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If you live anywhere in the unincorporated area, the county of Napa is about to confiscate some of your land for conservation areas and put the rest in greater danger of destruction by fire.

The new Watershed Protection Ordinance creates 35-foot setbacks from all “ephemeral streams” (anywhere water ever runs with enough force to scour), with prohibitions on any uses other than a very short list. These 70-foot-wide swaths run along approximately 3,200 miles of “ephemeral streams”, enclosing approximately 70,000 acres, all forcibly extracted from you to form a huge connected network of conservation areas running from valley floor to ridge tops.

They won’t take legal title to your property, so you will continue paying taxes on it even though you can’t use it. This is known as a regulatory taking, and as long as any value remains in your property, no compensation is due.

The ordinance also prohibits tree removal and even shrub removal on the rest of your property, with exceptions only for fire break projects mandated by and directed by Cal Fire, or by county use permit. This will criminalize your voluntary good stewardship in reducing the fire hazard on your property beyond the mandatory 100-foot defensible space zone unless you apply, pay, and wait for a use permit.

Am I just some lunatic, raving about my paranoid fantasies of big government trampling our property rights? I wish it were so, but the fact is that this is happening quickly, with no prior notice to property owners beyond the legal minimum newspaper advertisement.

The county Planning Commission was directed by the Board of Supervisors to bring an ordinance to them in March. The first public hearing was held on Feb. 20, at which the Planning Commission intended to approve the ordinance, but because of improper public noticing they had to continue it to March 6.

The Board of Supervisors intends to adopt this ordinance later in March to go into effect in late April. If Napa County property owners don’t show up in huge numbers on March 6 to protest, it will happen.

George Bachich


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