Sunday, October 23, 2016

Napa Confidential: St. Helena decifered

                                                       The Private I           


                         More from the citizen skeptic:
   have reviewed the deeds for the John & Virginia Daly property, and has seen the most recent proposals for use of the City's Adams Street property made available (in part) October 22.
    The last of the Daly property was not a gift to the City. It was sold in 2000 by John's widow, Honey Bear (Virginia Warren) Daly to the City of St. Helena in 2000 for $2,000,000.  Therefore, the City can dispose of it.  It was not a restricted gift. It totals 5.6 acres, and half of this is within the City's current rural limit line (zoned commercial), while the other half remains outside the current limit and is used for agricultural purposes. The entire 5.6 acres is planted to very old, yet bearing grape vines.
    The Village at St. Helena proposed by HMS Development Partners (connected to Councilman Gregg Pitts) seeks to develop all 5.6 acres, including 12 luxury townhouses, a hotel (luxury with 75 suites) and mixed use retail with parking areas in the portion that is not currently zoned commercial, that pushes the urban line out to commercial and residential uses.  The front portion of the property currently zoned commercial would provide parking, room for library expansion, a community center with leased space above a city hall and and police department, and a building for other civic uses.  The developer would buy all of the property at figures bantied for $13.4 million to solve the city's desperate need for cash (which is a fib) while the City would have up front space.  This is Benito Mussolini's favorite scheme in Italy ... if they intend to control the City portion of the property, was changed from the original proposal. The City would control the land that is currently commercial.
   HRV (Pritzker, Koch, Hall Financial related) offers $10,000,000 for the Main Street property, but with plans to develop the front end of the Adams Street property, and the Main Street property purchase would be $5,000,000. Plans for Main Street were shown, where hotel plans for a number of three story hotel clusters and a restaurant at the corner of Main Street and Pine met with community criticism about interference with Fire responses.  Visually, it creates a 30 foot wall, sealing off views from the City's Lyman Park on Main Street, providing views of hotel balconies and rooms looming above the park (where trees would be removed).
    As one resident pointed out, each 85 room hotel would create nearly 20,000 auto trips per year.  He said the ratio of employees to rooms for luxury hotels is 2.5 ... and pointed out an average of 14 delivery trucks would service the site each day.  This means 85 guest autos, 213 employee autos (per shift), and 14 more delivery trucks daily, for a congestion factor of of more than 312 autos/trucks daily "for a single shift," all reliant on Main Street and Adams Street intersection.
    There were no handouts available for Bald Mountain's proposal but Kelly Foster dropped a hint again -- it would be a Four Seasons project, and likened what they have done to Calistoga as what they intend to do to help City of St. Helena which he termed as "broke like Calistoga." An audience response to this was "You haven't done anything for Calistoga, you didn't buy City land, you haven't even built your hotel. Calistoga already has $9 million in income and $4.5 million in their budgeted expenses." Another from the audience asked where they would be getting their employees, and the response of HRV's Richard Harmon was "from Santa Rosa, from Napa, from Fairfield and we could shuttle them in", which netted another comment "City of Calistoga shut down their shuttle ... (because employees from Santa Rosa - Rohnert Park didn't use it following a six month trial)."
    All of the projects "mess with" the City's urban limit.
    There were comments back and forth about whether the City was broke or not broke, with the Bicycle Trail spokesperson saying the City is bankrupt! "The boys" have spoken.
    Those who remember the attention paid to detail for a Firehouse that was safe and satisfied Fire as being the best plan will recall it was very important to fire personnel to have access to the station in all four directions, with routes on either side providing parking areas for volunteers, and at both ends, servicing emergency vehicles. The proposal by HCV removes access to one side of the building, and abuts the hotel structure to the fire station.  One resident commented "you obviously haven't checked with any residents about this problem, and have come up with plans without regard to what the residents want."  It was "backward thinking," according to some.
                            (For background see previous posts)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Napa Confidential: More on Kochs, Hall

