As they waited to see if Napa County’s Measure C would maintain a razor-thin election lead, supporters and opponents of the controversial limits oak tree removal underscored what they say is at stake for the wine business that powers the local economy and for the environment that has made valley an envied destination.
Supporter and organizer Randy Dunn, part of Dunn Family Vineyards that farms 40 acres of grapes on Howell Mountain near the east county community of Angwin, on Wednesday said it is remarkable that the vote has been so close, claiming that backers were outspent by as much as 3-to-1.
“We know that we have gotten the attention of the valley and the board of supervisors and everybody else,” Dunn said. “There is no way that, if we lose, this will be a done deal. We’re not going to tolerate 10 years of scientific study.”
Ryan Klobas, policy director for Napa County Farm Bureau and spokesman for a coalition of agriculture industry groups opposing Measure C, on Wednesday remain confident that it will be defeated.
“We knew this would be a fight to the finish and look forward to the next set of results,” Klobas said in a statement. “We remain open to discussing the issues we’ve debated but believe the initiative process is the wrong way to address these issues. Rather, these issues should be brought to the Board of Supervisors.”
Called the watershed and oak woodland protection initiative, Measure C eked out a lead of just 42 votes — 7,191-to-7,149 — after the first two tallies on election night Tuesday. Napa County Registrar of Voters John Tuteur on Wednesday said 15,120 ballots were received in the county’s first totally vote by mail, and another 10,000–20,000 mail-in ballots arrived after the first counts.
The remainder would be counted starting Friday morning and continuing June 11–13, if needed. The latest tally of the vote gap narrowed to 35 more for the yes on C, as of 4:30 p.m. Friday. Further results are planned for Monday. The vote must be certified by the week of June 25.
Measure C was written to amend the Napa County general plan and zoning regulations to establish buffer zones around creeks and apply additional regulations on removal of oak trees and oak woodlands.
Those buffer zones would reach 25 to 125 feet from the streams and 150 feet from any wetland. Removing downed or dead trees, creating firebreaks and other health and safety improvements would be exempt. Those granted permits to take down trees would have to ensure at least 90 percent of the “affected oak canopy” is retained.
Trees or woodlands removed would also have to be replaced at a 3-to-1 ratio on lands designated as agricultural watersheds or “comparable habitat” be acquired.
Under another provision, if total of oak woodland removed exceeds 795 acres (counted from Sept. 1, 2017) any other oak and oak woodland removal would require permits. Any trees burned for removal would be counted, but those torched during wildfires would not.
The move toward Measure C started a couple of years ago, and the campaign crescendoed in the weeks before the election. In March, a backer sued Tuteur and other county officials, claiming certain parts of the opposing argument that would be printed in the voter guide were misleading. A settlement was reached, including a wording change from “outlaw future farming” to “limit future farming” and covering $54,000 in legal fees for supporters.