Near record-breaking rain last winter resulted in a bumper crop of Chinook salmon, but not of steelhead trout.
The Napa County Resource Conservation District recently released the results for its annual fish monitoring program. Researchers during the spring catch, count and release fish at a Napa River location north of the city of Napa.
California environmental regulators want to see more steelhead and salmon. Millions of public and private dollars have been spent over the past decade restoring Napa River segments and trying to reduce sediment runoff, in part to create a more fish-friendly environment.
The Napa County Resource Conservation District’s ninth annual fish count provides a clue to how salmon and steelhead are doing. The focus is on juvenile fish as they migrate from the Napa River to the ocean.
Local researchers counted 2,315 salmon smolts in 2017, compared to 580 in 2016 and none 2014 and 2015. Only the 2011 count of 7,377 was higher.
The count comes on the heels of the third-highest annual rainfall total – 45 inches – recorded at Napa State Hospital since 1892. Those rains broke a five-year drought.
Lots of water resulted in lots of Chinook salmon, though it also posed a potential threat.
“The concern was all those big rains would wash off the eggs and kill the fry,” said Jonathan Koehler, senior biologist for the Napa County Resource Conservation District.
Instead, the Chinook salmon appear to have thrived. But the steelhead count was low for the fourth consecutive year.
Researchers caught 70 steelhead trout smolts, six fry and six adults, for a total of 82. That compares to 3,105 counted in 2013.
Koehler said the effects of the five-year drought are lingering for the steelhead in a way that hasn’t happened for the salmon. He attributes this to a difference in the way the two species live.
Chinook salmon leave the river for the ocean the same year they are born, so last winter’s rain benefits showed up immediately in last spring’s high count. Steelhead can stay one to three years in the river system before leaving, so higher counts of migrating smolts may come in future springs.
“It’s kind of a delayed effect, compared with the Chinook,” Koehler said.
An unknown for next year’s count is how the recent Napa County wildfires will affect the salmon and steelhead populations. Wildfires burned vegetation along slopes, leading to an increased risk of mudslides that can wash fish-harming sediments into waterways.
Koehler said the potential exists for ash and more sediment to end up in local creeks that feed the Napa River. The fires burned around sections of Milliken, Redwood and Dry creeks.
The spring 2017 count yielded about 93 percent native fish, a figure Koehler said reflects a healthy ecosystem. In contrast, non-native fish dominate in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
Much of the Napa River turns into a raging torrent in the winter and the non-native fish don’t like those high flows, Koehler said. He sees that as the most plausible explanation of why the river in its Napa Valley stretch has largely escaped invasive species.
“I think it’s just the nature of the Napa River,” Koehler said. “It’s certainly modified. It’s not a pristine river by any stretch. But it’s still wild enough that the natives do well compared to the non-native.”
The annual fish count is done with a rotary screw trap. This is an eight-foot-diameter metal funnel that is floated half-submerged on the Napa River north of Trancas Street. It turns with the current and guides fish into a water-filled compartment trap to await counting.
With the snip of oversize scissors through a red ribbon across the Napa Valley Vine Trail, visitors were introduced to the newest art installation adorning the county’s prime walking path – a blend of brightly colored lines and metal silhouettes that pays homage to the very people jogging and cycling past it.
Having taken shape since June on 710 feet of fencing behind the Napa city corporation yard, “Begin and Continue” received its dedication Tuesday afternoon as the latest large-scale artwork on the pathway planned to stretch from Calistoga to Vallejo.
What had been a block-long band of plain plastic fence slats had become, under the hands of the Napa artist Mikey Kelly, a wave of diagonal, crisscrossing lines in blue and purple and yellow and green, supporting the aluminum shadow figures of runners, strollers and other trail users.
“Begin and Continue” extends Napa’s effort to beautify Vine Trail sections running through industrial, sometimes gritty areas of the city – a quest Mayor Jill Techel predicted will increase Napans’ pride in their town.