Craig Hall has distanced himself from the Koch brothers and sent a note - indirectly - shedding light on the big hotel development plans for St. Helena. This after a fairly intense firestorm over revelations over the scope of the projects and what and who's involved.
    To wit:  Regarding our lending business, HALL Structured Finance, we make loans to help entrepreneurs build hotels and other high-quality real estate. In Napa, we helped finance the Hilton Garden Inn and the River Terrace Inn. We execute the loans with the developers, who then obtain equity from their own sources.
   In this case, HALL Structured Finance was contacted by an individual named Richard Holland. He is the general partner and developer of the proposed hotel in St. Helena. We have known Richard from the hotel business for many years and he is working with HKS, the architects on the project. We have worked with HKS on numerous projects over the past 20 years. Richard and HKS are the only contacts we have worked with on the St. Helena project thus far. That said, we do not have a political litmus test for where our borrowers raise their equity. If the Koch brothers are involved as equity, it is not through us, as we have not had any contact with them on this or any other project. 


    A word about the 10/16 post concerning outsiders pumping money into the valley's burgeoning touristic bonanza. The Private I of that and previous (and future) posts is not the writer of Nose but a lifelong valley resident who happens to also be a professional researcher for, among others, the United States Congress. She's a citizen activist in the best sense, going about her work out of the limelight, indefatigably. I'm happy she's passing some of it along, and assume many of you are, too.                          

To order Napa go to: 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Saudi prince investing in Napa Valley development?

And that's not the half of it. More from a citizen investigator (see previous post): 
                                    The Private I                                                            

    Once again, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts appears to be involved in a project for St. Helena, undercover as in Calistoga, with Bald Mountain Development of Aspen, Colorado.   Another proposal involves Craig and Kathryn Hall's Hall Financial Group. Four Seasons is a foreign corporation, 50% owned by a Saudi prince. The city council should (1) terminate the Request for Proposals to make all of them go away because the Adams street land was provided by John Daly, son in law of late Chief Justice Earl Warren of the United States Supreme Court, specifically for expansion of the library, a community center, or other community needs, and not for sale to real estate developers, or even lease to resort hotels (2) as to water and sewer rate increases, a request to terminate this attempt should be made, as St. Helena has no audited financial statements upon which to base their request for increases, while the budget is seriously understated for water revenues and hotel/transient taxes.  The new Las Alcobas project will generate $1.4 million/year in additional taxes that haven't been budgeted, while the City's budget shortfall was estimated at about $50,000, making us look broke.

     All project proponents need to be background checked, as the new Las Alcobas resort project on Main Street is owned by two Mexican nationals and Starwood Resorts & Hotels, which thankfully has been taken over by Marriott for some national security reason as evidenced in filings with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission.  Yet Starwood as a brand and resort manager violates St. Helena's General Plan, as no majors are permitted.  They created unreasonable competition for our existing, small, privately owned hotel and resort hotel operators.  Members of the Planning Commission had no idea they were approving something that would be owned by foreign nationals and operated by a major brand, and had been altered to remove 20 onsite accommodations for employees.

    Foreign ownership has to be reported to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS), and can easily be reported online.  It is overseen by U.S. Treasury and includes reviews by FBI, Attorney General, Secretary of Homeland Security, and others doing everything possible to protect us.  All of us can help government by shining a light on a possible problem when foreign investment capital is involved.
        (Comments, suggestions to )
 To order my book about the loss of American place go to:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Koch brothers coming to Napa Valley?

Art by Victor Juhasz

... in conjunction with Craig and Kathryn Hall - and of course Bunny Foo Foo (see the Oct. 6 post) - to build hotels in St. Helena.
    Go to the link below to see the proposals  - numbers 3 and 4 - currently before St. Helena's city administration:

To order Napa:




Sunday, October 9, 2016

Le Colline continued

By popular demand I'm running the entire Environmental Impact Report for Napa's Le Colline Vineyard project first mentioned in the 10/4 Nose post (sans photos, sorry to say).                                

