Moving Towards a Sustainable Community
By Dave Rosenberg Yolo County Supervisor, District Four
The current "buzz-word" in planning is "sustainable" as in "let's build sustainable communities." But what does the concept really mean? To me, it identifies a community that has the vision to use its resources wisely, and to create linkages that avoid waste, foster replenishment, save money, and protect the environment. Wow. That's a tall order. But it can be done. And it can be done right here in Yolo County and in Davis.
I have a proposal that begins to create the reality of a sustainable community. It creates linkages between the private and the public sectors; it involves a bit of vision and daring, and a great deal of coordination. However, the result could be a cutting edge project that can enhance our lives, sustain the land, and serve as a model for other communities. Here's how it works:
We start with the Yolo county landfill (the "county dump" to some). Here, Yolo County is already developing new technologies and methods to dispose of waste, and significantly, to create energy out of the waste. In Davis, we already remove a high percentage of recyclables from our garbage. What's left goes into our landfill as sold waste. Our landfill handles this waste differently than the vast majority of landfills around the world. Instead of removing liquids from the waste, we do the opposite: We add water. The process allows the waste to decompose rapidly, producing methane. Yolo County actually "mines" the methane, uses it as a fuel to burn, and creates energy (electricity) from that methane. This electric power is currently sold to the power grid.
But we could do more. With an accelerated program, and an efficient operation, the landfill could produce power from methane to fuel thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of homes. And why sell the power to the "grid" to be shipped off and used in Southern California or some other locale? Why not use it right here in Yolo County? I am working with citizens in Davis to place a proposal before the voters in November of 2000, which, if approved, would create a Davis Municipal Utility District (DMUD). If approved and if a DMUD is created, one local, clean power supplier could be our own Yolo County landfill. Because of its proximity to Davis, it is possible that we could install our own power lines directly from the landfill to DMUD. This would provide a remarkably clean, renewable and inexpensive source of power to the Davis community.
And there's more. In Yolo County, I'm working hard to convince a new tomato processing plant to locate near Davis. If that happens, and I believe it will, that plant will produce an enormous amount of wastewater (actually, water with organic tomato remains, mostly skins). By tapping into the existing pipeline which runs from the (now defunct) Hunt Wesson plant to about 300 acres of land adjacent to the landfill, the new processing facility will have a place to dispose of its wastewater. That's good for the new tomato plant. But others are keen on the prospect as well. The landfill is very excited about this possibility, because it needs lots of water to operate its system in the production of methane. The Davis Audubon Society is excited about the possibility, because the 300 acre site is an important habitat for birds. Tree Davis should be excited about the possibility because trees need to be planted on the 300 acre site to soak up the excess moisture (the new processing plant will produce two to three times the volume of the old Hunt Wesson plant), and so a literal forest of trees could be created in this wildlife area.
The possibilities for linkages go on and on. This result is a win-win-win scenario for all concerned. And, if all the pieces fall into place, we can truly say that we've laid the groundwork for a sustainable community.