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Napa Residents Are Complaining About Bird Cannons

Ad hoc committee could include language in the county's Right To Farm ordinance empowering officials to penalize those who misuse bird cannons
by Kerana Todorov
September 19, 2018

The Napa County Board of Supervisors has taken the first step against excessive bird cannon blasts.

The board voted unanimously to appoint two supervisors to a new ad hoc committee to give county officials better tools to penalize those who misuse bird cannons.

Farmers use bird cannons to protect vineyards against flock of birds that damage their vineyard. However year after year, residents have complained about the noise to various authorities, including the Napa County Agricultural Commissioner and law enforcement.

The ad hoc committee could define language in the county’s Right To Farm ordinance that would empower officials to penalize those who misuse bird cannons. Changes could be made before June 2019.

One option discussed Tuesday was drafting a brand new ordinance to regulate bird cannons. Industry groups opposed a new ordinance to regulate bird cannons fearing it would chip away Right to Farm.

Napa County Supervisor Belia Ramos represents American Canyon and south Napa County. On Tuesday, Ramos said that she understands “the great caution with needing to regulate bad actors.”

At the same time, the complaints from residents have gone unaddressed, Ramos said. Efforts to educate have failed.

“I brought this up last year and our solution was best management and practices and guess what? We all did that and it didn’t work. This has been going on for years,” Ramos said.

Ramos and Supervisor Gregory were appointed to serve on the ad hoc committee.

Instead, Molly Moran Williams, a representative for Napa Valley Grapegrowers, said her organization empathizes with the neighbors. The problem is the misuse of bird cannons, she said. Running bird cannons nonstop is ineffective and unacceptable, she said.

The Napa Valley Grape Growers supports further outreach to address the proper use of bird cannons, Williams said. The group also supports a discussion on a new set of “customs and standards” that could be adopted via a resolution that would work concurrently with Right to Farm, she also said.

At least six counties in California have adopted customs and standards to regulate the use of bird cannons, according to a county staff report. Solano County has an ordinance regulating the operation of bird cannons.
The noise is directional. Ramos, an American Canyon resident, said she cannot hear bird cannons at home.

Her brother, who lives close by, hears it inside his home. Marc North, a longtime American Canyon resident, hears the blasts at home. “This is virtually 24/7,” he told the supervisors Tuesday.

Greg Ames and his wife moved to American Canyon in January 2017. They love the peace and quiet at their new home until the grape growing season when the propane cannons go off every 1 ½ to 2 seconds, Ames told the board.

South Napa resident Barbara McCarthy said bird cannons go off every 10 seconds.

“I respect the right to farm. But this is not a right to farm issue. This is about the improper use of bird cannons which are abusive to people, to pets, to wildlife and to the elderly like me,” said McCarthy who is turning 80 soon.

Ramos on Tuesday mentioned a restraining order issued in Napa County Superior Court against a vineyard owner in south Napa County.

The dispute between the vineyard owner, Eleodoro Hernandez and his neighbors, Jennifer Leslie and Scott Espinoza, escalated to the point that the neighbors requested and obtained a restraining order to prevent the vineyard owner from using propane bird cannons, according to court records. The order was issued after the Hernandez allegedly shot a rifle on the property, according to court records.

On Sept. 6 Napa County Superior Court Judge Diane Price ordered the propane bird cannons relocated in the vineyard as proposed by the Agricultural Commissioner. The agricultural commissioner is to set the frequency of the blasts, according to the order.

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