Comments on Administrative Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Le Colline Vineyard Project on Upper Conn Creek Napa River
By: Patrick Higgins, Consulting Fisheries Biologist For: Rick Coates & Forests Unlimited September 30, 2016
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Table of Contents
Cover Page 1 Table of Contents 2 Qualifications 3 Key Literature Reviewed for Project and Field Reconnaissance 3 Aquatic Resources and Habitat Conditions of Upper Conn Creek 4-7 Project Likely to Increase Erosion and Peak Flow and to Decreases Base Flow 8-9 Project Destroys Valuable Wildlife Habitat and Poses Risk to Protected Species 9-10 Resident Rainbow Trout Deserve Similar Protection to ESA-Listed Steelhead Trout 10-11 Aesthetic Impact on Important Scenic Values: Linda Falls 12-13 Cumulative Watershed Effects: Conn Creek and Biodiversity Hanging in the Balance 14-15 References 16-18
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I have been a consulting fisheries biologist with an office in Arcata, California for the last 27 years. I served as the lead author for the regional characterization of Pacific salmon stocks in northwestern California (Higgins et al. 1992) and also created fisheries elements for major watershed restoration plans in the region (Kier Assoc. 1992, MCRCD 1992, Pacific Watershed Assoc. 1994). From 1994 through 2003, I helped complete comprehensive fisheries, water quality, and watershed databases for 14 major northwestern California river sub-basins ( Clients included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, California Department of Forestry, and the Sonoma County Water Agency. From 2004 to 2010, I worked for the environmental departments of five federally recognized lower Klamath River Indian Tribes to help improve compliance with the Clean Water Act and promote expedient dam removal ( I also assisted the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in development of coho recovery plans in southern Oregon and northern California from 2006 to 2010, including data assimilation and recovery plan development.
I have also studied the Napa River since 2006 for Thomas Lippe, Attorney at Law, and the Living Rivers Council (Higgins 2006a, 2006b, 2007, 2008a, 2008b, 2009, 2010, 2014); commenting on many proposals for timber harvests and vineyard developments, as well as on the Napa River Total Maximum Daily Load (Napolitano et al. 2009).
Key Literature Reviewed for Project and Field Reconnaissance
While all scientific documents that provide the foundation for these comments can be found in the References section below, several disserve particular mention because of their importance in terms of understanding the Le Colline development (THP/TCP 1-16-079-NAP & Napa County Permit P14- 00410-ECPA) and its impacts. These are the:
  •   Administrative Draft Environmental Impact Report: Le Colline Vineyard Project including relevant Appendices (Analytical Environmental Services 2016);
  •   San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (Brown 2016, Napolitano 2016) staff comments on the Le Colline THP 1-16-079 NAP;
  •   Natural Resources Conservation Service (Oster 2016) memo on Effects of Ripping on Hydrologic Soil Groups;
  •   California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Wilson 2016) staff report on pre-harvest inspection for the Le
    Colline THP/TCP 1-16-079 NAP;
  •   California Geologic Survey (Doherty 2016) staff Engineering Geologic Review of THP/TCP 1-16-079 NAP;
  •   Public comments on Le Colline THP 1-16-079 NAP,
  •   Leidy et al. (2005) for historic records of steelhead trout/rainbow trout resident presence and use of Conn Creek;
  •   Comments of Gregory Kamman, Hydrologist (2014) on the Walt Ranch DEIR (Analytical Environmental
    Services 2014).
    As noted above, I have extensive previous comments on projects with potential negative aquatic impacts in the Napa River watershed (Higgins 2006a, 2006b, 2007, 2008a, 2008b, 2009, 2010, 2014) and have excerpted from different previous works regarding various subject areas as they apply to the Le Colline Vineyard DEIR.
    In addition, on September 20, 2016 I did a reconnaissance of upper Conn Creek above the town of Angwin, in Angwin behind the fire station and adjacent to Pacific Union College, and above and below Linda Falls within the Linda Falls Preserve adjacent to the proposed Project. The red stars on Figure 1 show locations of fish and stream observations and are point locations. However, the reach from the lowest sampling site below Linda Falls to the one next upstream was surveyed by walking the stream channel.page3image29088 page3image29248
