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Napa County will consider strengthening protections for oaks, streams and city-serving reservoirs while also weighing how stronger environmental laws might affect the wine industry.

The county Board of Supervisors will discuss a number of staff recommendations on Tuesday. It meets at 9 a.m. at the county administration building, 1195 Third St. in downtown Napa.

This is last year's Measure C battle brought to the board chamber. The watershed and oak woodlands protection citizens' initiative narrowly lost in the June 2018 election.

Expect Measure C supporters to pack the Board of Supervisors chamber. Also expect a strong turnout from those worried that too strict laws would hamper the ability to plant new vineyards, especially in the mountainous watershed areas framing the Napa Valley.

Among the issues on the table is increasing the replacement ratio for oak woodlands removal from 2-1 to 3-1, establishing reservoir buffer zones and increasing tree canopy retention from 60 percent of a property to as high as 85 percent.

“They’re asking the right questions,” Measure C co-author and Angwin resident Mike Hackett said on Friday. “I think they are covering all the salient issues we brought up with Measure C.”

But Hackett and other Measure C supporters disagree with some of the staff recommendations. For example, staff recommends sticking with the 2-1 tree mitigation ratio.

The Board of Supervisors makes the ultimate decisions, Hackett said.

“We have our trust in the Board of Supervisors’ actions,” Hackett said. “We’re looking forward to Tuesday. This is a good start.”

Opposing Measure C were the Napa County Farm Bureau, Napa Valley Vintners, Winegrowers of Napa County and Napa Valley Grapegrowers.

Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Klobas Friday said the group planned to go through the county recommendations in-depth. It wants to have its Board of Directors provide input.

At the Jan. 15 Board of Supervisors meeting, Klobas asked that Measure C proponents and opponents meet. He said he wanted to find areas of agreement before supervisors wade into the matter.

“I can lead that process,” Klobas said on Jan. 15. “I can start today.”

A meeting never happened. The reasons are detailed in a series of polite emails between Klobas and vintner Warren Winiarski, a member of the pro-Measure C group called Growers/Vintners for Responsible Agriculture.

Winiarski wrote to Klobas that the Farm Bureau should put its positions in writing before the meeting, as Measure C proponents did by releasing nine points they believe must be part of a solution.

“For any meeting to be productive, it is crucial that the Napa County Farm Bureau share its positions,” Winiarski wrote.

Klobas replied that the Farm Bureau wanted to engage in a dialogue. He guaranteed everyone would have an open mind.

“As with any negotiation, we wouldn’t be able to commit to hard specifics until we first meet and discuss these issues in more depth and understand how you’ve arrived at your findings,” Klobas wrote.

All of this left the two sides in stalemate over conditions for a meeting. Klobas said Friday that the Farm Bureau still wants to meet.

Besides Winiarski, Growers/Vintners includes such members as Andy Beckstoffer of Beckstoffer Vineyards, Randy Dunn of Dunn Vineyards, Robin Lail of Lail Vineyards and Beth Novak Milliken of Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery.

County Planning, Building and Environmental Services Director David Morrison in a memo to supervisors tried to frame the issues confronting the county.

“How we manage our hillside areas plays a central role in determining the quantity and quality of our drinking water, our ecological health, the scenic beauty that both residents and visitors enjoy, the future growth of our wine industry and our ability to respond to future disasters,” he wrote.

He listed local, state and regional environmental laws that county farmers face. Napa County’s practices have served as a model for other agencies and regions, he wrote.

“However, Napa County vineyards are the most regulated agricultural industry in California, which has resulted in significant additional expense and time for landowners,” Morrison wrote.

Napa County requires that new wineries and winery production expansion use at least 75 percent Napa County grapes. If new vineyard development becomes more limited, the grape supply will grow more slowly and this will eventually constrain winery growth, Morrison wrote.

The county since 2005 has seen an 8.7 percent increase in farming acreage, from 64,423 acres to 70,019 acres, of which 43,584 acres are vineyards. Oak and conifer forests decreased 1.2 percent, from 204,960 acres to 202,541 acres. Grasslands and chaparral decreased 4.1 percent, from 161,289 acres to 154,683 acres, Morrison wrote. 

All of this lands in the lap of county supervisors on Tuesday. The Board of Supervisors will give direction to staff. Morrison wrote that a draft ordinance could be released on Feb. 6 and a Planning Commission hearing on the ordinance could be held Feb. 20 and possibly another on Feb. 27.

“This schedule provides multiple opportunities for the public to submit their comments,” Morrison wrote.

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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.