DWR Releases Draft Prioritization of Groundwater Basins Under SGMA

Post from Maven's Notebook, May 18, 2018

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) today released a draft prioritization of groundwater basins as required by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). The 2018 SGMA Basin Prioritization is scheduled to be finalized by fall 2018 after a public comment period that starts today and runs through July 18.

SGMA requires local agencies throughout the state to sustainably manage groundwater basins. Under the act, DWR is required to prioritize groundwater basins and direct high- and medium-priority basins to meet a timeline of targets on the path to sustainability. The 2018 SGMA Basin Prioritization released today is a reassessment of the 2016 update of Bulletin 118 Basin Boundaries.

“Sustainably managing groundwater is a critical component of California’s efforts to build a more resilient and reliable water system,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “The Department of Water Resources is committed to working with Groundwater Sustainability Agencies throughout the state to bring basins into sustainability. This prioritization is crucial to that work. We must plan ahead so this vital resource is available for Californians today and in years to come.”



Read more here at The Maven's Notebook

For more information visit the basin prioritization website at https://www.water.ca.gov/Programs/Groundwater-Management/Basin-Prioritization



Measure C: Preserve Napa Valley oaks, protect our water

Opinion, San Francisco Chronicle, May 22, 2018

 Photo: Craig Lee / The Chronicle 2006

Photo: Craig Lee / The Chronicle 2006

Napa County is facing a heated election over a grassroots citizen’s initiative. Measure C, the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative, would protect long-term water supplies for agriculture, including vineyards, as well as for residents, by capping the number of oak trees that can be removed without a permit from the county’s agricultural watershed zone. Ensuring a stable water supply benefits the wine industry directly, which is why some of the region’s most prominent winemakers enthusiastically support Measure C.

Water is a finite resource, and there is no life — or wine — without it. Napa County is on the brink of a water crisis, whether Measure C’s opponents are willing to admit it or not.

On May 18, the California Department of Water Resources released its draft prioritization of groundwater basins in need of oversight, and the Napa River basin was identified as a high priority. This analysis comes after Napa County provided misleading information to regulators that overstated the stability of local groundwater supplies by cherry-picking data. State regulators didn’t buy it.

Napa County’s water supplies need protections now, not after we’ve planted more wine grapes than we can irrigate. Unfortunately, county leaders are more dedicated to the wants of the wine industry than the needs of the community. Because county leaders will not take action to protect our water, we turned to the initiative process.

After years of seeing Napa County officials skew land-use decisions to favor deep-pocketed wine industry interests, we launched this campaign to protect our hillside watershed lands. Measure C’s proponents partnered with the board of a wine industry trade group, Napa Valley Vintners, to negotiate the language now before voters. This measure is a reasonable compromise that allows for a limited amount of additional clearing of oak trees in exchange for tightened regulations. These regulations — things like increased buffer zones around streams and wetlands — are based on current science that is referenced in many of Napa County’s own planning documents.

Napa Valley Vintners helped to cover legal costs associated with its drafting and met with members of the Board of Supervisors with us to support its passage. Unfortunately, a vocal opposition from the Napa Valley Vintners’ membership pressured the group to abandon its support.

For years, the growth of large, corporate wineries has shifted the balance of power in Napa County to favor outside interests. The ongoing consolidation of what was once a valley of small wineries has led to an increasingly aggressive wine hospitality culture focused more on short-term profits than environmental sustainability or quality of life for residents.

Napa County’s hillside oak woodlands promote groundwater recharge, reduce flood risk, prevent erosion and siltation of waterways, and provide a buffer against drought. As we lose woodlands, we lose these protections.

Today, hillsides are clear cut to make room for grape vines. Event centers and tasting rooms are granted retroactive approvals — even when they defy local zoning regulations — and unfettered winery expansion is causing traffic congestion.

Everyone living or working in and around Napa County benefits, whether directly or indirectly, from a thriving wine industry. But ensuring the continued vitality of our local economy requires protecting our water supplies.

We urge every Napa Valley resident to vote “yes” on Measure C — for our water, for our future, for us all.

Mike Hackett and Jim Wilson are co-chairs of Napa County’s Yes on C campaign.



Battle for Napa Valley’s future: Proposed curb on vineyards divides county

Sierra Club is for Measure C

Letter to the Editor, as written and as published in the Yountville Sun



Sierra Club officially endorses Measure C.

As a body we decry misrepresentations made by its opponents.

Measure C is a sensible initiative requested by over 7,000 voters. It sets reasonable limits on destruction of oak woodlands in Ag, Watershed & Open Space zones of Napa County. Limits which will:

Protect shared watersheds for clear naturally filtered water supply,

Conserve multiple species habitats connected through wildlife corridors,

Sequester carbon through mature oak canopies and associated vegetation, and

Set upland buffers at waterway or woodland edges to ease climate change effects.

