Friday, September 30, 2016

Is Fish Friendly LandSmart enough?

This letter's in response to an earlier one (see Sept. 26 post) by an environmental activist deploring the effects of widespread tree-cutting in the hills. The questions that remain are: if so much is being done, why isn't the Napa River in better shape, and how much political cover is being provided indirectly by claims like this for business as usual in the hills?                                                   

From the Napa Register:

As we near the end of another harvest season, I ask myself, what’s different today than nearly 15 years ago in the way that vineyard properties are managed? Today, unpaved roads are being maintained to protect water quality, stream sides are being restored to provide shade and habitat, fish barriers are being removed, and water use is being more carefully monitored on site.
Nearly 15 years ago, a small handful of growers throughout Napa County were involved in this type of stewardship. Today, over 45 percent of vineyards and over 72,000 acres of land are being managed in a way to protect water quality, enhance stream habitat, and efficiently use local water supplies.
The Napa Green Certified Land program, developed in 2002 by a diverse group of over 20 stakeholders representing environmental and agricultural interests, helped propel stewardship to the next level.
Napa Green is a program where growers receive technical assistance from the Fish Friendly Farming and LandSmart programs to evaluate their property and then develop and implement a conservation plan that includes a site-specific set of beneficial management practices to protect and enhance the natural resources on their property. The plan is certified by independent third-party local, state and federal agencies with qualifications and responsibilities to protect water quality and endangered species.
Guided by professionals--experts in hydrology, fisheries biology, fluvial geomorphology, riparian restoration, erosion and sediment control, agronomy--Napa Green participants are hands-on environmental leaders working through the LandSmart and Fish Friendly Farming programs. They are implementing watershed-wide erosion reduction projects on unpaved roads in tributaries that are critical to threatened steelhead trout.
They have worked with the Napa County Resource Conservation District to remove fish migration barriers in the Napa River watershed, providing improved access to high quality habitat in local tributaries. They implement practices to evaluate and improve their water use efficiency for irrigation and frost protection. They are leaders in several reach-scale restoration projects on the Napa River and in the Bear Creek, Bale Slough, and Carneros Creek watersheds. They are working together, parcel by parcel, to manage their land in a way that is mindful of their stewardship responsibilities.

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Over 15 years ago, diverse stakeholders came together to discuss common goals related to improving the health of the Napa River. We talked about difficult issues, we didn’t always agree, we worked to find common ground, we agreed to a program, Napa Green, that would help growers and vintners meet shared environmental goals. The process wasn’t driven by regulations or the ballot box – the process was driven by a shared interest in protecting a special place, a place we call home, a place we work, a place we love: the Napa Valley.
There are pressing environmental issues, no doubt. Today, we’d be well-served to think about how we can best work together, like we did 15 years ago, to find common ground and address our shared challenges to meet our shared interests. Anything else will serve only to fragment our community and dissipate constructive conservation efforts.
Leigh Sharp, executive director
Napa County Resource Conservation District

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Growing old illegally?

Here begins a series of occasional correspondence with a Napa County resident uncommonly knowledgeable both politically and historically. Her work reaches all the way into the halls of justice in Washington, D.C. , and though I can't vouch for all of it, I do find her work valuable and interesting, and she herself a fine example of engaged citizenship.

