Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The oak initiative having risen from the dead...

Napa County will announce tomorrow whether or not to verify the 7,000-plus new signatures gathered to further protect the valley's watershed.                                  

                                By Kathy O'Leary
    Verification is expected. Then the county counsel will decide whether or not to advise putting the oak woodlands initiative on the ballot. Last time it was vetted by an outside law firm paid with taxpayer money and then disallowed on a technicality.
    This time it is expected to go on the ballot to, among other things, prevent an outright mutiny by the community.  Meanwhile the Napa Valley Vintners Association has flopped between supporters of the initiative's aims, and those who oppose any meaningful environmental restraint on business.
    The schism pits some of the oldest and most respected vintners against more recent arrivals devoted to increased building and sales at any cost.
    The former also fears that the NVVA will lose its long-standing place as the valley's leading voice, with good reason. The more reactionary Winegrowers of Napa County, the Grapegrowers and lately the Farm Bureau all now favor development in the name of "farming," and seem to have forgotten that "watershed" means just that - a place for gathering of good, plentiful water for growing things.
    The fact is that environmentally-minded vintners should split and form their own organization, both for the good will it imparts to their wine, and because they will be seen as inheritors of civic scripture that says agriculture in Napa Valley is the highest and best use of the land. Watersheds need trees, not more wineries, support structures, roads, power lines and, yes, even vineyards at the expense of all else.

     Below is an excerpt from the summary by Napa Vision 2050:
    Our North Bay communities have been disastrously visited by nature's wrath. Ironically, permissive county supervision and aggressive marketing have transformed the treasured semi-rural North Bay character, in a different way, even more than the catastrophic fires.
    Within memory, Napa and Sonoma rural roads were quiet and uncrowded. The few score wineries offered free tastings. The "wine country" was known as the Redwood Empire. Rusticity was genuine, not manufactured.
    Now Napa and Sonoma have a thousand wineries. Ten million visitors a year clog our rural roads. The commitment to agriculture as the "highest and best use of the land" is a memory smothered by event centers, gift shops, and film festivals. Locals' frequent complaints in newspapers about excessive tourism go unheeded. With county administrations friendly towards development, it is left to citizens' initiatives to enact even modest measures, like limits on helicopter flights and woodland harvesting, in these supposedly rural regions.
    Keeping the county’s semi-rural identity and respect for locals’ quality of life in mind, Napa Vision 2050 supports two propositions on the June ballot. The Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative protects our water supply and hillsides. The Private Heliport Initiative safeguards our peace and quiet. Without them, NV2050 sees the county spinning even further from its agricultural heritage, into a theme-park playground for the affluent.
    Napa’s planning commissioners and supervisors have led us down this crowded highway. In the last three years the county approved 58 new wineries and major modifications to existing ones. The permits typically also allow increased production, events, and visitors.

  In the weeks ahead Napa's vaunted vintners will reveal what they really believe is the highest and best use of the land. Consumers will evaluate more closely the environmental destruction wrought by individual labels on the shelves, and responsible wine writers should help them.

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