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Walt Ranch: Not the way to go

Walt Ranch: Not the way to go

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The Walt Ranch Project proposed by Hall Brambletree Associates, LP, located in the eastern hills of the Atlas Peak area, should not be approved. By using the Opinion page of the Napa Valley Register, I believe many interested citizens have made a compelling case for ejection of the project.

The Napa Sierra Club’s extensive article (“Halt Walt and beyond,” Nov. 1) pointed out, among other things, the degradation of a healthy rural forest area including cutting down 28,000 oak trees, and the accompanying loss of wildlife habitat. Twenty miles of roads will be built along with four large storage ponds to hold 69 millions of gallons of water pumped yearly from below ground, and utilized by the vineyard development.

Jeffery Roberts, resident of Circle Oaks wrote (“Walt Ranch threatens rural way of life,” Nov. 3) of concerns the residents of that large rural subdivision. They believe the project will have a hurt their rural way of life including affecting their household water supply. Apparently, residents of Atlas Peak Road area have the same concern.

Wendy Wallin’s letter (“County cannot afford Walt Ranch,” Oct. 10) deals extensively with the project’s long-term harm to air quality and wildlife. And there have been several other letters of concern.

I wish to add my opposition to this project and encourage others to do likewise. The loss of 28,000 oak trees, plus the accompanying environmental degradation of the site is too high a price for the citizens of Napa County to pay. What gain do we reap from such a vineyard project? In my opinion, nothing.

Conversely, what real benefit will the Hall’s gain by developing this project? More money; more prestige. They appear to have plenty of both!

Our planet is suffering extensively from environmental abuse from such projects as proposed here by the Halls and their corporate partners. This type of abuse, i.e., wholesale deforesting of wooded habitat has been carried out extensively for some time in South America and Africa, and in parts of this country. Some scientist claim this has contributed greatly to the world’s warming climate trend.

Nearly 50 years ago, a courageous Napa County Board of Supervisors enacted the Agricultural Preserve statute, an act that most of us lifelong/longtime residents of Napa recognize is what kept the Napa Valley the desirable place we live in today. Had the Ag Preserve not been enacted in 1967, it was projected Napa County’s population would have grown to 500,000, or more by now. Looking at population growth in surrounding Bay Area counties substantiates this estimate.

At the time of the enactment of the Ag Preserve, it was not uniformly popular among the vineyard owners; some saw it as a confiscation of their property rights. But what happened ? Property values skyrocketed.

It’s time for the Board of Supervisors to have a second go at preserving Napa Valley. The Board 50 years ago didn’t create the Ag Preserve to promote tourism, or for the well being of the winery owners. It was to protect agriculture. It concerns me that continued growth of vineyards, and wineries along with continued commercialization will eventually consume this extraordinary valley, and its amenities.

With more than 450 wineries in Napa County it raises the question, “When will enough vineyards and enough wineries be enough?” There has to be a limit. Water will become more scarce. With heavy tourist activity, Highway 29, the Silverado Trail, and our frail secondary county system often operate at their limit.

Lets have a moratorium on large new projects and then determine where we go from there, and how we get there, while at the same time protecting the environment. If some person, or persons want to be in the vineyard or winery business, l say, let them buy an existing one!

I’m an 87-year-old native of Napa who was blessed to grow up, live in, and have a working career in this community. I may not be around to see how all this eventually plays out; however my interests lie in my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren (and beyond). I want them to enjoy the natural beauty that is Napa County.

Harold Halterman


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