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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Our County: Efren Carrillo Jan 2010

While we face the New Year with a mixture of enthusiasm and trepidation, there is much to look back on in this final month of 2009 that is worth celebrating. 2009 has been a year of economic turmoil, which brought unprecedented demand for services to the disadvantaged and disenfranchised delivered with increasingly limited resources. Still, some remarkable accomplishments by our Sonoma County community this month give cause for hope and appreciation.

On December 17th, the Sonoma Land Trust celebrated its acquisition of Jenner Headlands! Not your average accomplishment, Jenner Headlands is the single largest North Coast conservation acquisition in history with over 5630 acres of critical wildlife habitat being preserved forever. This was a truly once in a lifetime opportunity which required the perseverance, grit, and dedication of the Land Trust over a five year period.

The epic struggle to acquire Jenner Headlands culminated in success through creativity, collaboration of public (local, state, and federal government supported the acquisition financially) and private partners, and purposeful dedication by Ralph Benson, Amy Chesnut, and the Land Trust family. Their fortuitiveness will benefit Sonoma County for generations to come.

2009 was a wild ride for Ralph, Amy, and their partners, with the $36 million deal requiring that every part of a complex financial puzzle aligned and came together with no mishaps…all during this incredibly tough year. That coupled with the patience and dedication of the landholders to the outcome yields a remarkable achievement. I am proud to have played a role in supporting their efforts along with Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, former Supervisor Mike Reilly, and former Congressman (current Chair of the Coastal Commission) Doug Bosco. Congratulations to them, to us, and to all future residents and visitors to our beautiful County!

Steps both large and small have been made this year toward greater sustainability for the County. The vision of policy makers in adopting and pursuing the innovative Sonoma County Energy Independence Program (SCEIP) continues into its next phase. The early part of 2010 will see us move forward toward a regional approach to retrofitting homes and commercial properties, using the financing mechanism of SCEIP along with developing a “one stop shop” with all the tools needed for retrofits: energy audits (maximizing the return on retrofit investment), financing, maximizing education, incentives, and implementation.

We expect to see results from leveraging American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds which will continue the job creation begun by SCEIP, and result in a much needed, concerted effort at retrofitting existing properties. Retrofitting has been identified as the number one priority for meeting our green house gas (GHG) community targets. Retrofitting benefits individuals through reduced energy costs and our entire planet through lowered GHG emissions. More information can be found at the Regional Climate Protection Authority’s (RCPA) website ( or by contacting Dave Brennan of RCPA ( or Chris Cone at the Climate Protection Campaign (

It is expected that the new program will launch in April 2010, with the initial focus on single family residential units, and moving forward with multi-family and commercial properties within the year.

While we’re on the topic of resources and conservation, there will be a continuing focus on reducing our use of water in 2010. Recent changes in state law regarding greywater are propelling our County to look at alternatives to the use of drinking quality water for landscaping and other high use water needs. Public health is a valid concern, but the time to move forward in dramatically reducing our water use is now.

The past few years of drought and the declining health of our river and salmon populations have brought urgency to the topic. While 2009 showed that community concern is high, and urban users can and will reduce their water consumption when needed, much remains to be done to accomplish a permanent behavioral shift. We will continue to move forward, taking a hard look at water reuse and other methods of water reduction.

I’m looking forward to a very wet (but not too wet) winter to give us a necessary buffer while we work on policy, alternatives, and solutions.

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