Aquatic Resources and Habitat Conditions of Upper Conn Creek
The Le Colline DEIR is deficient with regard to describing aquatic resources of upper Conn Creek that borders the property to the west. A perennial Class II stream is noted in the THP and DEIR, but never appears on maps, including in the ECP nor is there any discussion of herptefauna that might be using it or its contributions of flow to Conn Creek. Also, the DEIR does not mention rainbow trout that are native to the stream (Leidy et al. 2005) and potential damage to their habitat from the project, which is a major omission. THP/TCP 1-16-079 and the DEIR operate under a false assumption that there will be no negative impacts to Conn Creek; therefore, aquatic resources need not be described or discussed. This assumption is false and the document consequently falls far short of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) sufficiency (See Cumulative Watershed Effects).
Conn Creek was historically perennial and, according to Leidy et al. (2005), was found to have large numbers of rainbow troutin the reach adjacent to Angwin in September 1945 (Ott 1945). Somewhat more recently, Cox (1979) found numerous rainbow trout 400 feet above Linda Falls and behind the Angwin Fire Station in April 1979.
During the September 20, 2016 reconnaissance Conn Creek was dry at its intersection with White Mountain Road (Figure 2), but was on the surface behind the Angwin Fire Station but barely flowing (Figure 3). Two sites were visited on the property of Pacific Union College near the athletic fields and just above where Conn Creek passes under Howell Mountain Road. Temperatures were warmer than optimal for rainbow trout at these sites (McCullough 1999) and flows were inadequate for food delivery to support juvenile and resident adult trout.
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At the upper site on the Pacific Union College campus (Figure 4), Conn Creek had very little surface flow and the water temperature was 20 C. Further downstream above Howell Mountain Road, flow had increased slightly and the water temperature had dropped to 18.3 C (Figure 5). Both sites had low aquatic insect abundance and diversity, with five or fewer pollution intolerant taxa in the Orders -Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera (EPT). This is similar to the findings of Dewberry (2004) who sampled upper Conn Creek in 2001. Most macroinvertebrates were very small early instars that clung to the wetted surface of the bottom of cobbles. In addition to lack of flow, excess fine sediment filled interstitial spaces of stream gravels, which is likely the causal mechanism for very low aquatic macroinvertebrate diversity. Chironomid midge larvae, which are very tolerant of pollution, were very abundant. Invasive plant species like English ivy and Himalayan blackberry dominated the under-story at these two sites.
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The character of Conn Creek changed dramatically in the reach above and below Linda Falls, with greater flow and the water temperature dropping to 15.3 C, which is optimal for rainbow trout (McCullough 1998). Three young of the year fish were observed in a pool below Linda Falls (Figure 6). Another fish was holding just above Linda Falls but moved to cover before it could be positively identified. It t is very possible trout reside in Conn Creek adjacent to the Le Colline project and a survey should be required to better assess potential impacts to the species downslope of the project.
Increase in flow below Howell Mountain Road is a very important factor in improving suitability for trout. In addition, habitat conditions were very good for rainbow trout above and below Linda Falls. Downstream of the falls there are numerous pools deeper than 3 feet as a result of water plunging over boulder cascades. Pools greater than 3 feet deep were also noted above Linda Falls, some formed in bedrock and others by large woody debris that adds to habitat complexity. There is a multi-tiered canopy of hardwoods and conifers. Willow, alder and oak comprise the under-story and large Douglas fir, madrone and Ponderosa pine make up the over-story. The late seral characteristics of the canopy help maintain shade and cool water temperatures (Bartholow 1989). Riparian trees may fall into the stream or have root systems that provide under-cut banks and branches that create overhead cover. Patches of gravel suitable for spawning were also noted during the survey. The Napa Land Trust has removed Himalaya berry and planted native shrubs on the forest floor in the Conn Creek riparian zone to promote ecological restoration (Palladini 2015).

