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Ann Baker helped lead Selby Creek restoration efforts

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Water flows through Selby Creek

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Native plants now populate Selby Creek, eliminating habitat for harmful sharpshooter species.

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Growing up on the Larkmead Property, Kate Solari Baker saw the changes in Selby Creek firsthand. Her family made restoration of Selby Creek a priority.

Partnerships Help Restore the Napa River

Setting the Scene

Restoration of the Napa River is a testimony to the power of public-private partnerships in revitalizing the health of waterways and riparian lands. More than 70 property owners are contributing to four ongoing collaborative projects from Oak Knoll to just south of Calistoga, along the main stem of the Napa River. Napa Valley vintners and grape growers play a critical role, giving up valuable land and signing long-term agreements to propel restoration projects forward. Their contributions include the rededication of more than 70 acres of vineyard land to native riparian habitat along the river.

Landowners see the future for their kids engaging with the river. Where there were 20-foot incised banks and impenetrable Himalayan blackberry, Arundo, and other invasive species, we now have access to the river again.

What Motivates Restoration?

Historically, the Napa River meandered through wide swaths of riparian forest and wetlands, regularly overtopping its banks and flooding surrounding lands during heavy rains. Throughout the 20th century, development steadily encroached. Dams were installed, areas of the river were channelized and extensive berms and levees were installed to prevent flooding. By the mid-20th century practices included putting cars, refrigerators, even mattresses, along the side of the river. Over decades the concentration and increased velocity of river flows led to incising of riverbanks – creating deeper channels. Large areas of riparian vegetation were removed or compromised, paving the way for invasive species to take over, many of which are hosts for sharpshooters, vectors for the devastating Pierce’s Disease. At the same time runoff and erosion brought fine sediment into the river, jeopardizing spawning habitat for Chinook salmon and Steelhead trout.
In 1998 the California EPA declared the Napa River impaired and the State Water Board set reduction standards for the Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL of fine sediment into the river. In response, community leaders started championing collaborative efforts to restore the river’s health. Projects took shape along with creation of the Napa Green Land program.

Larkmead and the Selby Creek Restoration Story​

Both the Napa River and the Selby Creek tributary flow through Larkmead Vineyard’s property. In the late-1990s, Larkmead had lost more than 1,100 vines to Pierce’s Disease and noticed significant riverbank erosion and areas of Vinca, Evergreen, and wild grapes, which hosted sharpshooters year round. Ann Baker, landscape architect and the daughter of Larkmead owners Kate Solari Baker and Cam Baker, led the charge to repair Selby Creek. Working with Bioengineering Associates, the Bakers self-funded restoration of three key areas of the creek in 1999 and 2000.

Once you understand how the landscape used to look, how it used to function, you see that every time you look at the river today.

They removed 12’ thickets of Himalayan Blackberry and Arundo, tore out Vinca and wild grapes, and planted sedge grasses and other native plants and trees. Beneath banks with high incision on vulnerable out-curves they built siltation baffles: perpendicular willow cuttings planted to grab sediment and slow water, naturally rebuilding the riverbank. Around the winery they planted a native garden and added swales to slow overland water flow and recharge groundwater. They got an Environmental Quality Incentives Program grant through the National Resource Conservation Service to revegetate ditches and install weirs. Seeing success, in 2006 the Bakers reached out to their neighbors, who were also battling Pierce’s Disease and erosion, and proposed a cross-property creek restoration. Kate says, “It helped for our neighbors to see the success of work we had done and the investment we were willing to make.”
Ultimately 13 landowners came together, participating in numerous planning meetings. They agreed to self-assess their properties based on length of creek frontage to match 20-25% of the cost of the restoration work. With help from Bioengineering Associates, the group secured three state and local grants, for a total of more than $1.8 million for restoration work along roughly two miles of Selby Creek between 2009 and 2011.

You need a few champions. And build in some fun. Landowners are going to be put in a lot of time and effort. As you build camaraderie everyone becomes more engaged.

Now, along this two mile stretch of creek, are over a thousand replanted native trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses like dogwood, walnut, manzanita, grey pine, oak seedlings, cottonwood, alder and willow replacing invasive plants and revegetating severely degraded banks. Ann says, “Part of the goal was to create something transitional – building soil and shade to help establish typical riparian cover.”
Another major goal was to cool the water for fish habitat. In sections with narrow channels and high water velocities the group installed large rock structures to drive water toward the center and create more pools. As a result, steelhead have returned to spawn, invasive plants are under control, erosion is minimal and no sharpshooters have been trapped since restoration.

The system has been in equilibrium for five years now. Restoration exceeded what we could have expected. With the recent heavy rains there has been no noticeable erosion. The amount of resilience is impressive.

Larkmead Vineyards is a Napa Green Certified Winery.

Read the Series:

1

Partnerships Help Restore the Napa River | Restoration of the Napa River is a testimony to the power of public-private partnerships in revitalizing the health of waterways and riparian lands.

2

Rutherford Restored | The Rutherford Reach restoration project has been lauded for rapid accomplishments achieved through private commitment and public partnership.

3

Oakville to Oak Knoll – Building on the Success of the Rutherford Reach | The 9.5 mile Oakville to Oak Knoll (OVOK) Napa River restoration project flows immediately south of the Rutherford Reach restoration.

