Napa Green Land encompasses the whole property including the vineyard to the benefit of the Napa River Watershed ... This is a really strong program.

Bruce Cakebread, Cakebread Cellars

Napa River Restoration Part II: Along the Upper Napa River

A Managed Retreat

The California Land Stewardship Institute (CLSI) is working with landowners on a restoration plan for a 5.3 mile stretch of the upper Napa River just downstream from Calistoga. This stretch of the river is highly entrenched, with vertical 20-25 ft. banks, actively eroding and threatening collapse. The same reach is also host to an invasion of non-native plants, providing habitat to sharpshooters that carry Pierce’s Disease (PD). CLSI is raising funds for the project which will take a different approach than downstream projects; a tactic called “managed retreat.”

Rather than grading and engineering the riverfront, managed retreat outlines actions landowners undertake as banks are failing. Property owners manage the land until failure, with critical setbacks defined for retreat. This requires pulling back vineyards, roads and any other development in the defined area. Sprigged willow gets placed at the base of the bank while the mid and upper banks are revegetated with native, riparian trees and plants. Each retreat is generally a semi-circle, scallop-like shape, which minimizes the amount of land affected. Laurel Marcus, executive director of CLSI, describes it as using the power of the river to guide appropriate measures, thus adapting to the ways the river is naturally self-adjusting.

Similar to downstream projects, the first phase of the Upper Napa River Restoration will involve removal and management of invasive plants, including Tree of Heaven and Himalayan blackberry and management of other Pierce’s Disease host plants. CLSI provides ongoing support to landowners, including grant application assistance. Laurel points out that many landowners are certified through CLSI’s Fish Friendly Farming program, one of two third-party certifications the help vintners achieving Napa Green Land certification.

Many of these landowners are already thinking about environmental stewardship and actively reducing erosion makes restoration projects easier to organize.

Laurel Marcus

Forthcoming Wastewater Discharge Requirements from the Regional Water Quality Control Board are also expected to motivate voluntary investment in collaborative restoration.

At least eight wineries are participating in the Upper Napa River Restoration project, including:

  • Sterling Winery (NGL)
  • Bealieau Vineyards (NGL)
  • Larkmead Vineyards (NGW)
  • Benessere Vineyards (NGL)
  • Heitz Wine Cellars (NGL)
  • Tudal Winery
  • Tristant Vineyards
  • Redwing Vineyards

CLSI is also working with landowners along 14 miles of Carneros Creek, a tributary of the Napa River, to implement the managed retreat approach. According to CLSI, “Economic studies show this approach requires significantly less financial outlay than engineered projects or use of a setback buffer (50-150 ft.).”

At least 10 wineries are participating in the Carneros Creek restoration project:

  • Hudson Vineyards (NGL)
  • V. Sattui Winery (NGL)
  • Treasury Wine Estates (NGL and NGW)
  • Beckstoffer Vineyards (NGL)
  • Hyde Vineyards (NGL)
  • Artesa Winery (NGL)
  • Cuvaison Winery (NGL and NGW)
  • Pine Ridge Winery (NGL and NGW)
  • Clos Pegase (NGL)
  • Newton Vineyards (NGW)

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