                                          The Private I

    This recent industrial accident in the Ag Preserve south of Yountville, investigated by the Sheriff's Department, reveals - as does the wine's label - that a generic California wine is being aged in the Ag Preserve.  The wines contain no local fruit and - generic wines can only be produced in the industrial area south of Napa.
    Little by little more and more "label operations" with faux fronts are destroying our ag preserve, using our precious water, adding commercial traffic and more tourists to our roads, while operating as illegitimates.  It's consumer deception, even though bottles are properly labeled California Wine vs. Napa Valley.  
    While the Sheriff can investigate the death, only costly civil actions can restore our blessed valley.  Think of this as a label operation for Sutter Home Winery capitalizing on a local name, after they were chased out of th Ag Preserve years ago.
A reader responds:
    Afraid your source is way off. Of course, "generic" wines are legally produced as well as aged all over the AP. They just must be correctly labeled (and there's the rub). There is no legal requirement for ANY pre-WDO winery to use ANY county fruit - it can all be "generic" and that is millions of gallons.
    And if they were using Napa fruit pre-WDO they have no requirement to continue to do so nor any requirement to reveal their sources. So, if they were producing a million gallons Napa wine pre-WDO, they can shift that volume to all non-Napa fruit (or bulk wine), nothing prevents that.
    In fact, they can apply for an expansion, claim that they were crushing Napa fruit pre-WDO (no proof needed), "shift" the numbers of that "Napa fruit" to meet the 75% requirement of their post-WDO expansion and never reveal their sources. This is the "source shifting" that so concerned Andy with Raymond's expansion. Big fight over this a few years ago with NVV - they won, of course.
    Only wineries approved or expanded post-WDO are required to use 75% Napa fruit - they can process up to 25% of their production in non-Napa fruit and that can also be millions of gallons of "generic" wine.
    Airport Industrial and within certain city limits (Napa): there is no requirement for any winery to use any Napa fruit but those are not the only locations legally producing and/or "aging" "generic" wines. So there is no "there" there…
    The "there" is in the fact that altho NVV polices the use of "Napa Valley" on NEW label applications - no one monitors what is IN the bottle. There are no requirements for wineries to reveal the source of their grapes in any Federal TTB reporting - and TTB is supposed to control the use of appellations (working on this but on hold for harvest).
    No one monitors the 75% sourcing in NC either - unless
selected for audit - and now NVV has convinced county to do "mandatory" reporting that can't be verified to anything because no one tracks it - all very clever.
    Shhh at this time - but there is a really big story here that no o
ne is looking at - it's not what's ON the label, but what's IN the bottle (EVEN if legal by current regs).
   The source is right that the Joel Gott operation is suspect - but may be totally within regs which allow and promote consumer deception.


Monday, September 26, 2016

The outer life of trees

                    This letter pretty much sums it up:                                                     

From the Napa Valley Register:      

  Program Is Covering Up for Deforestation

Have you ever heard of the story behind the story. The full story of the Napa Valley Vintner's programs that helps preserve fish habitat needs better context to the history, causes and environmental degradation of the Napa River. It can be mostly summarized in one word -- deforestation.
Since prime agricultural lands on the valley floor were converted to vines (large swaths of forest removed for vines) by the 1950s, the expansion of vines has been in the forested mountains surrounding the Napa Valley and through streams that flow to the Napa River that have been sadly dewatered and denuded for vines.
American Canyon, Suscol, Carneros, Milliken, Kimbal and Bell creeks are tributaries out of over 56 that still have dry season flows to the Napa River. You cannot have fish without water. Shame on us for not protecting flows to the Napa River, which now runs mostly dry throughout the fresh water portions of the river. Groundwater continues to decline and deforestation for yet more vines continues at an alarming pace, destroying what is left of Northern Spotted Owl, mountain lion, red-legged frog, Chinook and steelhead habitats, i.e. Walt Ranch soon to deforest 24,000 trees in the best creek and public reservoir watershed, Milliken Creek.
The wine industry is tapping into multi-million dollar grant opportunities (our tax dollars) to restore private rich property owners' riparian lands (Rutherford Dust) because the Napa River storm water is exceeding levees (to protect vines) carving a new channels through valley vines.
Why is this happening? It is happening largely due to deforestation on slopes. Healthy rivers flood their plains but levees disconnect the rivers from flood plains.
In the Napa Valley, levees were primarily created to protect vines from flooding. For the last 30 years, slope deforestation and vineyard erosion control plans pipe water off the mountain vineyards and discharge the storm water into the creeks causing increased rated of flows into the Napa River exceeding the levees. Hence, high velocity storm waters (jumped levees) are destroying rich valley land owner's vines.

No worries for the rich because the taxpayers are paying for their new levees while all the agencies are ignoring the cause of the levee breaches such as levees themselves, deforestation and increased rate of runoff from mountain vineyard developments. What a colossal failure of the public trust to restore the Napa River.
The PR for this “restoration” provides environmental cover for an industry that ignore the true causes of our environmental problems here in Napa County. Check out the most recent levee work at Yountville crossroads. Let's understand that the rich property owners are not donating their lands, but rather they are desperately fighting to try and regain control of floodwaters that are destroying their vines. Now, the new levees have to be set back onto their lands.
Why are taxpayers having to pay for the impacts of an industry that is silent on their deforestation practices, which is the major cause of valley floor levee breaches? Then they have the audacity to call their industry Green Certified. Our glamorous wine industry is green washing a nasty underbelly of deforestation for feel-good restoration.
Chris Malan

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Nature in glass


My daughter, Susanna , a glass artist living in Berkeley (, wants to donate a portion of the proceeds from her diverse genres ( to a good environmental cause in northern California. There are so many good ones. Please send suggestions.