The DEIR said that yellow-legged frogs (Rana boylii) were “not observed during biological surveys of the project site.A yellow-legged frog tadpole was seen in the same pool where steelhead were observed. As noted by Pacific Union College Professor of Biology Aimee Wyrick-Brownworth (2016), surveys were insufficient to determine presence/absence of sensitive amphibian species on or near the project site and lack of a survey on the Class II stream within the project area and on Conn Creek bordering the Le Colline project to the west are deficiencies of particular note.
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Project Likely to Increase Erosion and Peak Flow and to Decreases Base Flow
The DEIR makes the incredible and false claim that the “the Proposed Project would result in a decrease in sedimentation from the project site through the implementation of various erosion control measures required by the ECP.” Napolitano (2016) pointed out that assumptions related to the peak flow model in the Le Colline Vineyard DEIR and the Erosion Control Plan (ECP) were not met and that the project was likely to cause significant changes to the hydrology and the potential for substantial erosion:
“Please direct the project proponent to revise the Hydrologic Model, and as necessary the related vineyard development plan and BMPs to attenuate storm runoff increases. Absent such changes, we would expect the proposed vineyard development to cause or contribute to potentially significant increases in storm runoff peak and volume, contributing to potentially significant on-site and off-site erosion and sedimentation.”
The key concern is that soils in drain-ways constructed as mitigation for the project are to be ripped to a depth of three feet or more according to the ECP. U.S. Natural Resources Service concurred that the hydrologic properties of soils may be changed by deep ripping (Oster 2016) and conveyed that concern to the Napa County Resource Conservation District. As noted above, there is already and excess of fine sediment contributed to upper Conn Creek and additional sediment loading will further impair ecological function.
The DEIR obscures the fact that the property not slated for development upslope of Conn Creek is very steep. The DEIR states repeatedly that the slope on the Le Colline property is 7% to 29% while the map from the ECP shows slopes as steep as 63%. This means that sediment leaking from the project has a high likelihood of ending up in Conn Creek despite the DEIR’s claim that leaving riparian zones intact would prevent pollution. There is no detail provided in the DEIR about extensive rock walls that would be constructed downhill of the vineyard blocks at the break in slope to the inner gorge of Conn Creek. Adding this amount of mass to the top a steep slope has the potential to create landslides. Caution offered by Kamman (2014) regarding the Walt Ranch Vineyard applies to the Le Colline Project: If sediment catchments installed on drain-ways as part of mitigation are not maintained, they have the potential to fail and deliver substantial quantities of sediment, in this case to Conn Creek.
CGS (Doherty 2016) noted a bowl shaped feature within the Le Colline property and adjacent to the development as “likely a transitional landslide feature” with signs of recent slope movement with “pistol-butted and slightly swept second and third growth conifers” and also “historic to recent weathered debris slide scarps.” CGS (Doherty 2016) expressed concern about timber harvest above the feature adjacent to residences on next-door properties. “Harvesting above the headwall of the landslide feature can potentially change the hydrologic cycle by reducing evapotranspiration. Increased infiltration and resulting pore pressures as a result of reduction in canopy may increase the potential for adverse impacts to slope stability.” While CGS (Doherty 2016) suggested a 50 foot buffer from the top of the slope, that may not be fully protective given the size of the feature and the unknown location of failure planes and factors related to local groundwater. Property owners adjacent to and downhill of the property are concerned that they may be impacted by landslides triggered by the project (Lecourt 2016).
Potential for peak flow increases noted by Napolitano (2016) are also correlated with less percolation into the groundwater table and decreased summer baseflows. Kamman (2014) pointed out that soil ripping, proposed as a hydrologic mitigation for project development, results in disturbed and compacted areas will have only temporary benefit and that long term effects would cause a significant decrease in infiltration. The 2800 feet of road to be constructed as part of the Le Colline Project is also likely to increase overland flow and peak flow downstream (Jones and Grant 1996). Wemple et al. (1996) point out that roads actually function to extend stream networks, which is one of the mechanisms for peak flow increase and decreased groundwater infiltration (Figure 8).
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The CGS report (Doherty 2016) for the Le Colline Vineyard points out the project is underlain by the Sonoma Volcanic Formation. The DEIR also notes that this formation has moderate to high primary porosity, and as such plentiful groundwater resources are often found in these geologic units and it represents the principle water bearing geologic formation in the region.This terrain in the Napa River watershed is known to have complex hydrology that can result in delivery of water far downstream and off site (Farrar and Metzger 2003). The project calls for extracting groundwater from a well to water 36 acres of grapes and operation of a second well for residential use. This has the potential to turn the Class II stream within the project area into a Class III and to reduce flow and possible dry up Conn Creek below the project. Neighbors of the Le Colline project express concern about increased groundwater withdrawal for irrigation of grapes and their ability to maintain their domestic water supplies (Stagg 2016). Professor Wyrick-Brownworth (2016) noted that Cold Springs also creates perennial and seasonal wetlands that may be negatively impacted by increase groundwater withdrawal associated with the project.
