Subscribe for 33¢ / day

Napa County has been awarded $822,000 to help restore the Napa River in the heart of Napa Valley.

The grant is from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. It will pay for such things as 91,000 plants to revegetate 11 acres of riverside forests and 5 acres of wetlands, as well as designs for even more restoration work, an EPA press release said.

This is the latest step in the local drive to remove the rural Napa River from the constraints of a human-made channel and restore it to a more natural state. A key component is the dozens of private property owners who are giving up prime Wine Country riverfront farming soil to make room for flood terraces.

The project entails 4.8 miles of channel restoration along a 9-mile stretch of the Napa River at an estimated cost of $20 million. The stretch is from Oakville Cross Road south to Oak Knoll Avenue. Work began in 2015.

The Oakvillle-to-Oak Knoll Reach work is a sequel. It comes on the heels of the similar, $21 million Rutherford Reach project, which wrapped up in 2015 after 13 years of work.

About $8 million in local Measure A flood control sales tax money has gone toward the Oakville-to-Oak Knoll Reach project. The project so far has also been able to secure $6.2 million in grants from agencies ranging from the EPA to the California Coastal Conservancy.

“Napa has developed a good reputation for watershed restoration and enhancement efforts,” county Watershed and Flood Control Resource Specialist Shaun Horne said.

Work on the Oakville-to-Oak Knoll Reach could go on for another three to five years, Horne said. The time frame depends in part on securing future grants.

Get news headlines sent daily to your inbox

A 2014 environmental document done for Napa County describes the project. It says the Napa River as it existed prior to agriculture and development was a broad, shallow river with multiple channels.

The Napa River is today generally confined to a single channel that is often deeply incised. Much of the river has berms to protect neighboring properties from flooding. That leads to a less complex, diverse habitat for such species as the Chinook salmon, steelhead and California freshwater shrimp, the report said.

Restoring the river along the Oakville-to-Oak Knoll Reach comes with the cost of removing about 36 acres of vineyards.

But the report sees a number of benefits. They range from minimizing the need for channel stabilization and repair work, decreasing sediments that erode into the river and removing non-native species that are home to an insect that spreads the grapevine-killing Pierce’s disease.


Napa County Reporter

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