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It was a close race in the first-grade boys 200 meters during the recent St. John’s Lutheran School Youth Track and Field Invitational at Justin-Siena's Dodd Stadium.

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American Canyon asking customers to curb water use
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American Canyon wants residents to take showers of less than five minutes, water their yards less, and take other steps to cut water use by 10%.

The City Council last week declared a stage one drought emergency. It wants residents and businesses to become even bigger water-savers.

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“We really need the support of the community in scaling back our demand this year,” City Manager Jason Holley said.

The stage one drought emergency calls for voluntary conservation to reach the 10% goal. If the city at some point moved to subsequent emergency stages, it would require mandatory conservation.

American Canyon as a whole uses about 2,884 acre-feet of water annually. Its allocations this year are 1,032 acre-feet short of that mark. And, while city officials said the city can buy additional supplies to fill the gap, there’s no room for error.

If the city conservation actions result in 10% savings, the city would cut about 288 acre-feet from the total it needs for the year.

Other county cities have also called for water savings because of the drought. The city of Napa wants a 15% water usage cut. Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga have passed various water-saving rules.

One step American Canyon is taking is asking water customers to go to and sign up to monitor their water use. Then they can quickly find leaks and water-wasting activities. They can receive text alerts of large water use.

“If you wait for your utility bill to show up 45 to 60 days later, it’s really hard to be part of the solution,” Holley said.

The city is also asking water customers to:

• Limit showers to five minutes or less turn off the water when brushing teeth and flush toilets only when necessary.

• Inspect outdoor irrigation, repair leaks, adjust spray heads to maximize coverage, irrigate only two days per week and no more than two minutes per zone between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

• Wash cars, trucks and boats, and other mobile equipment during the evening and early morning to reduce evaporation. Use a hand-held bucket or hand-held hose equipped with a shutoff nozzle.

• Participate in the city’s Cash for Grass program that offers up to $750 for single-family homes and $2,500 for commercial/multifamily that convert lawns into low water use landscaping. The city this year has had 28 applications.

• Participate in the toilet rebate program that offers $100 to replace toilets that use more than 1.28 gallons of water per flush with low-flush toilets. Eleven toilets have been replaced using the program this year.

American Canyon water comes from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta through the North Bay Aqueduct. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently declared a drought emergency for the Delta because of a depleted snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas that feed reservoirs releasing water to the Delta.

Unlike the city of Napa, American Canyon has no local reservoir to supplement North Bay Aqueduct supplies. Napa has Lake Hennessey in the mountains east of Rutherford and Milliken Reservoir near Silverado Resort.

The stage one drought emergency called by the City Council requires voluntary conservation of 10%. Subsequent stages would require mandatory conservation — stage two calls for 20%, stage three 30%, and stage four 50%.

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Photos: Faces and Places, June 6

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Napa approves preschool and day care center for city’s west side
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Napa’s chronically short supply of day care centers is closer to receiving a dollop of relief.

Three women organizing Little Rays of Sunshine, a program for children between the ages of 6 weeks and 5 years, last week won a city permit to operate from Ciudad de Paz Centro Cristiano, a church in the city’s Westwood neighborhood.

On gaining its state license, the program will provide a preschool, day care center, and nursery for up to 53 children in a community where child care openings — particularly for infants and toddlers — had been perpetually scarce even before the coronavirus pandemic upended the industry starting last year.

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All five members of the city’s Planning Commission on Thursday approved a permit for Little Rays of Sunshine, which will operate on church property at 2641 Laurel St., following hearty recommendations from several women who pointed to the special scarcity of infant care for working mothers.

“I appreciate your courage regarding starting a small business in Napa, and starting a business that is so community-focused,” Commissioner Gordon Huether told applicants Fatima Arreola, Angelica Maciel, and Verenice Maciel. “Go with God, but go.”

Little Rays of Sunshine will serve children in three age groups that will be assigned to separate parts of the church building, where four classrooms will be used, as well as separate sections of an artificial turf playground to be created at the rear of the nearly three-quarter-acre site. Staff members will tend to infants up to a year old, toddlers from the ages of 1 to 2 ½, and children ages 2 ½ to 5.

The program will stand out by offering a Montessori-based model of self-directed learning and dual English-Spanish immersion from early childhood, but even more by targeting those families who have the most difficult time finding places for their children, according to Veronica Maciel.

“The city of Napa does not have many options when it comes to infant care, many of which have a long waitlist or have enrollment that’s full for the year,” she told planners during the online meeting.

