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Ensuring our water security

Ensuring our water security

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We hope that you, and your family and friends, are well. These are decidedly unique times in which we find ourselves, and as a community we are strongest when we work together to overcome shared challenges and to find common ground.

We, the Growers/Vintners for Responsible Agriculture, exist for a singular purpose: To protect the long-term viability of agriculture in Napa County by preserving the natural environment and resources upon which the health of our vineyards, wineries and entire community rely.

With this as our guide, we filed a measure called the Napa County Water Sustainability Initiative on March 9 and we received the Title and Summary from Napa County on March 24. The intent of this measure is to ensure our water security by simply amending county ordinances so that Napa County can continue to thrive.

It will do this by closing two loopholes related to lands in our Agricultural Watershed: 1) it will not allow mitigation of forest removal on already-protected land, such as on slopes over 30% and along our hillside streams; and 2) it will prioritize on-site mitigation. Based upon a recent court ruling in the Walt Ranch case, these loopholes are actually illegal and so must be fixed.

While we had intended to begin gathering signatures on March 28, this is no longer possible due to the shelter-in-place order under which we are all operating. Given the closeness of the Measure C vote in November of 2018; and given that the Water Quality and Tree Protection Ordinance (WQTPO), passed by the Board of Supervisors in May of 2019, offers scant additional protection for our scarce water resources; and given that polling shows that most of us in Napa County care deeply about water security, we have asked that the supervisors place this initiative on the November ballot. This will allow the democratic process to proceed during this unprecedented situation in which we all find ourselves.

As Supervisor Dillon stated while the WQTPO was being drafted, “It doesn’t feel appropriate for you to get a credit for protecting something you wouldn’t be able to use anyway.”

We hope that our board will see the value in offering our remaining forests the protection they need to allow for water security for agriculture and for all of us here in Napa County. These are challenging times, to be sure, and voting to put this measure on the November ballot would clearly illustrate that our board is aware of the issues around water and development, and that it has the courage to let the voters decide.

If the board is unwilling to take this route, we ask that it close these loopholes via an amendment to the WQTPO.

As we see it, this is an opportunity for our board to show true leadership, to show that it cares about the interests of and future of our community.

Thank you. We wish everyone the very best during these unsettled times.

Beth Novak Milliken

Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery

On behalf of GVfRA

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