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Napa County Limits Use of Propane Cannons in Vineyards

by Kerana Todorov
June 06, 2019

Winegrape growers in Napa Coumty who want to use propane cannons to shoo away birds from their vineyards have to abide by new rules – or risk a fine.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously voted to allow the use of propane cannons a few hours a day after veraison to prevent birds from feasting on the ripening berries. The machines will have to be off at night when the birds roost.

American Canyon and other south Napa County residents have complained repeatedly about propane cannons blasting off in Carneros.

The resolution presented Tuesday includes “proper and accepted customs and standards,” rules that can be enforced under the nuisance ordinance.

Under the new rules, the use of propane cannons and other “audible frightening devices” is limited to 30 minutes before sunrise; 3 hours after sunrise; 3 hours before sunset and 30 minutes after sunset, according to Napa County Agricultural Commissioner Humberto Izquierdo.

In addition, farmers can have no more than one device per 5 acres. The cannons have to be positioned at least 600 feet from neighbors, with the cannon barrel pointed away from houses or animal enclosures on adjacent properties. The devices also have to be rotated every three to five days to prevent bird habituation, Izquierdo told the Supervisors Tuesday.

Code officials until now had no standards that could determine whether or not an operator was protected under the county’s right-to-farm ordinance, Izquierdo explained. Now an operator can be cited and fined under the nuisance ordinance can come into effect and citations and fines could be given.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors adopted the new rules after a series of public meetings over the past year. Napa County Supervisor Chair Ryan Gregory and Napa County Supervisor Belia Ramos, who represents American Canyon and south Napa County, worked on an ad hoc committee to find a solution.

“It gets us to a place where we can provide the guidance necessary for people to be good neighbors to be good agriculturalists in our county,” Ramos said before the unanimous vote.

Napa County Farm Bureau supported the new resolution. “We find it completely acceptable,” said Ryan Klobas, Farm Bureau’s chief executive officer.

American Canyon resident Greg Ames was one of the residents who had complained about the propane bird cannons. “It’s a reasonable compromise,” he said of the new rules.

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