On Thursday, February 6, the Napa Valley Register reported that Jeff Bitter, President of the Allied Grape Growers, recommended that the wine industry pull 5% of its vines to remedy the over-planting and production, including growers in Napa County. Without this re-calibration “growers and vintners alike could see unsold product and declining market rates industry-wide .”
At the same time, the County of Napa website shows erosion control plans (called ECPs) for more than 1,256 acres of new vineyards, albeit some approved, but not planted. Almost all of these applications involve the cutting of oak woodlands and forests.
Per the Napa Valley Vintners, Napa County has some 46,000 acres of vines. If growers comply with the Bitter’s recommendations to ensure the health of the wine industry, 5% of the 46,000 acres would be pulled, or 2,300 acres. At the same time, the County Planning Department, Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors continue to help landowners to gain permits for more acreage of vines in the Ag Watershed. These actions are at the expense of our water security as they remove oak woodlands, forests, and grasslands, all part of the critical filter and recharge systems.
And here is the disconnect: Our local government is not caught up with the reality of our situation. Do the Planning Department and Planning Commission act as guardians and facilitators of those who want to plant vines? And, is that at any cost, even to the wine industry itself? Or, can they act on behalf of the environment and watersheds? Can they do both?
An elegant, resource-sparing and logical solution would be to stop permitting vineyards in some of the most ecologically fragile hillsides in the Ag Watershed. This alone would account for a good amount what is recommended to be pulled. It would also be a much needed and clear move to protect water security.
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