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Rebel Rose

Napa's Muddy Mess

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Record flooding in northern California has inundated the towns of St. Helena, Napa and Calistoga. Online reports from residents remark that sections of highway and valley vineyards are underwater.

BAY AREA STARTS CLEANUP -- NO END TO FLOOD WORRIES

From the National Weather Service:

"NAPA-SONOMA- 900 AM PST MON JAN 2 2006

SIGNIFICANT FLOODING WILL CONTINUE THROUGHOUT THE LOWER PORTIONS OF THE RUSSIAN RIVER. MANY ROADS WILL CONTINUE TO BE FLOODED MAKING TRAVEL DIFFICULT NEAR THE RUSSIAN RIVER. THE LOWER RUSSIAN RIVER IS FORECAST TO REMAIN ABOVE FLOOD STAGE THROUGH EARLY TUESDAY MORNING."

In other areas, the floodwaters will begin to recede today, although rainfall is still heavy.

Can anyone from northern California report in on conditions there? Is there debris and breakage in the vineyards, or severe erosion?


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Mary Baker

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Some ironic comments from a 2002 San Francisco Chronicle article on Napa's flood plain management program . . .

Back on course -- Improvements return Napa River to an asset, instead of a flood threat

The project, which extends 7 miles along the river, consists of flood protection features to provide the area with a 100-year level of flood protection from the Napa River and Napa Creek. Previously, some areas of the river had less than 10 years of protection.

Floods will still occur. But the floods are not expected to impact commercial buildings or residences with any regularity because none with be located in the 100-year floodplain.

"It's a good project for what it wants to do, but unfortunately it's become more of a redevelopment project than a flood control project," said Harry Martin, publisher of the Napa Sentinel. "It's politics. This is the largest public works project in the county's history."

As a Napa City Council member, Martin endorsed the restoration plan. But he has concerns about how project managers have condemned and seized riverfront properties. For example, half of a mobile home park in Napa was closed down because officials decided that the Napa Wine Train needed to be relocated.

Napa developer Harry Price said the Napa River project was instrumental in his efforts to turn the historic Hatt warehouse and shipping docks into a hotel, gourmet dining and retail venue.

"This reminds me of courtyards in New Orleans," said executive chef Greg Cole, who recently moved his Celadon restaurant from a creekside location to Price's riverside development.


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Mary Baker

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Just a quick note that the flood project isn't finished yet so it's hard to say how much of a success it is or isn't.


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True, which is one of the points of the more recent article. Any news on vineyards or wineries? If the riverside businesses, restaurants, the Wine Train, wine shops and vineyards are underwater--what is happening on the other roads?

We were told the rain would be "heavy" today but not as bad as the last two days. Not so. Wind gusts and rain today are heavier than before!! Our little wine cellar cum tasting room is flooded by rainwater, and we are on a rocky hilltop, elevation 1300'.


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Mary Baker

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Driving through Sonoma county today there were vineyards on both sides of highway 101 under significant water. It doesn't look good.

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Vines are dormant now, should dry up pretty quick. I see no problems with any of the vineyards. End of next month when they wake up could be a problem, if we get more water.


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bell looked really really bad but trefethen said it could take up to 2 weeks of flooding

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Wine country grapes expected to survive nature's wrath

Weekend storms washed debris over vine trellises, knocked down posts and sent soil down hill. But with the 2005 harvest safely in weeks ago and the vines dormant for the winter, vintners weren't expecting serious problems.

"There's certainly been a lot of vines under water, but they've been under water before," said Nick Frey, executive director of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association.

The big problem facing vintners was repairing damage to downed posts and flooded equipment, cleaning out the rubbish washed in by urban floodwaters and digging out from sediment.

That's what I would be worried about mainly--logs and debris smashing out established vines and wrecking trellising and equipment. Or enough soil being washed away that the roots would become exposed. On the other hand, an occasional dump of fertile muck and a replenishment of underground aquifers is a good thing.


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From the California Farm Bureau:

Napa County, one of the state's hardest hit regions, suffered an estimated $32.8 million in agricultural losses after water from the Napa River poured over levees and trampled vineyards, according to current estimates provided by Napa County Agricultural Commissioner Dave Whitmer.

Napa County vintner Tom Gamble suffered damage to his vineyard.

"I was landlocked for 36 hours," Gamble said. "Now we are getting out and seeing the damage and there are significant problems. I have a farm labor house that is flooded. At my wife's farm in Rutherford, there is a 75-foot breach of a levee. It looks like a bomb went off. My wife's looking at a $300,000 to $400,000 bill to repair the damage.

"I don't ever remember the water being as high as it was during this storm. It was a huge amount of volume in a short amount of time."

Gamble said he cringes at the thought of tallying the man-hours needed to clean up the debris that clogged row after row of grapevines. He will also have to check drip lines and replant the cover crop.


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Mary Baker

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bell looked really really bad but trefethen said it could take up to 2 weeks of flooding

A friend of mine makes his wine at Bell and they stayed dry despite the water surrounding them. He was worried for sure, but there was no impact on the wine.

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Two more updates:

Agricultural flood damage at $40 million

Flooding caused more than $40 million in damage to vineyards, farms and ranches in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties as fast-moving water washed out vines, eroded land and toppled trellis systems.

Farm buildings and equipment also were destroyed as rivers and streams overflowed during the heavy rains, agricultural officials said Tuesday as they tallied losses from the New Year's flood.

There was no damage to the grapevines that were immersed for several days, because the vines are dormant and can be under water for a week or more without being harmed, growers said.

Most of the loss estimate is based on the costs of cleaning up tons of debris left in vineyards and repairing damaged trellis systems and irrigation lines.

Napa County was hardest hit, with $32.5 million in damage to vineyards.

Vineyard flood damage: some say it's the worst

Peter Mondavi, Jr., of Charles Krug Winery, told the Star the winery's Yountville vineyard sustained extensive damage. "The whole vineyard was completely submerged and trashed, and at least six acres of our vines were pulled down," he said, noting that the vineyard has about 1,500 vines per acre.

The Cabernet vineyard is along Highway 29 and just north of Ragatz Lane. Mondavi said tall, dry grasses torn out by the rapid waters, along with other debris, caused the damage. "The weight of the wet grass and mud knocked everything down, including the metal stakes."

Some of the other debris included dozens of wooden posts, tree trunks, and mounds of sludge. "There a nice French oak barrel that floated out here and we don't know who it belongs to," Mondavi said.

Mondavi added that most the five-year-old vines were not uprooted, and he believes they can be saved since they are in dormancy. "It's going to take a lot of manpower," he said. "We'll have to pick out all the grass and other trash, before we can remove the broken stakes and wire and rebuild the vineyard, and do it all by hand."

Everything at this point depends on the weather. The ground is still unworkable, and Mondavi said the grass has to dry before it can be removed. If the rains continue, it will be difficult to do a cleanup, and if the warm weather stays, pruning can be difficult before bud break.


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Mary Baker

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