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SDC closure impacts Valley’s emergency water supplies

SDC closure impacts  Valley’s emergency water supplies

dation to be in the best interests of each district’s constituents. A very small percentage of voters in each district objected to the consolidation, which was approved and consummated on June 1.

The state’s decision to close the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) has impacted the Sonoma Valley’s emergency water supply, since the SDC’s water filtration plant was shuttered in the face of impending sanctions for not having a qualified engineer overseeing the aging plant, which needs extensive upgrades to meet water safety standards. Sonoma County’s 2018 and 2019 Grand Juries took a long look at Sonoma Valley’s emergency water situation and didn’t like what they saw. Contrary to county and local water agencies’ assertions that the existing water system could supply three days of drinking water in a disaster, the Grand Jury concluded, “In the event of a major earthquake, some or all of the people in Sonoma County could be faced with poor water quality and with water shortages ranging from brief interruptions and rationing, to complete curtailment for extended periods.” Over 80 percent of the drinking water for the City of Sonoma and the dense communities surrounding it is piped in from the Russian River via the Sonoma Aqueduct that roughly parallels Highway 12.

Since 2002, the Valley of the Moon Water District (VOMWD) has relied on being able to tap the SDC’s drinkable water in emergencies, but that backup evaporated with the filtration plant’s closure in 2018. “It was the only source of emergency water available in the valley,” former VOMWD manager Alan Gardner said. Private and public wells are vulnerable to earthquakes, as is the aqueduct itself, and while there are plans to increase water storage in the Valley, none have been built yet. Plans are underway to remedy the problem, but as Sonoma County Water director Jay Jaspers said last March, “You can reduce risk,” but you can’t eliminate it entirely.

The Rodgers Creek Fault lies east of the San Andreas Fault, which is the main strand of the North American-Pacific Plate boundary north of San Francisco Bay, according to U.S. Geological Survey. The fault runs right through Sonoma County, with recently identified parts of the fault zone extending toward the Bennett Valley-Mayacamas fault system to the east.

A complete seismological survey of the county water system in 2000 revealed a number of weaknesses, Jaspers said. That survey was updated in 2008 and again in 2013 and Jaspers is pushing to bring those same people back to apply a decade’s worth of new technology and methodology to the county’s needs. The original study showed that some of the pipes crossing creeks could be sheared and displaced up to three feet, laterally.

The 2019 Grand Jury called for all agencies concerned with Sonoma Valley’s emergency water needs to better coordinate their communications, plans and efforts going forward, including those responsible for developing a Specific Plan for the Sonoma Developmental Center’s disposition. All the agencies tasked with solving these issues agreed that restarting the SDC water filtration plant any time soon is not practicable.

Voters in the March Primary failed to pass a sales tax that would have funded most of Sonoma County’s fire services for the foreseeable future. On Nov. 3, however, county voters approved five out of six tax measures on the ballot, leaving politicians and supporters wondering what went wrong with the spring fire tax measure. The Sonoma County Wildfire Prevention, Emergency Alert and Response Transactions and Use Tax Ordinance – designated Measure G on the March 3 ballot – would have imposed a half-cent sales tax throughout the county for an indefinite period of time. Ninety percent of the taxes would go to the various fire districts and 10 percent to the county. The allocation plan included in the measure would have added 200 paid firefighters and emergency techs to bring all county fire departments’ emergency vehicles up to the recommended three-person staffing every time a unit is dispatched. Measure G money – estimated at $51 million a year – would have funded new fire stations, repaired older ones, and paid for fire prevention and vegetation management.

Language in the first tax draft aimed at pushing districts to consolidate angered some district chiefs and directors. It was modified to allow longer periods for considering mergers. Kenwood Fire Protection District (KFPD) did not consolidate with Glen Ellen, Valley of the Moon and Mayacamas districts last year because they had a $700,000 deficit in the payroll department to bring their pay up to par with the other agencies involved. Merging fire districts must be on equal financial footing. Measure G would have solved that problem. KFPD would have received $1 million from the first distribution, while the Valley of the Moon, Glen Ellen and Mayacamas departments, that consolidated later in the year, would have received over $2.2 million.

Many people noted that the measure received tepid support from the fire fighting community, support that appeared only in the last weeks of the campaign. Voters were kinder to the fire measure with 62 percent support (67 percent needed to pass), than they were to an early extension of a SMART rail funding tax and school bonds, both of which failed by large margins.

