There is an ample abundance of groundwater beneath the Walt Ranch vineyard property. The Sonoma Volcanics formation, underneath approximately 1/3 of the Walt Ranch property, contains 1.4 to 3.5 billion gallons of water, providing ample supply that will protect wells on surrounding properties. A hydrogeologist who has studied the site also concluded that the Walt Ranch vineyard project will not have a significant impact on groundwater supplies or existing wells. To further ensure the protection of essential groundwater resources, the Walt Ranch vineyard project will initiate intensive groundwater monitoring, part of an extensive Groundwater Monitoring and Mitigation Plan.
The Walt Ranch vineyard proposal will effectively use water resources to irrigate its plantings while also protecting the Milliken Creek and Capell Creek watersheds and other, smaller tributaries on-site. The vineyard project calls for the construction of four off-stream reservoirs for groundwater storage (which would be used for irrigation and frost protection purposes), as well as the installation of up to three new wells. These sources could then transport water to all vineyard blocks using water distribution pipelines.
The new water sources on the Walt Ranch property would provide for more than enough water for the vineyard operations without negatively impacting neighboring wells in the Circle Oaks subdivision.
The vineyard blocks on the 2,300 acre Walt Ranch property were strategically chosen based on the location of tributaries, grade slopes and other topography to ensure erosion was naturally limited. This, coupled with numerous erosion and sediment control measures, will actually reduce erosion compared to existing conditions.
As part of the initial project, there will be a series of temporary and permanent erosion control measures for the proposed vineyard areas. These measures will be maintained regularly to function as intended, and to name a few, will include:
Walt Ranch proposes vineyards on 209 acres of the 2,300 acre property (or 9% of the entire property), meaning approximately 2,000 acres will be left in open space. To mitigate the loss of trees for the vineyard plantings, there will be trees planted elsewhere on-site and conservation areas established to ensure the loss of trees is mitigated to a less than significant level as concluded in the final environmental impact report (FEIR).
More than 221,500 trees will be preserved on-site.
Although vineyards only provide limited habitat value for wildlife, local regulations ensure that the installation of vineyards does not necessarily represent a total loss of habitat for wildlife. Napa County Conservation Regulations require projects to maintain portions of parcels proposed for development as open space, providing habitat for plants, and foraging and nesting opportunities for wildlife.
Since the vineyards proposed on the Walt Ranch site constitute only 9% of the entire property’s acreage, and by providing significant open space areas and installing deer fencing around vineyard blocks, or clusters of vineyard blocks, there will be ample space for native plant species, wildlife and other natural habitat to continue thriving.
For most of the year, vehicles entering or leaving the Walt Ranch vineyard site will be almost unnoticeable, as there will be not be a winery on-site or the ability for tourists or the public to access the site. There are only two seasons that will see an increase in traffic: the harvest season, towards the end of summer and the beginning of fall, and the pruning season, which occurs around the start of winter. These traffic impacts are unlikely to severely affect residents, however, as most vineyard work is done at night.
Upon approval, the preparation and actual plantings of the 209 acres of vineyards at Walt Ranch will be conservatively undertaken in phases to measure the possible impacts of the vineyard, which are not expected.
During this time, the installation of water pipes, realignment of some roadways and grading work will require construction workers to incrementally complete this work over an extended period. Any traffic and associated noise will be far from anyone living in the vicinity of the property, so it is likely to go unnoticed. The vineyard development and operation on the 2,300 acre Walt Ranch property, part of a rural, hillside setting, will be conducted in a manner that is both respectful to neighbors and the natural habitat.