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Napa County moves idea of a single water agency to future talks

Napa County moves idea of a single water agency to future talks

City of Napa Tap Water Day

Visitors view water storage tanks at the city of Napa's water treatment plant in Jameson Canyon in 2019. A Napa County conversation has begun over bringing more unity to local water agencies. 

Napa County has achieved a degree of peace – at least for now – over big ideas involving water governance and how possible changes might affect farmland preservation.

Some finessing of language paved the way for the Local Agency Formation Commission of Napa County (LAFCO) to adopt a Napa Countywide Water and Wastewater study. The commission on Monday unanimously approved a document almost two years in the making.

One goal is to bring a degree of unity to Napa County’s water world. Fourteen agencies deliver water and wastewater services to such diverse places as Napa Valley cities and far-flung, tiny, rural communities such as Berryessa Estates.

Each Napa County municipality manages its own water supply and charges rates over a relatively small population base, the study said. It raised the idea of forming a countywide water agency.

“California counties such as Marin County have one water authority that manages all water treatment, delivery and wastewater across the county,” the study said.

Other counties have agencies that deal with regional water issues in a less comprehensive fashion.

The idea of a possible Napa County water czar raised concerns. One is that cities might dominate at the expense of farming areas. The California Farm Bureau Federation requested time for more public analysis and discussion.

“It’s not a done deal in terms of what we’re going to do or not do,” Yountville Town Councilmember and LAFCO Commissioner Margie Mohler said on Monday, adding the study is “just a big collection of information.”

Napa County wanted to make that point clear. County officials said an earlier version of the document was slanted toward creating a countywide water agency without analyzing potential downsides.

The final version of the study strives for a neutral tone. It introduces the idea of a countywide water agency without saying this should be the outcome.

Napa County also objected to the study mentioning St. Helena possibly extending wastewater services to unincorporated areas such as Meadowood resort. County officials said that could lead to farmland being annexed and developed.

The idea remains in the final version of the study with editing. The study makes no recommendation as to whether St. Helena should extend services.

St. Helena also asked that the county consult with local cities before approving vineyard development in municipal watersheds. The final version of the study mentions the idea while noting Napa County has concerns.

County Supervisor and LAFCO Commissioner Diane Dillon asked that the study state in a prologue that disagreements remain. She put the ratio at 90% agreement and 10% disagreement.

Whether local cities and special districts follow the study’s recommendation to consider creating a countywide agency or lesser form of unification remains to be seen.

LAFCO was the catalyst to get a conversation started, agency Executive Officer Brendon Freeman said. Now it’s up to the various cities and special districts to continue the discussion.

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See photos of Napa’s Blue Oak School outdoor campus

You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.

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