The loss left the county, city and fire fighting agencies in unincorporated Sonoma County still on the hook to work out better, more efficient ways to survive in the face of rising temperatures, lack of rain, explosively dry wild lands and denser development everywhere that culminated in another horrendous fire season for the county’s disaster-weary residents.

New park campfire proposal generates local heat

Given the recent history of wildfires in Sonoma County and Sonoma Valley, a proposed new campsite at the top of Sonoma Mountain, complete with 6-8 sites and campfire pits has alarmed a number of people living near the county’s newest park, North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park (NSMRP). It is the terminus of a trail that originates in Jack London State Historic Park, open to hikers, horses and anyone with an ambition to traverse the ridge of the county’s eponymous mountain, a trail that offers spectacular views of the Bay Area and Santa Rosa and the valleys on either side. On the county’s books since 2014, the park was in the process of public review and policy development in 2017 when wildfires brought county government to an abrupt stop. Wildfire recovery has gummed up many county processes, exacerbated by the pandemic and more recent extensive burning throughout the county. The NSMRP encompasses 820 acres of mountain ridge line between Jack London State Historic Park and its direct entrance and parking lot near the summit of narrow, potholed Sonoma Mountain Road. The three alternative scenarios proposed in 2017 ranged from no fires, supervised fires at six campsites, and supervised fires at four campsites. The new park is a mash-up of several properties acquired by the tax-funded Open Space District in 2014 and subsequently transferred to the county park system. They include the former Jacobs Ranch, Cooper’s Grove, Sonoma Mountain Woodland, Wilroth, Skiles and Sonoma Mountain Ranch properties. It shares borders with Jack London State Park and the Fairfield Osborn Preserve. According to Regional Parks, the conservation easement allows building and camping development within defined areas.

Local residents were startled when the county’s park department recently scheduled a long-delayed public hearing to select a plan and put it out for an Environmental Impact Report before final adoption. With the sheer number of residents objecting to any fires in the area, county parks extended the comment period from Oct. 30 to Nov. 15. The issues will be discussed at a public meeting early next year and whatever is proposed must come before the county’s Board of Supervisors.

North Valley Municipal

Advisory Council formed

The newest advisory body to the Board of Supervisors was formed this year with the creation of the North Valley Municipal Advisory Council (NVMAC), consisting of seven people appointed by First District Supervisor Susan Gorin to provide information, advice and generally stay in tune with the people and issues affecting Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Eldridge. The council will provide a double function: listening to citizens and actively presenting information through regular monthly meetings, set for the second Wednesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. Eventually, public meetings will be held in either Glen Ellen or Kenwood, but for now, all meetings are virtual. Municipal Advisory Councils are created by county governments to serve a variety of purposes. Sonoma County’s first MAC was the public entity responsible for forming the City of Windsor. Others have concentrated on topical and geographical issues. A Springs MAC was formed at the beginning of the year to cope with emerging issues of the tightly packed com- munities surrounding the City of Sonoma.

The NVMAC membership consists of two Glen Ellen members and one alternate, two Kenwood members and one alternate, one member of the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Council, and two at-large members to represent Kenwood, Glen Ellen, and Eldridge on the council. Some members may fulfill more than one of these requirements.

Arielle Kubu-Jones of Gorin’s staff will be the principal liaison for the Council. She can be reached at [email protected] org. Information about the new MAC can be found online at sonomacounty.ca.gov/North-Valley- Municipal-Advisory-Council/. Writer and historical ecologist Arthur Dawson of Glen was picked by Gorin to be the first Chair. He has lived in Glen Ellen since 1989. His wife Jill grew up here, and their children attended Dunbar and Kenwood Schools. Dawson has served on the boards of several local organizations and is deeply connected to this community and the land. Long-time Kenwood resident Daymon Doss was picked as Vice-Chair. He has over 40 years’ experience in healthcare throughout Northern California, last serving as the Chief Operations Officer for the Petaluma Health Center (serving 36,000 patients in Petaluma and Rohnert Park). He is currently president of the Valley of the Moon Rotary, president of the Kenwood Fire Protection Board, and a board member of the Housing Land Trust. He and his wife Sally are active members of the Kenwood Community Church. All board members were profiled in the Sept. 1, 2020 Kenwood NVMAC meetings are open to the public via Zoom. You can sign up at the NVMAC website as well as see the current agenda at www. sonomacounty.ca.gov/North-Valley- Municipal-Advisory-Council/.

Press.


Daymon Doss, NVMAC vice-chair

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