The County of Napa (2016) asked that downstream impacts to Conn Creek and Lake Hennessey be considered, but the DEIR dismisses those concerns. However, continued development that disrupts wildland hydrology in the Conn Creek basin has the potential of pushing Lake Hennessey past a tipping point where it could develop noxious and even toxic algae blooms (see Cumulative Watershed Effects).
Project Destroys Valuable Wildlife Habitat and Poses Risk to Protected Species
The DEIR makes patently false claims with regard to the value of wildlife habitat and the efficacy of mitigation to protect rare and endangered species: 1) The THP includes harvest of trees within this habitat, which could potentially impact northern spotted owl breeding and foraging. With mitigation, this is reduced to less-than-significant levels.2) The project parcel does not contain Critical Habitat for any federally listed species.3) Biological surveys of the property concluded that no identifiable significant wildlife corridors are associated with the property or project site.
In fact the Le Colline project will do irreversible harm to rare wildlife habitat that should be protected pursuant to federal, State and Napa County statutes.
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CDFW (Wilson 2016) found that three acres of the proposed project are suitable for northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis)(NSO) nesting and roosting habitat and an additional 19 acres are suitable for foraging. The latter area has a sparsely vegetated forest floor that makes it ideal for raptors hunting rodents and other prey species. In total, CDFW (Wilson 2016) points out that 22 of 36 acres proposed for development is suitable and likely used by the NSO, since there is an active nesting and roosting site within 1.3 miles of the Le Colline development. The NSO is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and also under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). Therefore, the area to be disturbed by the THP/TCP qualifies as Critical Habitat and should be protected. The barred owl, which is known to out-compete the spotted owl when they have over-lapping territories, has not been detected in the region. CDFW (Wilson 2016) notes that eight timber harvests have been completed or are planned in the immediate vicinity of the project that pose cumulative risk to the NSO.
Wilson (2016) stated the following with regard to the project and the NSO:
“ CDFW recommends a more rigorous evaluation of cumulative effects, including an evaluation of foraging and nesting habitat loss associated with the approved and pending timber conversion projects described above (‘reasonably foreseeable projects’ as defined by CEQA Guidelines Section 15130(b)(1)(A)), of NSO habitat provided in the THP. Such an analysis is also indicated under USFWS guidelines (USFWS 2011) to demonstrate that NSO habitat quantities will be retained at or above the habitat threshold for talk under ESA.”
CDFW (Wilson 2016) also found that the portion of the property that would become vineyard block E-2 is in fact an active wildlife corridor used by birds of prey, foxes, bears, deer and other wildlife species. They found the 15,000 feet of fencing to be constructed as part of the Le Colline Vineyard would be highly disruptive to wildlife migration, contrary to a claim made in the DEIR. The location of the parcel adjacent to Conn Creek and also the Linda Falls Preserve leads to high wildlife use and breaking connectivity could have substantial negative effects on a number of species and their local populations (Wyrick-Brownworth 2016).
The bat community detected on the property according to the DEIR is very diverse, with California myotis (Myotis californicus), big brown bat (Eptisicus fuscus), hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus), long-eared bat (Myotis evotis), fringed myotis (Myotis thysanodes), Yuma myotis (Myotis yumanensis), Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadaridea brasiliensis), the pallid bat (Antrouzous pallidus), and Townsend’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii). The latter species is a California Species of Special Concern. All these bats may be nesting or roosting in the rocky cliffs on the property and some species like the pallid bat and Townsend’s big-eared bat may also be roosting in trees within the Douglas fir forest according to the DEIS. It is clear that the removal of timber associated with the Le Colline project will destroy and degrade habitat for numerous bat species.
Resident Rainbow Trout Deserve Similar Protection to ESA-Listed Steelhead Trout
Napa River Pacific salmon species populations have been on a downward slide as more and more of the watershed has been developed (Stillwater 2002, Higgins 2014). Titus (1994) found that southern California anadromous steelhead trout and resident rainbow trout were genetically identical and that they had the capacity to manifest either life history. Similarly, landlocked rainbow trout in upper Conn Creek likely have the same genetic makeup as Napa River anadromous steelhead trout populations. Consequently, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) should afford them protected status because they are part of the same gene pool.
Napa River steelhead trout (O. mykiss) are part of the Central California Coast Steelhead Distinct Population Segment (DPS) that was listed as a threatened species (NMFS 1997) and has had its status subsequently reaffirmed (Good et al., 2005). Stillwater and Dietrich (2002) indicated that the run of adult steelhead was less than 200, which would put them potentially at risk because of lack of genetic diversity due to small population size (Gilpin and Soule 1991). Stillwater and Dietrich (2002) also measured flow of tributaries that formerly supported steelhead juveniles (Figure 9) and found levels over one cubic foot per second (cfs) that are mostly likely to provide suitable habitat for steelhead at only two locations in the entire Napa River watershed, upper Murphy Creek and lower Milliken Creek. This indicates that functional cold water habitat, such as upper Conn Creek just above and below Linda Falls, is also becoming rare and needs to be protected.page10image38160 page10image38320 page10image38480

