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Planners, please preserve watersheds

Planners, please preserve watersheds

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A letter to the county Planning Commissioners: My husband, Donald Harms, and I live on Dry Creek Road. We own a certified biodynamic organic ranch growing grapes, lavender and other aromatics, and some fruit. Most of our ranch is forested and rugged.

We share a property line with our neighbors that has a tree easement protecting a portion of one of the few remaining oak savannas in our Napa Valley. This consists not only of huge old Valley Oaks but native grasses and plants and many animals. To them, this looks like a good place for vines; to us, we see a vital part of an ecology that helps sustain a healthy watershed.

There are so many issues to address, and I will continue to be in contact with you and the Board of Supervisors. But today, I want to voice my sincere wish that as we all move forward in 2015, that our county government in its many facets will work with citizen groups, several that have worked long and hard, some which are just now forming, to develop guidelines that protect the agricultural preserve but also the watersheds.

Watersheds are like mothers. When mothers are healthy and functioning properly, the children flourish. The mother for the most part is invisible, taken for granted. That was always my wish as mother: that my sons could take me for granted! But when the mother is sick or depleted, she's noticed. The children suffer.

In the case of watersheds, if we ignore the importance of our watersheds, if we don't maintain the conditions that provide healthy watersheds, and restore those that have been depleted, our water is at risk. Water is our lifeblood. It is what unites us. It is the commons, belonging to no one person, but to all of us.

In my husband's and my own situation, if we look at that oak savanna and see open space for vines, drill wells, and several wells, because they're not great wells, if the water is sucked up for new vines and expansion of a winery, we are depleting an important part of a watershed. And believe me, in this drought, our trees are suffering. Way too many are dying or are sick, stressed by lack of water.

Oak savannas and woodlands and all the plants and animals that are part of those communities are a vital part of our watersheds. The Native Americans maintained these hillsides for centuries, but a lot of that knowledge has been lost with them. These watersheds need study and protection and, yes, in many cases, restoration, certainly not further degradation and exploitation for farming. In an Ag Preserve, some things should be protected, and if they are not, we will all suffer the consequences. Water unites us, water reminds us that we are of one piece. Fire will do this, too.

Patricia Damery

Napa

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