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Walt Ranch Wrangle 

Plans for Napa vineyard challenged by environmental groups

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Opponents of a massive vineyard proposed in the hills northeast of Napa have filed suit to block the project. At risk, say opponents, are some 300 acres of pristine forest, riparian and grassland habitat spread across the 2,300-acre ranch.

Walt Ranch owners Craig and Kathryn Hall own Hall Winery, and are a known quanitity in philanthropic circles. Kathryn Hall was U.S. ambassador to Austria under Bill Clinton.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors approved their hillside vineyard project in December. In response, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the Sierra Club and loal groups sued the county over what they call an inadequate review of cumulative environmental impacts associated with the project—new roads, more pressure on groundwater aquifers, pesticides, fencing and "activities that will impair water quality in streams crucial to the survival of local salmon, reptiles and amphibians," according to the Oakland-based CBD.

The Halls took to Facebook to assure locals, "we continue to want to be good neighbors, and have worked hard to refine the vineyard plans to make this is an environmentally sensitive project." The proposed acreage has been whittled down to 209 acres from 365 in the original 2008 proposal.

Not enough, say opponents, who will meet Feb. 12 in St. Helena to plan their next move.

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