Among the nearly one hundred development projects pending on the county of Napa Current Projects website comes a sleeper of a project likely to go unnoticed by Napa city residents and businesses who will be most negatively impacted.
The remote vineyard development project, (Hyperion Vineyard Holdings LLC. AKA KJS Investment Properties and Sorrento Inc. ECOA #17-00432-ECPA) proposed deep in the headwaters above Lake Hennessey, seeks to clear 156.8 acres of existing vegetation including oak woodlands, foothill pine communities, and grasslands in order to construct a vineyard in the Conn Creek/Lake Hennessey watershed.
The project proposes increased diversion of surface water and development of a 48-acre-foot off-stream reservoir. Hardly a blip on the radar of most city of Napa Water users, and a routine rubber stamp for the county of Napa planners tasked with grinding out yet another development approval (within a do nothing set of meaningless environmental regulations 100% guaranteed to never be implemented by those very agencies tasked with protections of biological, riparian, air quality, surface and groundwater resources).
For decades, countless vineyard and winery projects have been approved in an automaton fashion by the county of Napa, cumulatively impacting not only fisheries and wildlife, forest stability, and fire safety but also the human need for safe and reliable drinking water.
Faced with extreme drought and restrictions on domestic water use, groundwater depletion, wildland, and urban interface mega-fires, collapse of upland forest resources and decimation of the Napa River and its many tributaries, Napa city water users dependent upon Lake Hennessey, may wish to reach out to their elected City Council members and ask why the continued destruction of their watershed is permitted without notice to Napa city residents? City of Napa water users could, for example, request city staff provide a quarterly report, publicly noticed through the agenda process of all vineyard, winery, hotel/resort projects proposed by the county of Napa that are within any city of Napa municipal watershed.
While environmental justice and access to clean, affordable water may seem the stuff of wretched San Joaquin Valley towns, city of Napa residents too are victims of water inequities under the current Napa County Board of Supervisors “agricultural development above all” policies, which according to the county of Napa General Plan, denote virtually every single acre of land in the Lake Hennessey watershed to be open for vineyard and winery development.
The State Water Resource Control Board notes "Environmental Justice principles call for the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income, in the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of all environmental laws, regulations, and policies that affect every community’s natural surroundings, and the places people live, work, play, and learn."
If you have no idea what development projects are proposed in your watersheds, if you have no access to project documents, if the county of Napa Current Projects website is broken or project documents are missing or incomplete, or you as a water user are harmed by county of Napa Project approvals reducing your water security, you may feel compelled to have your elected Napa City Council take on the uncomfortable task of defending your watersheds from development. It’s their job.
City of Napa water users of all economic levels has subsidized the Hyperion Vineyard Holdings LLC. AKA KJS Investment Properties and Sorrento Inc.’s of the world for decades. Napa County misguidedly perceives a benefit, city of Napa residents are however are the losers. It’s beyond time to intervene. It’s beyond time to demand environmental justice.