Sierra Club participates in the grass roots Yes on C campaign which respects community interests that care for the environment and seek limits on haphazard development in watershed hillsides through Measure C.

Two opponents of Measure C have signed election documents representing themselves as “Sierra Club Member” and “Former Sierra Club Board Member” to which we take strong exception as attempts to mislead voters in the face of approval by the Sierra Club at all levels to endorse Measure C.

More telling are the elected and appointed officials who have also signed to condone objectively false and misleading statements to Napa County voters. All of those who signed on the election documents were party to having in fact been ordered by Napa Superior Court Judge Stone to correct those statements and pay proponents’ legal costs by settlement.

Where is their credibility now?

Sierra Club has confidence in Napa County voters and calls upon our membership to join and vote yes on Measure C.

Diane Shepp, Chair of the Napa Group of the Sierra Club

Napa County’s choices for supervisor, Measure C


I am proud to have devoted almost 30 years of effort and energy as an advocate for land stewardship at the local, county and state levels as an affiliate and board member of the Napa County Farm Bureau.

But ironically, the organization recently endorsed my opponent Supervisor Diane Dillon for re-election.

The people who lead the Farm Bureau, a group that included me until I became a candidate for supervisor, are good people who care about the land. Unfortunately, some of them have placed a higher priority on the profits generated from over-planting rural areas with vineyards and building winery event centers.

This misguided priority has caused the Farm Bureau, and others, to pick candidates based on their position on Measure C. It's divided otherwise lifelong friends and it's too bad.

Some farmers like me believe Measure C is wise because it protects our hillsides and watersheds from corporate over-development of vineyards, and thereby protects Napa County’s major source of both drinking and irrigation water.

The simple truth is that vineyards (wonderful crops and vital to my own way of life) as water- and habitat-preserving crops are inferior to the natural hillside ecosystems that already exist.

Others argue that property owners won’t be able to make decisions about their own land.

What Measure C will do is ensure that property owners who wish to ignore their responsibility to protect our collective water supply will not be able to replace deep-rooted, complex and vital networks of trees (including oaks) with acres of shallow-rooted vineyards that would further deplete our aquifers.

Measure C is a proactive way to protect our natural resources from the irreversible harm being proposed by corporate winery developers. By preserving our hillsides and watersheds, we protect our water, air, wildlife, and the quality of life for everyone who lives in Napa County.

And it will preserve economic opportunity for smart, local agriculturists who farm sustainably and don’t need to rely on winery centers for event-generated dollars.

Concerned citizens put Measure C on the ballot in the first place because Supervisor Dillon has remained undecided or silent on too many of the projects that threaten Napa County’s limited resources.

She remains "neutral" on Measure C today. But in the minds of a few at the Farm Bureau, apparently a calculated neutrality based on the paranoia of unintended consequences is preferable to a realistic and reasoned position that Measure C will be a net benefit for farmers.

At least voters have clear distinctions they can evaluate before they cast their ballots.

Lucio “Cio” Perez

St. Helena

Protect Napa Valley wines, water and communities


Many Napa County residents cherish our scenic hillsides. Many more enjoy drinking our local Napa wines. All should be alarmed by a current trend that is dramatically changing Napa Valley’s character, water security and livability.

The interests of corporate wineries and hospitality businesses – like mega hotels and event centers for weddings and concerts – are taking priority over those of Napa residents. This once-quaint weekend wonder is losing its sense of place, which has appealed to visitors from within and beyond the Bay Area for decades.

Protecting the Napa Valley’s water supply and scenic beauty is critical to sustaining its local economy and way of life. Endless expansion of wineries and hillside deforestation is not sustainable. Nor are the rising health impacts from agricultural chemicals in the Valley. Napa County has one of the highest cancer rates in all of California.

Local decisionmakers could put an end to this unfettered development, but Napa County has a democracy problem. Deep-pocketed wine industry players wield too much influence over elected bodies. Winery event spaces are built first and granted retroactive permits later, even when construction is inconsistent with existing zoning. Bad actors ask for forgiveness rather than permission, which flies in the face of California law.

Fortunately, residents are using the electoral process to create change. Measure C, an initiative on the June ballot, would protect the woodlands that are the main source of Napa Valley’s water supply. The Yes on C campaign is in full swing, fueled by small donations and citizen volunteers. In contrast, the opposition is being fueled mainly by the corporate wine industry, which may spend more than $1 million to spread misinformation and sow confusion about this ballot measure.

The Agricultural Preserve, established 50 years ago, protects agricultural lands from development. The watershed feeding these lands depends on oak woodlands to capture and filter rainwater, replenishing groundwater and streams so that everyone – wineries, residents and tourists – have access to clean, plentiful water. Grapes need a reliable supply of clean water just as surely as people do. Strip the hillsides of trees and you threaten that water supply.

