Atlas Peak Debris Removal (copy)

Napa County is considering asking for state and federal aid to help with recovery from the October wildfires that destroyed or severely damaged more than 600 houses. In this photo, a contractor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uses an excavator while sorting debris from the site of a residence on Old Soda Springs Road that was destroyed in the Atlas Fire.

Napa County looks likely to have a new priority heading its federal and state lobbying wish lists—wildfire recovery aid.

A proposed county lobbying platform for 2018 mentions seeking maximum wildfire loss reimbursements for the county and its residents. It mentions supporting legislation and regulations to ease wildfire loss burdens and promote recovery.

What specific disaster aid the county seeks in wake of October’s Atlas, Nuns and Tubbs fires remains to be seen. The fires destroyed or badly damaged more than 600 homes.

“We intentionally left it vague because we weren’t quite sure what we need to ask for yet,” Deputy County Executive Officer Molly Rattigan said.

But the county’s state lobbyists are game. Paul Yoder of Shaw/Yoder/Antwih, Inc. said the county secured $20 million in state funding for a new county jail after the existing jail was damaged during the 2014 South Napa earthquake.

Yoder called this making lemonade from lemons.

“That’s the kind of work we anticipate doing for the county in response to the fires,” he said.

Napa County each year adopts a list of its state and federal legislative priorities. The county Board of Supervisors is to vote on the 2018 version on Dec. 5.

As a prelude, supervisors discussed legislative matters at various meetings over the past two weeks.

Napa County could try adding its voice to the federal tax reform debate underway in the Congress. Among the county’s priorities is keeping the full deductions for state and local income and property taxes and the full deduction for home mortgages. These deductions are at risk.

Steve Palmer of Van Scoyoc Associates considered whether tax reform in the Republican-controlled Congress is taking aim at California. Van Scoyoc does federal lobbying for the county.

“I’d say, no, it’s not really anti-California, but it’s definitely anti-blue state,” he told supervisors.

Existing versions of tax reform would hurt California, New Jersey and New York the most, he said. Those states combined have six Democratic senators.

A new item on the county’s draft federal wish list is securing a $15 million grant to replace the main and secondary runways at Napa County Airport. The runways, aside from minor repairs, have the same pavement from when they were constructed 70 years ago, county officials said.

“Without the project, continued degradation of the pavement could render them inoperable,” the draft platform says.

A new item on the county’s state wish list is to use state-owned land in Napa County for affordable housing. The draft platform specifically mentions unused portions of Napa State Hospital and the Veterans Home of California at Yountville.

But critical state-owned open-space land should remain for the public’s enjoyment as open space, the draft platform says.

“We’re not trying to take state park land or Skyline Park for this purpose,” Rattigan said.

In a holdover item from previous years, the county could once again seek to buy Skyline Wilderness Park along Imola Avenue at fair market price. It presently leases the 850 acres with 25 miles of hiking trails from the state.

The county first needs the state Legislature to pass a bill allowing the state and county to negotiate a price for Skyline. Previous 2010 legislation allowed the two parties to negotiate through 2015, but they failed to reach a deal before the expiration date.

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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.