Wineries Involved in River Repair

Plans in place for major restoration of Napa riverbed

by Paul Franson
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U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson presents the first Fish Friendly Ranching certificate to Ted, Laddie and Chris Hall, owners of Long Meadow Ranch Winery in St. Helena on Tuesday, when Napa River restoration plans were announced.
Napa Valley, Calif.—Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson of St. Helena, Calif., joined Laurel Marcus, executive director of the California Land Stewardship Institute and a major force behind river restoration through the organization’s Fish Friendly Farming/Napa Green program, plus local landowners and officials to unveil extensive restoration of the Napa River channel planned from Oakville to Oak Knoll in the middle of Napa Valley.

Bill Dodd, a Napa County supervisor running for the California state Assembly, noted that not only does Napa County have the first and largest agricultural preserve in the country, it also has the largest river restoration project in the San Francisco Bay Area. “It’s being done by local, state and federal agencies in cooperation with local landowners.”

The 9-mile stretch is the second-largest segment of the river north of Napa planned for habitat restoration.

An earlier project, the Rutherford Reach restoration, will be completed this year after eight years of work, and plans are being developed for a stretch north of Rutherford from Calistoga to Bale Lane.

A large flood-control project has already restored vast stretches within the city of Napa and south along the river, while its final element—a large flood-bypass channel in the city—is now being completed.

In all, 51,000 acres in Napa County are certified Fish Friendly—more than its acreage in vineyards.

Rep. Thompson, who owns a 20-acre vineyard in Lake County and once worked for Beringer Vineyards, reminded the audience, “It’s the right thing to do, but it’s important for landowners to take a lead. If we don’t, someone else will,” he said, alluding to more government oversight.

He also noted that the efforts pay off not only for Napa Valley, but elsewhere. “Salmon fishing is a $1.4 billion industry for California. Unscientific water diversion on the Klamath River killed 80,000 salmon and cost 25,000 jobs.”

He added that salmon fishing could be a $5 billion business creating 100,000 jobs in a state that needs them.

A new Fish Friendly program
Marcus also announced a new Fish Friendly Ranching program and awarded its first certification to Ted and Laddie Hall, and their son Chris, owners of Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena, who have extensive livestock operations as well as large vineyard holdings.

More and more vintners are diversifying into livestock and other crops, albeit usually at a small scale.

Ted Hall helped develop the original Fish Friendly Farming program, known as Napa Green in that county, as well as the ranching program.

The programs allow land to be certified by the California Land Stewardship Institute and inspected by the National Marine Fisheries Service and Regional Water Quality Control Board. The process helps the landowner comply with more than a dozen federal, state and local agencies.

Hall said, “We want to do the right thing, but we’re buffeted by a dozen agencies that tell us how to manage our land. These programs allow us to get concurrent compliance to satisfy all the agencies.”

He added that compliance helped him get grants to mitigate problems with some of his roads, which he noted are the biggest source of problems in most vineyards and ranches. He built settling ponds for silt runoff, and adds it to enhance compost. “Most of the time, doing the right thing makes money, too,” he commented.

Two sites on the river
The new river restoration is concentrated at two large sites in Oakville and Yountville.

The Oakville habitat restoration will occur on two properties owned by Constellation and supplying grapes for its Franciscan and Chateau St. Jean brands as well as one across the river on Cardinale winery property owned by Jackson Family Wines

Keith Horn, Fish Friendly Farming’s board president and vice president for grape management for Constellation, said the project will remove a total of 1.7 acres from the 280-acre vineyard but should lessen problems the vines have suffered from Pierce’s disease harbored on blackberries and “escaped” grapevines along the river. These plants will be removed, as will other nonnative plants like arundo, a bamboo-like cane and eucalyptus trees.

Constellation had removed adjoining infected vineyards, and Horn admitted that it wouldn’t replant if they weren’t assured the vines would be healthy. “This allowed us to deal with one program instead of getting a dozen permits,” he added.

Constellation even has a native plant nursery on site where it raises trees and other plants.

The Oakville project will remove levees and create riparian regions as well as both a wider river channel and backwaters vital to young Chinook salmon as well as adding boulders and logs to slow the river flow and create pools. It will leave “islands” of native oaks and other trees and plant additional ones including willows to shade the riverbed.

The project will also remove vines and slope the property across the river on the Cardinale property.

In addition to the land and other resources donated by the landowners, the project received $1.2 million from the Environmental Protection Agency and an equal amount from Napa County Measure A funds.

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U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson speaks with Rachel Ashley, vice president of grape resources for Treasury Wine Estates, about creating 35 acres of restored habitat on property owned by the company and others in Yountville, Calif.
Creating large habitat in Yountville
The project in Yountville is even larger and involves creating 35 acres of restored habitat. It occurs on property owned by Treasury Wine Estates (its Yountville vineyard), Silverado Vineyards, the Missimer family and Traina family along the Napa River south of Yountville Crossroad.

“It’s amazing that a project this large can happen,” noted Sandy Elles, executive director of the Napa County Farm Bureau. “An individual couldn’t handle it, but a community can.”

The project will remove existing high levees, replacing them with a lower structure with gentle rises farther away from the river to create more aquatic and riparian habitat. The 65-foot river channel will grow to between 160 and 310 feet.

“It will take 8.9 acres of Treasury land along 3,000 linear feet of the river,” said Rachel Ashley, Treasury’s vice president of grape resources. That includes 3.4 acres of vines. Like Horn, she has problems with Pierce’s disease along the overgrown river, and the blocks being removed are those most impacted.

In all, the Yountville project will create 35 acres of new riparian habitat as well as aquatic areas for waterfowl and other animals.

This part of the project will cost $6.7 million, again funded by the EPA and Napa County, and will take two years to complete when construction starts in 2016.

During a visit to the sites, Ted Hall also disclosed that local vintners and landowners including his family and Francis Ford Coppola are also restoring Bale Slough and Bear Creek, major tributaries to the Napa River. Other restoration is being undertaken on White Sulphur Springs Creek in St. Helena, along Dry Creek near Napa, and in Carneros (though that doesn’t drain into the Napa River).

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