Frequently Asked Questions


Frequently Asked Questions - Updated January 23, 2018

+ 1. What would this initiative do?

This Initiative adopts policies and zoning requirements for the Agricultural Watershed zoning district. These changes would establish buffer zones along streams and wetlands via amendments to the Agricultural Watershed district zoning code. They would also strengthen existing County General Plan oak woodland remediation requirements from a ratio of 2:1 to 3:1; that is, for each mature oak removed, it would require replanting of three oaks, or a 3:1 preservation of oak woodland habitat. Last, it would establish a 795-acre limit on additional oak woodland removal after which a permit would be required for additional oak tree removal. This initiative is intended to complement the protections the County wisely established decades ago for agricultural and open space lands designated in the Agricultural Preserve.

+ 2. Who supports the initiative?

National and local environmental groups including the League of Women Voters of Napa County, Growers/Vintners for Responsible Agriculture, Sierra Club, Latinos Unidos Del valle de Napa Y Solano, Napa Vision 2050, Forests Forever, Corporate Ethics International, The Center for Biological Diversity and others have endorsed the measure. A number of individual longtime Napa Valley winemakers and grape growers also support of the measure.

+ 3. Will this initiative prevent me from clearing oaks and dead wood around my home to make it fire safe?

No. You may clear up to 150 feet from your home. The initiative encourages creating a buffer between vegetation and structures. Furthermore, any codes or regulations aimed at increasing fire safety override this initiative. [ Link to C2 - C10 ] Protecting the watershed and managing for fire safety are not mutually exclusive practices.

+ 4. Don't vineyards protect us from fire?

An irrigated vineyard can function as a firebreak. That said, replacing natural areas like oak woodlands with vineyards can also increase fire risk. Cutting down too many native oak trees in the watershed reduces groundwater levels and leaves the remaining trees more vulnerable to fire. Healthy forests perform important ecosystem services with respect to fire, in addition to wildlife, water, climate, and erosion control.

+ 5. Will this initiative interfere with farming operations, including grape growing?

This initiative does not stop any current farming, nor does it stop any development that is already in progress. It would not prevent any replanting of existing vineyards or crops, or the construction of any new agricultural buildings or structures that are otherwise permitted under County law. If passed, the initiative would ultimately provide increased protections for vineyards and other farming operations in the Ag Preserve by protecting the Ag Watershed upon which vineyards - and our community - depend.

+ 6. I live in the city. Isn't this an issue for rural residents?

City and town residents depend on rural water sources. Howell Mountain, for instance, is the headwaters for both Napa and St. Helena. Deforestation in watersheds on Howell Mountain increases silt flowing into reservoirs and the amount of water available from the aquifer flowing into the municipal water systems.

+ 7. I have my own well and don't rely on city water. How does this initiative affect me?

Deforestation and development in your area may adversely impact your well production.

+ 8. Hasn't this initiative been on the ballot already?

This initiative is a refinement of one that qualified for the ballot in 2016. Napa County officials removed that version from the ballot on a technicality. We have revamped it slightly based on input from some wine industry representatives and placed it on the ballot again to give voters a chance to consider it.

+ 9. Will the initiative hurt tourism in Napa?

This initiative does not limit tourism. The scenic natural beauty of Napa Valley's hillsides is part of its appeal to visitors. Protecting water supplies is essential to a sustainable tourism industry.

+ 10. Why do we need more regulation?

Napa County does not currently have sufficient protection zones for waterways, particularly for smaller feeder streams. We don't have a limit on how much woodland can be removed. We also lack adequate mitigation measures to account for the ecosystem impacts of removing mature trees. This initiative is designed to remedy these shortcomings by enhancing protections for streams and wetlands and ensuring the long-term preservation of Napa's oak woodlands.