Aesthetic Impact to an Important Scenic Values: Linda Falls
The Le Colliene DEIR states that “the Proposed Project would not have a substantial adverse effect on a scenic vista.” In fact, one of the more spectacular features in the Napa Valley is Linda Falls, which is now protected in the Linda Falls Preserve. Managed by the Land Trust of Napa County, the preserve is a valued recreational resource by the community and considerable effort is being expended on ecological restoration (Palladini 2015).
Upper Conn Creek above Angwin dries up in late summer, although it was formerly perennial. Water from Cold Springs on and adjacent to the Le Colline project property helps revive the stream and keep Conn Creek flowing over Linda Falls. The development has the potential to dry up Conn Creek or measurably decrease its flow and, therefore, to degrade the scenic values of Linda Falls (Figure 10) and other waterfalls within the preserve (Figure 11) and diminish the ecological function that the community so values.
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Cumulative Watershed Effects: Conn Creek and Biodiversity Hanging in the Balance
The DEIR is almost completely deficient with regard to cumulative effects analysis because it is based on flawed science that does not provide empirical data to support conclusions and also on the premise that mitigation completely obviates impacts.
The DEIR admits that there is considerable development near the Le Colline project:
This estimate of vineyard development includes four known timber harvest and timber conversion to vineyard projects within 3 miles of the Proposed Project, including Ciminelli (THP pending; #P15-00006-ECPA), Heiser (THP pending; #P15-00389-ECPA), Abreu (THP 1-13-074 NAP; #P05-0376-ECPA), and a conversion of less than 3 acres that is being contemplated by
the property owner immediately adjacent to the Ciminelli project’s western border (no ECP available yet).

