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Jenner Jottings -Tim McKusick -March 2017


Jenner Jottings -Tim McKusick - March 2017

Finally, a forecast of sustained sunshine here on our saturated West- County hillsides! The record amounts of rain we have experienced are a God-send of course, filling our reservoirs and hopefully recharging our over-stretched aquifers.

But at the same time, the soakings we have endured remind us that the soils in many areas of our County, geologically-speaking are always moving. Albeit a slow-motion act during dry years, this year the soils are slipping and rolling, sliding and liquefying, uprooting trees and stressing our infrastructure everywhere.

Crews are working around the clock trying to keep our main roads open and passible. Highway One North of Jenner just above Russian Gulch (in “the switchbacks”) has emergency repairs ongoing. Traffic is subject to extended delays as pilings are driven. This respite in the storms should help the crews make some headway. But rest assured you will see these same areas slipping and sliding next season, unless Major work is done.

Many of our rural communities with community water systems find their resources under constant assault, whether it is stretching every drop to the maximum during the drought years, or trying to keep their treatment and delivery systems functioning and intact in the heaving and moving soils “after the deluge”.

Several coastal water systems are having similar storm-related issues, but there couldn’t be bigger contrasts to the solutions and sources of funds.

The small river-meets-the-sea town of Jenner’s water system is County owned and run. The water mains have recently been in jeopardy of failure as the saturated geological forces of this hillside community slowly head for the Russian River. Emergency repairs are underway. A concern being shared by some residents is the price tag attached, and how will it be paid. With a very small resident population to cover costs, this tiny town’s water system barely makes it (financially) on a good day.

Meanwhile, up the Sonoma Coast in the Sea Ranch, underground water main breaks have increased as the saturated soils undulate under vehicular traffic and falling-tree roots rip up the landscape. But in contrast, the Sea Ranch has a huge customer base to bear the costs. So flush with funds are they, that a new million gallon treated water storage tank was recently installed to help them through future drought seasons. They take these emergency repair needs in stride.

Midway on the Sonoma Coast between Jenner and the Sea Ranch is Timber Cove. Their community water system that currently serves approximately one hundred homes, is run by the Timber Cove County Water District (TCCWD). The name is a little misleading as this is not a County-run system, but a community system with few employees and an all-volunteer board of directors.

Having a small customer base (+- 220 properties within the small district’s boundaries) has the plight of Timber Cove’s water company looking more like Jenner than Sea Ranch. It is an ongoing challenge to keep the tanks filled for domestic and fire-fighting needs, while at the same time keeping the rates affordable to the customers.

Recently in addition to the job of supplying water, the TCCWD has taken on the major responsibility of administering Timber Cove’s Fire-Safe program. As if making and delivering potable water while maintaining and upgrading the (overstretched rural) water delivery and fire hydrant systems wasn’t a full-time commitment.

The Timber Cove subdivision still has dozens of vacant heavily-forested properties. Cal Fire has little enforcement authority on undeveloped forested properties, so it is up to the Community to encourage property owners to maintain a safe and healthy forest. A home owner can meet all of the most stringent Cal Fire clearing and setback requirements, only to have the neighboring vacant parcel put their home/investment in harm’s way.

Ken Sund of Jenner witnessed the dramatic rescue by Pendergraft and was inspired to promote a “thank you barbecue” for our Coastal Emergency Responders. He proposed the idea to his Board at the Jenner Community Center and went about inviting the various Local Volunteer Fire Departments and Fire Stations as well as the CHP and Sheriffs. It was a huge success as shown in these photos

Local Fire Captain Steve Baxman did the honors and the Jenner Community fed them all! The Jenner Community continues to humble us all with their spirit of Community and Giving in all circumstances. They are the small town with the Huge Heart! Please visit their website and consider a donation.

For those of us who are lucky enough to call this coast home, we know when we hear sirens, it is a serious situation. Whether it is a fire, an automobile accident, a cliff or ocean rescue, all of these agencies respond. It is an “all-in effort”. On behalf of myself and my West County/Coastal neighbors, as well as all of the visitors who enjoy the beauty of our Coast, Thank You!