“These are the special things that pull a community together,” she told about two dozen guests during a brief ceremony at the trail’s Jackson Street crossing before cutting the ribbon just after 2 p.m. “It’s great fun to be on the trail or the Wine Train, and see the trail being transformed by this art.”
“This is especially close to my heart,” said Kristina Young, an artist, friend of Kelly and member of the city Public Art Steering Committee that approved the $40,000 Vine Trail installation in June. The placement of “Begin and Continue” in a neighborhood well away from highly traveled, tourist-friendly routes, she added, can help “to generate interest in a section that’s been neglected for a long time.”
“We knew he understands the area better than anyone else, because he works right here, he walks here, and he knew the people he based his silhouettes on,” said Young, pointing to Kelly’s studio across Jackson Street.
Kelly’s creation blends the visual with the abstract, setting its metal silhouettes against a backdrop of colored, sloped lines made from seven colors of fade-resistant paint. The lines’ angles were set by converting five words – “active,” “caring,” “fuerte,” “amor” and “home” – through a coding system known as Lovell’s Cipher to match the letters to numbers from one to 27.
The keywords were the most popular answers given to Kelly’s teenage students at Nimbus Arts in St. Helena to the fill-in-the-blank question “Napa is …”
“I wanted to somehow bring language into the design of abstract painting,” the artist said in June about the cipher, first used for encryption by colonial forces during the American Revolution.
Models for the metal figures were people who encountered Kelly at work on the fence art during the summer – people immortalized through smartphone photos that were digitally converted to digital files, which guided the cutting of aluminum sheets that were powder-coated and painted a woody brown.
Even before Tuesday’s ribbon cutting, the artist said, he already felt the appreciation of Vine Trail regulars.
“People were coming out to take photos of it, even before I was done,” said Kelly of the six-week painting period and the creation of the silhouettes. “They would be see it change every time they went by. Train engineers would wave at me every day.”
“Begin and Continue” joins a nascent outdoor gallery evolving on the Vine Trail north of downtown, a far-from-scenic route marked with wire fencing, warehouses, sheds, concrete blocks and wooden pallets.
Other artworks to have appeared nearby include the moonlight-themed “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” mural at the back of the Napa Valley Register office, as well as the surreal “Floating Houses” mural next door on the NAPA Auto Parts store and the geometric “Chromodynamica” mural behind Matthews Mattress just south.
The paintings are expected to form the seed of the Rail Arts District, a 1.7-mile-long Vine Trail segment where property owners will be encouraged to install or sponsor public art pieces as a draw for runners, cyclists and tourists.
AMERICAN CANYON — Snow Day in American Canyon Saturday will feature new costumed characters and other first-time amenities as part of the city’s annual bounty of holiday activities.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman will be on hand for the first time at Snow Day, as well as the evening before at American Canyon’s Christmas tree-lighting ceremony.
The beloved holiday characters made a special appearance earlier this month at Dr. Jeffrey Nichelini’s American Canyon Orthodontics, which helped launch Snow Day three years ago and has served as the event’s main sponsor each year.
Frosty and Rudolph will also play a big role in the city’s cinematic theme this year for its Magic of the Season events occurring throughout December.
“Our theme this year is movies,” said LaDonna Christoffersen, program coordinator for the Parks and Recreation Department. “It’s all about holiday movie magic” involving characters like Rudolph and Frosty.
The magic will begin on Friday at Shenandoah Park when the city officially lights up its Christmas tree at 6:30 p.m.
Immediately prior to the tree lighting that night, the city will host a light parade down Shenandoah Drive that this year will be open to the public. Last year’s inaugural parade featured only city officials and costumed characters.
Those wishing to enter a holiday float in the parade can sign at the Parks and Recreation Office at 100 Benton Way. The entry fee is only $5.
The tree lighting event will also include carriage rides, food vendors, a craft fair, musical performances by the American Canyon Middle School choir, and photo opportunities with Santa Claus, the Grinch, Frosty and Rudolph.
The next day, Saturday, will start with the annual Reindeer Run at 9 a.m. along the wetlands trails.
Snow Day will follow that afternoon from noon-5 p.m. at Shenandoah Park.