The center will be overseen by a director and 14 staff members, according to an application with the city. Programs will run between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on weekdays, with parents allowed to enroll children for half-days or arrange earlier or later drop-off times based on their work schedules, according to organizers.

The prospect of adding child care places for more than 50 children will be a boon for both children’s development and their parents, predicted Deborah Elliott, a mother of two and chair of Community Resources for Children, which connects families with Napa County child care providers. “As a full-time working mother, having consistent child care allows me to stay in the workforce and allows my children to learn and thrive around other kids their age,” she told commissioners.

Napa’s approval of Little Rays of Sunshine follows a year when COVID-19’s aftermath rocked a child-care sector that the CRC warned already was meeting only a quarter of statewide demand and was largely unaffordable for working-class parents. The county’s roster of child-care centers had struggled to bounce back from closures during the country’s last economic shock, the Great Recession that peaked in 2008.

In the first five months after California imposed its first stay-home order in March 2020 to combat the pandemic’s spread, the shutdown or retrenching of four Napa County facilities resulted in the loss of about 50 child care berths, CRC executive director Erika Lubensky told the Napa Valley Register in August.

Local day care operators also described cutting capacity to meet social-distancing requirements during the pandemic, reducing revenue while expenses stayed the same or even grew — all while some of their clientele pulled out children after losing jobs in the hospitality businesses.

Photos: These Napa 5th graders built their own computers. Check it out.
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Biden: 'United States is back'
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MILDENHALL, England — President Joe Biden opened the first overseas trip of his term Wednesday with a declaration that "the United States is back" as he seeks to reassert the nation on the world stage and steady European allies deeply shaken by his predecessor.

Biden has set the stakes for his eight-day trip in sweeping terms, believing the West must publicly demonstrate it can compete economically with China as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. It is an open repudiation of his predecessor, Donald Trump, who scorned alliances and withdrew from a global climate change agreement that Biden has since rejoined.

The president's first stop was a visit with U.S. troops and their families at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, where he laid out his mission for the trip.

"We're going to make it clear that the United States is back and democracies are standing together to tackle the toughest challenges and issues that matter the most to our future," he said. "That we're committed to leading with strength, defending our values, and delivering for our people."

The challenges awaiting Biden overseas were clear as the president and the audience wore masks — a reminder of the pandemic that is still raging around much of the world even as its threat recedes within the United States.

After addressing the troops, Biden and first lady Jill Biden flew to Cornwall Airport Newquay, then traveled by car to Tregenna Castle in St. Ives, where they are staying until Sunday.

Building toward his trip-ending summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden will aim to reassure European capitals that the United States can once again be counted on as a dependable partner to thwart Moscow's aggression both on their eastern front and their internet battlefields.

The trip will be far more about messaging than specific actions or deals. And the paramount priority for Biden is to convince the world that his Democratic administration is not just a fleeting deviation in the trajectory of an American foreign policy that many allies fear irrevocably drifted toward a more transactional outlook under Trump.

"The trip, at its core, will advance the fundamental thrust of Joe Biden's foreign policy," national security adviser Jake Sullivan said, "to rally the world's democracies to tackle the great challenges of our time."

Biden's to-do list is ambitious.

In their face-to-face sit-down in Geneva, Biden wants to privately pressure Putin to end myriad provocations, including cybersecurity attacks on American businesses by Russian-based hackers, the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and repeated overt and covert efforts by the Kremlin to interfere in U.S. elections.

Biden is also looking to rally allies on their COVID-19 response and to urge them to coalesce around a strategy to check emerging economic and national security competitor China even as the U.S. expresses concern about Europe's economic links to Moscow. Biden also wants to nudge outlying allies, including Australia, to make more aggressive commitments to the worldwide effort to curb global warming.

The week-plus journey is a big moment for Biden, who traveled the world for decades as vice president and as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has now stepped off Air Force One onto international soil as commander in chief. He will face world leaders still grappling with the virus and rattled by four years of Trump's inward-looking foreign policy and moves that strained longtime alliances as the Republican former president made overtures to strongmen.

The president first attends a summit of the Group of Seven leaders in the U.K., and then visits Brussels for a NATO summit and a meeting with the heads of the European Union. The trip comes at a moment when Europeans have diminished expectations for what they can expect of U.S. leadership on the foreign stage.

The sequencing of the trip is deliberate: Biden consulting with Western European allies for much of a week as a show of unity before his summit with Putin.

