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Napa County to start tackling post-Measure C environmental issues
Strategic Plan

Napa County to start tackling post-Measure C environmental issues

Measure C Signs (copy)

In the aftermath of Measure C's defeat last June, proponents are still weighing whether to mount another initiative effort. Meanwhile, Napa County has announced new environmental protection goals.

Napa County supervisors decided to kick off their brand-new, three-year strategic plan by taking on perhaps the thorniest issue of all—post-Measure C watershed protections.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a strategic plan with 83 action steps to take place from July 2019 through June 2022. But supervisors didn’t want to wait for this summer to tackle the steps involving tree preservation and stream setbacks, instead calling for a Jan. 29 workshop.

“We need to do this right away,” Board chairman Ryan Gregory said.

Measure C would have created stronger stream setbacks and limited the cutting down of oaks in the mountains for new vineyards. Among its stated goals was to protect drinking water quality in local reservoirs used by Napa, Calistoga, Yountville and St. Helena.

The citizen initiative narrowly fell in the June 2018 election after a bitter campaign. Wine industry groups said Measure C was anti-agriculture, a claim that proponents denied.

Measure C backers must decide at some point whether to gather signatures to try for a 2020 ballot measure. Before that happens, the Board of Supervisors will try to arrive at a solution that satisfies all sides.

Gregory doesn’t see the county as having to choose between agriculture and the environment.

“That’s a terrible choice,” he said. “We don’t have that choice. We have to make both work.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, recently convened talks among county leaders, Measure C backers, farming and wine industry representatives and others to look for post-Measure C solutions. Supervisors will try to finish the job.

Napa County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Klobas during public comments told supervisors that the Farm Bureau is willing to lead negotiations among the disagreeing parties to find a compromise.

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

But Angwin resident and Measure C co-author Mike Hackett didn’t immediately embrace the offer from Farm Bureau, a Measure C opponent. His interpretation of the Thompson talks is that the next step is for the Board of Supervisors to take action.

“In spite of the fact Ryan Klobas and the Farm Bureau want to take over, we’re going to follow the avenue Mike Thompson paved for us as we go forward,” Hackett told supervisors.

Klobas said after the meeting that Farm Bureau isn’t trying to take over. It would be helpful for the Board of Supervisors if by Jan. 29 the various parties could say they have found things they can potentially agree on, he said.

“What I’d like to do, what Farm Bureau would like to do, is pick up the ball (after the Thompson talks) and keep going with it,” Klobas said.

Michelle Benvenuto of Winegrowers of Napa County had a different takeaway than Hackett from the Thompson talks. Measure C backers wanted far-reaching regulations and threatened another ballot measure unless their demands are met, she said.

“This type of all-or-nothing attitude is not beneficial to the community, ” Benvenuto told supervisors.

One Measure C-related strategic plan action step calls for updating county conservation regulations to improve stream setback requirements to better protect riparian habitat. It also calls for providing flexibility for farming.

Another says the county will adopt a law increasing tree canopy protections and required mitigation for trees that are cut down. Still another calls for possibly modifying buffers around local reservoirs that provide water to cities.

County staff on Jan. 29 will present historical precedents for these issues, relevant scientific literature and options for the Board of Supervisors to consider, Planning, Building and Environmental Services Director David Morrison said. Staff will present a timeline for crafting a law.

Napa County’s new strategic plan addresses all types of county functions, from rural land use to health and human services to transportation to law enforcement to libraries. County officials said more than 4,000 residents participated over 18 months through more than 60 meetings and an online survey.

Tuesday’s meeting provided one last time for residents to comment on the strategic plan before its adoption. About 30 speakers addressed the Board of Supervisors.

Several speakers asked the county to declare a climate change emergency and take steps to cut back on greenhouse gases. They wanted the county to do its share in tackling a global problem that they view as a crisis.

Supervisor Diane Dillon showed a slide that showed Napa from 2010 through 2016 created far more jobs than housing, at a 17-1 ratio. Other Bay Area counties had similar imbalances that lead to more people commuting, according to this Metropolitan Transportation Commission data.

“The single most damaging element of our climate changes issues is vehicle emissions,” Dillon said. “And it’s represented right there.”

The county should look at the strategic plan through the lens of climate action and through the lens of working with the cities, Dillon said.

Vintner Ryan Waugh said the strategic plan makes no reference to wine sales.

“Yes, climate is important,” Waugh said. “But the sale of wine is also important. Without it, the economy crumbles.”

Several people wanted the Vine Trail included as a specific action, a request the Board of Supervisors granted. The walking and biking path is to someday stretch 47 miles from Vallejo to Calistoga, with about 11 miles existing from Napa’s Kennedy Park to Yountville.

“The Vine Trail is getting 1,000 uses a day, 350,000 uses a year….how can you ignore it in the plan?” said Chuck McMinn of the Napa Valley Vine Trail Coalition.

County Executive Officer Minh Tran said the county will create a strategic plan implementation plan that will look at the who, what, when and how of making the 83 strategic plan action steps a reality.

Supervisor Belia Ramos addressed the crowd that filled the supervisors chamber. She wanted to see them back again.

“I hope everyone stays engaged in this process with the understanding the nuts and bolts come with implementation,” she said.

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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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