Rudolph and Frosty this year will each host their own “village” at Snow Day, along with returnees the Grinch hosting Whoville and Jack Skellington hanging out in The Nightmare Before Christmas village.
Free parking and shuttle service will be available in the American Canyon High School parking lot.
The Parks and Recreation Department is again selling Fast Passes that allow participants to gain quicker entry into Snow Day’s play areas. The passes, which cost $3 each, are on sale now at 100 Benton Way.
December will also see the return of the two-night scavenger hunt — known this year as “I Spy Rudolph” — on Dec. 12-13 at 6:30 p.m. at the Senior Multi-Use Center, located at 2185 Elliott Drive.
On Dec. 16-17, Santa’s Sleigh will visit the Walmart parking lot from 6-9 p.m.
Finally, judging for the city’s best decorated houses will take place Dec. 19-21.
The Holiday Home Décor Contest, sponsored by Eagle Vines Realty, will have three categories that homeowners can enter and decorate around:
Best holiday animated/claymation film.
Best holiday non-animated film.
Best holiday decor from any movie.
The winner in each category will receive $75. The “People’s Choice” award, voted on by residents, will receive $50.
Homeowners can register for the contest at the Parks and Recreation Office at 100 Benton Way until Dec. 12.
Napa County looks likely to have a new priority heading its federal and state lobbying wish lists—wildfire recovery aid.
A proposed county lobbying platform for 2018 mentions seeking maximum wildfire loss reimbursements for the county and its residents. It mentions supporting legislation and regulations to ease wildfire loss burdens and promote recovery.
What specific disaster aid the county seeks in wake of October’s Atlas, Nuns and Tubbs fires remains to be seen. The fires destroyed or badly damaged more than 600 homes.
“We intentionally left it vague because we weren’t quite sure what we need to ask for yet,” Deputy County Executive Officer Molly Rattigan said.
But the county’s state lobbyists are game. Paul Yoder of Shaw/Yoder/Antwih, Inc. said the county secured $20 million in state funding for a new county jail after the existing jail was damaged during the 2014 South Napa earthquake.
Yoder called this making lemonade from lemons.
“That’s the kind of work we anticipate doing for the county in response to the fires,” he said.
Napa County each year adopts a list of its state and federal legislative priorities. The county Board of Supervisors is to vote on the 2018 version on Dec. 5.
As a prelude, supervisors discussed legislative matters at various meetings over the past two weeks.
Napa County could try adding its voice to the federal tax reform debate underway in the Congress. Among the county’s priorities is keeping the full deductions for state and local income and property taxes and the full deduction for home mortgages. These deductions are at risk.
Steve Palmer of Van Scoyoc Associates considered whether tax reform in the Republican-controlled Congress is taking aim at California. Van Scoyoc does federal lobbying for the county.
“I’d say, no, it’s not really anti-California, but it’s definitely anti-blue state,” he told supervisors.
Existing versions of tax reform would hurt California, New Jersey and New York the most, he said. Those states combined have six Democratic senators.
A new item on the county’s draft federal wish list is securing a $15 million grant to replace the main and secondary runways at Napa County Airport. The runways, aside from minor repairs, have the same pavement from when they were constructed 70 years ago, county officials said.
“Without the project, continued degradation of the pavement could render them inoperable,” the draft platform says.
A new item on the county’s state wish list is to use state-owned land in Napa County for affordable housing. The draft platform specifically mentions unused portions of Napa State Hospital and the Veterans Home of California at Yountville.
But critical state-owned open-space land should remain for the public’s enjoyment as open space, the draft platform says.
“We’re not trying to take state park land or Skyline Park for this purpose,” Rattigan said.
In a holdover item from previous years, the county could once again seek to buy Skyline Wilderness Park along Imola Avenue at fair market price. It presently leases the 850 acres with 25 miles of hiking trails from the state.
The county first needs the state Legislature to pass a bill allowing the state and county to negotiate a price for Skyline. Previous 2010 legislation allowed the two parties to negotiate through 2015, but they failed to reach a deal before the expiration date.