However, the DEIR does not address how these projects in combination with the Le Colline project will impact wildlife and Conn Creek. In fact, on site mitigations for each project are not successful when the watershed as a whole is over its thresholds of disturbance (Collison et al. 2003). Dunne et al. (2001) point the problem that arises when projects are looked at individually and not in conjunction with all activities in a watershed. They warn that at-risk populations of aquatic and terrestrial species can be lost, if cumulative effects are ignored and anthropogenic stressors continued:
“The concern about cumulative effects arises because it is increasingly acknowledged that, when reviewed on one parcel of terrain at a time, land use may appear to have little impact on plant and animal resources. But a multitude of independently reviewed land transformations may have a combined effect, which stresses and eventually destroys a biological population in the long run.”
Furthermore, the mitigations contained in the DEIR and ECP will not lead to “less than significant” impacts. Logging, excavating and grading will increase peak flows, similar to effects described by Jones and Grant (1996). Timber harvest and the attendant increase in road density will also increase sediment yield and turbidity downstream (Klein 2003) that Sigler et al. (1986) found to impair rainbow trout feeding. Fine sediment will infiltrate stream gravels and reduce egg and alevin survival (McNeil and Ahnell 1964, McHenry et al. 1994) as well as decrease aquatic macroinvertebrate production and food availability for trout. Increased fine sediment can also block surface and groundwater connections thereby causing surface waters to warm (Pool and Berman 2001). The increased sediment load will also decrease Conn Creek pool depth and available habitat for both juvenile and adult trout.
Decreased infiltration into the water table resulting from project development, in combination with water extraction to water Le Colline Vineyard grapes, will deplete summer base flows in the Class II stream on the property and Conn Creek itself and possibly dry them up all together. If flows drop to where pools are isolated, trout will lose weight in summer, similar to the findings of Stillwater Sciences (2007) in Redwood Creek in the Napa River watershed.
Reeves et al. (1995) and Bisson et al. (2009) both found that, in order to restore conditions suitable for at-risk Pacific salmon species, watershed processes including flows need to mimic those with which they co-evolved. Bisson et al. (2009):
“Management of the freshwater habitat of Pacific salmon should focus on natural processes and variability rather than attempt to maintain or engineer a desired set of conditions through time.”
The current pattern of land and water use in upper Conn Creek and as proposed by the Le Colline project does not mimic the natural “patch” disturbance regime that would have prevailed before European colonization. Widespread development and land use (Figure 1) is termed by scientists as a “press disturbance” (Reeves et al. 1995) where the timing and amount of sediment, large wood and water contributed to streams have no resemblance to historic norms.
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Urbanization and high total imperious area cause major aquatic problems because of changes in runoff and non-point source pollution (May et al. 1996), which is likely related to degraded conditions of Conn Creek within Angwin above Cold Springs.
The rainbow trout is the indicator species, but what is at risk is a cold water ecosystem of Conn Creek. The San Francisco Bay Basin Plan (SFBRWQCB 2010) extends cold water beneficial usesprotection to Napa River tributaries such as Conn Creek as part of the enforcement of the U.S. Clean Water Act:
Uses of water that support cold water ecosystems, including, but not limited to, preservation or enhancement of aquatic habitats, vegetation, fish, or wildlife, including invertebrates. Cold freshwater habitats generally support trout and may support anadromous salmon and steelhead fisheries as well. Cold water habitats are commonly welloxygenated. Life within these waters is relatively intolerant to environmental stresses.
Historic accounts (Ott 1945, Cox 1979, Leidy et al. 2005) indicate that Conn Creek was meeting cold water beneficial uses from its headwaters downstream to the Napa River, but today it is dry in reaches above Angwin, stagnant and warm in town and only attains cold water ecosystem functionality below Howell Mountain Road. The reason that Conn Creek adjacent to the project has maintained flow and resident trout is because the underlying volcanic terrain and Cold Springs that gives rise to year around very cold water flows that would now be extracted for watering the Le Colline Vineyard.
The City of Napa relies on Lake Hennessey that is downstream on Conn Creek and it is concerned about impacts to water quality there from developments such as the one proposed. Allowing wildland hydrology to be disrupted without limit will eventually cause the reservoir to reach a tipping point and to develop noxious or even toxic algae blooms. Cold water coming into the reservoir year around would tend to moderate algae blooms and could promote stratification so that rainbow trout could survive at depths during summer. The Lake Hennessey turbidity data provided in the DEIR actually shows an increase in summer turbidity during recent drought years that may be indicative of increased phytoplankton and the onset of eutrophication.
The proponent of the project (DiCesaris 2016) states that “agriculture is the highest and best use of Napa County land.” Some wild lands need to be left undisturbed in order for society to have access to clean water, which is more essential than wine. Also, leaving some areas for the animals to live is also a key tenet of good stewardship and has practical value to humans. If we destroy the ecosystem on which the animals rely, we lose ecosystem servicessuch as bats controlling insects that can attack our crops and be vectors for diseases; and foxes, coyotes, and raptors controlling rodents and keep them reaching plague proportions.
Urban and suburban development, proliferation of vineyards and other nearby development have pushed Conn Creek to near its tipping point and local wildlife populations are being impacted by habitat loss that could lead to loss of species diversity. The connectivity of the Le Colline project area to the Linda Falls Preserve, the properties unique geologic features, and its diverse wildlife make it much more appropriate for a conservation easement than vineyard development in keeping with the Napa County General Plan:
The County will preserve land for greenbelts, forest, recreation, flood control, adequate water supply, air quality improvement, habitat for fish, wildlife and wildlife movement, native vegetation, and natural beauty. The County will encourage management of these areas in ways that promote wildlife habitat renewal, diversification, and protection.
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