Area residents are also fighting the owners of two proposed vineyards in court that hope to clear-cut woodlands to plant grapes. If built, the vineyards in question would increase flood risk and traffic congestion, and impact local water sources. Both proposed wineries are owned by corporate conglomerates from outside the area.

Wine lovers have a romantic vision of our region as the perfect escape from city life and a source of premium wines. But residents, visitors and distant wine drinkers alike must act if we want to preserve the Napa Valley as a healthy place to live and a beautiful place to visit.

I grew up in the Napa Valley wine business, and I know that many vintners and growers remain committed to sustainability. But their numbers are dwindling in this era of corporate consolidation.

There are actions people can take. Vote Yes on C, become active in local civic activities, and learn about the wineries you visit and the wines you buy. Support small vintners and those working with the community and the environment. The future is the Napa Valley is in our hands. Let’s work together to secure a future that works in balance for all.

Geoff Ellsworth

City Council member

St. Helena

Advertisement was wrong about my position


Letter to the Editor - Napa Valley Register by Nancy Heine





"On Sunday May 6, the No on Measure C committee published an ad listening Napa residents who joined them in opposition to the proposed Measure. My name, Nancy Heine, was listed in error. I have contacted the people who placed the ad and asked them to remove my name from their list of endorsers.

I am actually a strong supporter of Measure C, which protects Napa County’s watershed and oak woodlands from overdevelopment, particularly on our hillsides. Ensuring that our hillsides are not over developed protects our reservoirs, Lake Hennessey, Milliken Reservoir, and Bell Canyon Reservoir, from water degraded by toxins from fertilizers and pesticides."

Read Nancy's entire letter here:

My name was misused on advertisement.


A letter to the editor - Napa Valley Register by Harris Nussbaum.





"I was really upset when I saw my name in the four-page front flyer of Sunday's Napa Valley Register as a supporter of No on Measure C. That is so far from the truth as are so many other statements in that and the almost daily flyers we receive from them.

I support the wine and grape industries and appreciate all that so many individuals in those groups have done for this valley. It is unfortunate that a subgroup of those groups are willing to spend well over a million dollars and use so many untruths to defeat it. No on Measure C was not validated by our superior court. They had to withdraw five false items from the ballot and pay over a $50,000 in legal costs."

Are you confused?


A letter to the editor - Napa Valley Register by Iris Barrie.





"The only harm a “Yes” vote may do is to limit the financial gain of some grape growers who will not be allowed to extend their vineyards into the hillsides by cutting significant numbers of oak trees in the watershed. That’s it."


Read Iris' entire letter here:

Vote Yes on Measure C and preserve our oak woodlands


Letter to the editor - Napa Valley Register by Penny Pawl





"And why am I in favor of Measure C? I am on a well which I slowly see going down. The water table and our famous aquifer is being overused. I have been very careful of my water use, but that really doesn't matter if new vineyards and wineries are constantly moving to this county."


Read Penny's entire letter here:

I am afraid

Letter to the editor - Napa Valley Register by Joe Castro


Watersheds are reservoirs. They grab rainwater and hold it, releasing it slowly. As a recent report from the state’s water agency says, the most important part of the water system in California is the watershed. Protecting watersheds prevents the need for more downstream storage and for increased expenditures of protecting the quality of water.

The most important parts of the watersheds are the forests and woodlands. They serve a special function of holding soil and storing more in the aquifer than if they are developed into any other use, even replanting as a timber resource.

Let that soak in; cutting down a forest has lasting damage in the form of erosion and lowered water retention in the soil, even if you replant it as a forest.

We have an opportunity to protect the Napa watersheds on the ballot. It’s a very mild measure. It actually lets land owners continue cutting trees down at the same rate until about 2030 before it says “that’s enough.” Nothing drastic, and probably not aggressive enough in light of climate change projections.

The opponents are spraying messages designed to make you fearful of protecting the watershed. It appears as though they got a list of all the things that Napa County residents don’t want, and then said, “protecting the watershed will make all those bad things happen.”

More traffic? Give me a break.

Endanger the hillsides if they can’t cut the trees down? It defies logic. They want us to be afraid of the “unforeseen outcomes” – a message that indicates you should just be afraid, even if they can’t tell you why.

What are they trying to make you afraid of? Not cutting trees down. They want you to be afraid of not deforesting the watersheds. They want you to be afraid of trees.

When you see the million dollars worth of ads and signs, the bottom line is that they want you to be afraid of nature, of trees, of protecting the watershed. They want you to be afraid to think things through yourself.

What are they afraid of? Not being able to mow down forests to develop vineyards that they can sell at enormous profits. They are afraid that the electorate will be wise enough to see through the fear and doubt campaign and see them for what they really are.

What am I afraid of? Them. That’s why I’m voting 'yes' on Measure C.

Joe Castro