Finding Solutions: East Bay Municipal Utility District and John Muir Land Trust celebrate permanent preservation of Lamorinda watershed land

EBMUD’s unique funding solution seals the deal for JMLT’s decade of effort, and saves more acres. 

Today, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), John Muir Land Trust (JMLT) and local elected officials celebrated a partnership that saved 604 acres of gorgeous Lamorinda land for all future generations. EBMUD officials highlighted their unique funding solution that found needed Carr Ranch purchase funds, and preserved an additional 430 acres of EBMUD watershed land in Pinole. This new Oursan Ridge Conservation Bank sealed the deal on John Muir Land Trust’s acquisition and permanent preservation of Carr Ranch, adjacent to the town of Moraga.

“Delivering high-quality drinking water to our customers relies on EBMUD’s commitment to carefully managing watershed lands,” said Richard Sykes, Director of Natural Resources for EBMUD. “Our staff worked for more than 8 years to create a first-ever conservation bank on EBMUD watershed land in Pinole, which will provide the funding to purchase Carr Ranch. Thanks to our partners at John Muir Land Trust for their vision, we are celebrating a historic solution that permanently preserves a total of 1,000 acres of pristine watershed land.”

While John Muir Land Trust secured a three-year purchase agreement, EBMUD developed and secured permits for the 430-acre Oursan Ridge Conservation Bank. The revenues from conservation credits sales are expected to exceed the $4.5 million that EBMUD contributed toward the purchase of the 604-acre Carr Ranch property, resulting in no cost impacts to EBMUD customers.

“Carr Ranch offers spectacular views, open space and clean drinking water that will benefit East Bay families for generations to come,” said Linus Eukel, Executive Director of John Muir Land Trust. “Saving this land from development also permanently preserves critical wildlife habitat for threatened and endangered species. Working with our partners at EBMUD, we look forward to serving the public’s need for permanent protection and access to this spectacular natural landscape for future generations.”

“Carr Ranch is a win, not just for the people of Moraga but for everyone in the East Bay who loves our region’s rolling hills and wide open spaces,” said Moraga Mayor Teresa Onoda. “This piece of beautiful land fits in perfectly with Moraga’s semi-rural character which is great for hikers and equestrians.”

John Muir Land Trust and EBMUD have agreed to protect the property in perpetuity, with EBMUD holding title and JMLT providing public access and recreation. EBMUD’s role will be to preserve the watershed land, protect wildlife habitat, maintain open spaces and natural scenery, and preserve the historical ranching heritage. JMLT will manage permanent public access to Carr Ranch for light recreation such as hiking, wildlife viewing, dog walking and equestrian activities.

Plans for opening the property to the public for recreation are in development; the opening is currently scheduled for Fall 2017.

“Permanent preservation of Carr Ranch would not have happened without John Muir Land Trust,” said Sykes. “JMLT made sure this land wasn’t lost to development. And for EBMUD, this is a rare opportunity to protect drinking water right here in the East Bay.”

Late last year, the EBMUD Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve $4,469,600 to help purchase the Carr Ranch property. The vote formalized a partnership between EBMUD and JMLT to acquire the cattle ranch from the Carr family, which has owned the land for over a century.

“We want to recognize and thank the Carr family for their careful stewardship of this land for generations, and for allowing us to conserve this land instead of seeing it developed,” said EBMUD Board member Marguerite Young, who represents the area.

EBMUD manages 58,000 acres of habitat in the East Bay and Sierra foothills. The newly protected Carr Ranch joins the watershed lands owned by EBMUD that drain into the Upper San Leandro Reservoir, a drinking water supply for tens of thousands of East Bay families. The undeveloped property provides habitat for endangered reptiles and amphibians — and for large animals such as deer, American badger, golden eagle, and mountain lion.