La Colline: Eyes on Napa – A Victory for All of Napa Valley


La Colline: Eyes on Napa – A Victory for All of Napa Valley

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A Victory for All of Napa Valley
As Ginny Simms and Volker Eisley stated many times, on any given Tuesday, it takes only three supervisors to change the world. That happened this week. On Tuesday, August 15, 2023, in a 3-2 landmark vote, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) upheld the Center for Biological Diversity’s appeal of the Le Colline Vineyard Conversion, with supervisors Anne Cottrell, Joelle Gallagher, and Belia Ramos voting yes, and Ryan Gregory and Alfredo Pedroza voting no. With wisdom and foresight, the BOS voted to support our watersheds and hillside ecology as well as acting with the increased urgency that our rapidly changing climate demands.

Supervisor Cottrell cited ten conservation regulations (con regs) in the General Plan which informed her vote, and Supervisor Gallagher added another four. These are not new cons regs but are in the General Plan. Conservation Regulations cited include Con regs 1,4,6,11,13, 14, 18, 22, 24, 41, 42,45, 48, 52.  Click here to read these regulations.

Both dissenting voters Alfredo Pedroza and Ryan Gregory support fast tracking updates in the General Plan in order that  Ag Watershed Open Space Lands zoned lands are not mistaken as “a great place for a great cab”, regardless of what water and biological resources are potentially harmfully impacted.

In this light, we are pleased to publish the following editorial by grape grower Laurie Claudon. Laurie and her husband Tom Clark have grown grapes in Pope Valley for 40 years and are members of Save Napa Valley Foundation.
Laurie Claudon and Tom Clark, of Clark-Claudon Vineyards
photo credit: Briana Clark-Forgie
Celebrating the Board of Supervisors’ Decision 
by Laurie Claudon, Clark-Claudon Vineyards

When the Napa Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to uphold an appeal brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, it was the first time that a vineyard was denied due to environmental and natural resource concerns. The three women on the Board of supervisors, Anne Cottrell, Joelle Gallagher, and Belia Ramos, had done their homework and they asked intelligent, clarifying questions. The appeal had nothing to do with anti-agriculture sentiments as the attorney for the applicant claimed. Rather, it was about the wrong vineyard at the wrong time. 

No one would support a project that potentially jeopardized their own quantity and quality of drinking water. Yet this proposed project, situated in the Conn Creek headwaters which flow into Lake Hennessey, thus providing the drinking water for the city of Napa, would do just that. The supervisors’ decision was not pro- or anti-agriculture. It was pro-water, pro-essential biodiversity, and pro-community. 

Many of us who supported the appeal are grape growers and environmentalists. Yes, it is possible to be both. We are seasoned, experienced farmers who recognize an ill-advised vineyard project when we see it. We are all aware of infamous vineyard failures that caused extreme damage. In each case negative press followed that for a time affected the general reputation of Napa Valley growers. Yet, it was the environment and all who were physically impacted by the failure who suffered the long-term consequences. 

Consequently, I support stopping ill-advised projects before the community, our leaders, the environment, and the wine growing community must deal with the negative impacts of a project that was just wrong from its beginnings. We growers understand that best vineyard practices are based on science, experience, shared information, and good judgement. Without these elements, Napa Valley would not be one of the premier grape growing regions in the world. 

When phylloxera hit Napa Valley, destroying vineyard after vineyard, grape growers didn’t close their eyes, pretend it wasn’t there and fight among themselves about how to react. Rather, the legends from that time, stepped up with urgency. They studied, shared information, and acted based on science. The Napa Valley of today and largely across the world, is the result of their extraordinary efforts.

To maintain that excellence, we can’t just take it for granted. Now, like then, we must open our eyes, face the facts and act with urgency. The “phylloxera” of our time is climate change and decreasing natural resources. Sticking with the status quo is a sad plan for addressing this challenge. 

So today, I am celebrating the courage of our three brave supervisors, Anne Cottrell, Joelle Gallagher and Belia Ramos who voted in favor of the Le Colline appeal. Their decision bodes well for the community, the environment and the continued excellence of grape growing in the Napa Valley.