He holds a sitdown Thursday with British Prime Minster Boris Johnson a day ahead of the G-7 summit to be held above the craggy cliffs of Cornwall overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

There are several potential areas of tension as Biden meets world leaders. On climate change, the U.S. is aiming to regain its credibility after Trump pulled the country back from the fight against global warming. Biden could also feel pressure on trade, an issue to which he's yet to give much attention. And with the United States well supplied with COVID-19 vaccines yet struggling to persuade some of its own citizens to use it, leaders whose inoculation campaigns have been slower have been pressuring Biden to share more surplus around the globe.

Another central focus will be China. Biden and the other G-7 leaders will announce an infrastructure financing program for developing countries that is meant to compete directly with Beijing's Belt-and-Road Initiative. But not every European power has viewed China in as harsh a light as Biden, who has painted the rivalry with the techno-security state as the defining competition for the 21st century.

Biden is also scheduled to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan while in Brussels, a face-to-face meeting between two leaders who have had many fraught moments in their relationship over the years.

The trip finale will be Biden's meeting with Putin.

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Wine Industry
Napa County needs more time with a winery proposal at the end of a mile-long narrow road
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Kelly Fleming's winery near Calistoga wants more visitors and, in an increasingly familiar story for off-the-beaten-path Napa County wineries, rural neighbors are concerned.

The winery under the name of Pickett Road Wine Co. asked the county Planning Commission last week to, among other things, raise the visitation cap. Commissioners told Fleming and the neighbors to try to work out their differences.

“I would much prefer to have the applicant and neighbors come together,” Commissioner Dave Whitmer said.

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Commissioners agreed that the matter should return to them at a date-to-be-determined.

The winery is located in Simmons Canyon near the end of mile-long Pickett Road. Pickett Road is narrow and runs past vineyards, some rural homes, and a few wineries before reaching a dead end.

Fleming secured county approval for her winery in 2006 and opened it in 2010. Her request to the Planning Commission included increasing annual visitation from a maximum of 3,618 to 7,372.

Some Pickett Road residents expressed concerns about the potential for more traffic, more noise and more water use.

Pickett Road resident Robert Levenstein supported Fleming’s interest in increasing her business.

“But we’re not supportive — just as county code is not supportive — of loud parties and amplified music which disturbs the peaceful enjoyment of local property,” he said.

Pickett Road resident Christopher Kostow is the chef at The Restaurant at Meadowood. He said winery events involve not only guests arriving in shuttles, but also florists, planners, musicians, and others.

“That is a lot of traffic, a lot of cars, hurtling down that road,” Kostow said.

Pickett Road at some points is no wider than 11 feet, he said. There is a crumbling ditch to the north side. He fears regularly for his children’s lives. A local dog was recently killed by a speeding motorist.

Whitmer said he understood.

“You come down from the very top of Pickett Road and it’s a straightaway,” Whitmer said. “A lot of folks are probably going, ‘Oh boy, this is like a race track.’ Well, that’s a problem on a small, narrow road like that.”

When he drove on the road, he saw no posted speed limit, though perhaps he just missed it, Whitmer said.

Kostow and others in letters talked about the aquifer that provides drinking water to residents. Supplies have become increasingly spotty, they said.

“Water trucks can be seen every day on Pickett Road,” Levenstein said. “They tell us the water problem is a big one.”

Consultant Jon Webb on behalf of the winery said the water increase would be minimal, about 26,000 gallons a year. That’s about the use of a residence for one month.

Webb said the winery could be put up directional signs to make certain guests find the winery easily. It could reduce the number of additional marketing events, switch some from nighttime to daytime and notify immediate neighbors of nighttime events.

Commissioners also addressed the possibility of canceling events and visitation when severe weather makes wildfires a particular danger. The winery during the 2020 fires lost four acres of vineyards, a pump house, a detached garage, various tanks, and buried lines.

“I think because of the location of this winery, being conservative is the right move here,” Commissioner Megan Dameron said.

Such issues will return to the commission as it grapples with another growth decision involving a winery that is not along a major roadway. The county approaches "remote" wineries on a case-by-case basis, looking at what is unique to each request.

County officials in 2018 said unincorporated Napa County has 484 wineries, and 57 percent are located in hillside areas and the Carneros region. Thirty-eight percent are located on the valley floor. The rest are in such places as the airport industrial area.

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Photos: This house was built with 3D printed parts. Check it out.