We are sorry that our vineyard application has caused concerns ("Development will affect county's balance of nature," Oct. 15).
We are committed to learning more and exploring modifications that address these concerns. While we have been careful to plan a project consistent with the Agriculture Preserve and the Napa County General Plan, we understand the need to research ways to improve the project.
My wife, Kathy, and I are longstanding active Napa residents. We bought the Walt Ranch nearly 10 years ago with the goal of planting some premier Napa Valley vineyards in concert with Napa County’s conservation regulations. We have also been considering what additional development rights to maintain while planning to put the balance of the property development rights into a conservation easement. In this regard, over the years we have met with the Napa Valley Land Trust and are continuing those discussions.
For the past six years, our proposed vineyard at Walt Ranch has been studied by experts in a wide range of environmental fields, including botany, wildlife, soil, erosion, hydrogeology and others. Napa County, as the lead agency, issued a report of more than 1,500 pages in length, concluding that the vineyard at Walt Ranch would not have a significant impact on the area. While we believe the draft environmental impact report has been very complete, we are willing to consider modifications to improve the project.
By way of perspective, this is a 2,300-acre parcel. The Agriculture Preserve rights for this property include the right to build 35 wineries, 35 recreational vehicles parks, 35 campgrounds, 35 hunting lodges and other developments. This vineyard application is limited to a vineyard only on approximately 12 percent of our property. Also, we have already taken a number of steps in the environmental proposal to reduce impacts including:
• Water management controls that include the use of wind machines, low-flow frost protection emitters, and the construction of water storage ponds on the property to reduce dry season pumping of wells.
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• Limiting tree removal to only 11 percent of the trees on the property. In addition, tree canopy cover on the property will be retained at a 1:1 ratio through a combination of avoidance, replanting (some at a 5:1 ratio), and woodland preservation of at least 248 acres through perpetual land conservation easements.
• Erosion control methods designed to substantially reduce soil loss on the property compared to existing conditions. Soil loss on the Milliken Reservoir watershed is expected to decline by 43 percent, while the soil loss in the Capell Creek watershed is expected to decline by 13 percent.
Despite our efforts to date, we understand that people have concerns. We welcome the opportunity to discuss this vineyard project. To that end, we are scheduling a meeting for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 6 at the Meritage Resort & Spa, 875 Bordeaux Way, Napa, where we will make a brief presentation and then look forward to interested parties sharing their thoughts. In addition, we can be reached at 707-967-2626 and have posted the county’s draft environmental report and other relevant information at www.waltranch.com.