4

Napa River Restoration Part II: Along the Upper Napa River | 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.

Making the commitment to third party certification takes time and effort, but it is worth it to demonstrate our commitment to the community and to protect our watershed, our land and the air we breathe.​

Hear from Winery Program Manager @love.dream.breathe about Energy Efficiency & Savings, one of our pillars of sustainable winegrowing leadership
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We want to sincerely thank everyone who donated either space, time or proceeds of bottles/food sold to Napa Green during Earth Month! We are a small non-profit that greatly relies on donations of these kinds and we’re so grateful for our supportive community. 

Let’s hear it for: 

📍@trefethenfamily 
📍@pineridgewine 
📍@cliffamily 
📍@neotempowines
📖 @karenmacneilco
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Social Justice, Equity & Inclusion. Perhaps our most important pillar of our six pillars of sustainability leadership. 

Thank you for the beautiful description @growresiliently!
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Register now at the link in our profile! 💦

May 23, 2024
Silver Oak Winery, Oakville
9:00 am - 12:15 pm

One of the most critical agricultural concerns with our changing climate, and more frequent & intense weather extremes, is precipitation and water availability. The good news is opportunities abound to optimize irrigation efficiency, and implement regenerative practices that improve soil health, water infiltration, and retention. 

Join us for The Future of Water, with highlights including a keynote from Peter Gleick, one of the world’s leading water experts, and Mimi Casteel, not only a viticulturist and winemaker, but also a forest ecologist with a vision for water resiliency.
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Join us for The Future of Water Workshop, to explore our water future, with highlights including a keynote from Peter Gleick, one of the world’s leading water experts (all guests will receive a copy of Peter’s most recent book, The Three Ages of Water) and Mimi Casteel, not only a viticulturist and winemaker, but also a forest ecologist with a vision for water resiliency.

Wine grape quality is closely tied to the right amount of water, at the right time. One of the most critical agricultural concerns with our changing climate, and more frequent & intense weather extremes, is precipitation and water availability. We’ve swung from historic drought to atmospheric rivers. Our community has huge swaths of unmanaged, unhealthy forests full of non-natives and overrun by firs, amplifying fire risk and undermining one of the most critical systems for groundwater recharge.

The good news is opportunities abound to optimize irrigation efficiency, and implement regenerative practices that improve soil health, water infiltration, and retention. A watershed coalition has also formed in Napa County to pilot and model creek & forest restoration for localized water resiliency and climate cooling. 

Come learn more on Thursday, May 23rd at 9:00am at @silveroakcellars.
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Sustainably sourced ingredients with Chef Sarah Heller 🌱 Purchase your tax deductible ticket to our Opus One x Napa Green dinner at the link in our profile!
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You’re invited.. 

Full details may be found at the link in our profile. Cheers!
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As we wrap up an amazing Earth Month, we want to thank you all for the support & for coming to see us at our events! 

Let’s keep the momentum going and remember that Earth Day is Every Day! 🌎
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Hear from @marisataylorwines about the importance of  water efficiency & savings and what we can all do to conserve this precious resource.
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Join us for a not to be missed dinner experience at @opusonewinery while supporting philanthropic efforts on behalf of climate action. 

An intimate group of 20 guests will be in attendance on the rotunda overlooking the estate vineyards. Chef Sarah Heller will prepare a four-course, locally-sourced dinner paired with Champagne Barons de Rothschild, Opalie de Château Coutet, and three vintages of Opus One wines. 

You will have the chance to share transformative conversations and form deep connections with industry leaders and change makers. 

Please find full invitation details at the link in our profile.
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Happy Earth Day Napa Valley! It’s an incredible joy to work with you all and see the forward progress being made all over this gorgeous place we call home. Thank you for caring, thank you for stepping up and thank you for making a difference!! 🌎💚
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Thanks to everyone who came out to @earthdaynapa and visited us at the @napagreen wine booth! 

 Cheers to @amici_cellars @cakebreadcellars @domainecarneros @handwrittenwines @robertmondavi and @whiterockvineyards for donating the certified sustainable wines to raise money for the Environmental Education Coalition of Napa County and helping make it a great event!
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We’re pouring some stellar Napa Green wines tomorrow at @earthdaynapa to include: 

@cakebreadcellars, @domainecarneros, @whiterockvineyards, @handwrittenwines, @amici_cellars & @robertmondavi!

Come by the booth! 🍷🌎
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What you can do in the vineyard & what you can do at home! 🌼🦋

#happyearthday #earthmonth #sustainability #biodiversity #pollinators #herbicidefree #napa #napavalley #cheers
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Come on by to @cliffamily! 💚🍴
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Come get involved this Earth Month! 🌎🌱

🌷 Earth Day Napa - Saturday, April 20th 11am -4pm at Oxbow Commons

🌷All Things Bottle Sustainability Workshop - Friday, April 26th at @pineridgewine from 9am -12:30pm. Registration is $20

🌷 All Things Bottle Sustainability Dinner! Friday, April 26th at @neotempowines with Karen MacNeil & Chef Dave Cruz! 

Message us directly or head to the link in our bio for info!
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