According to Civil War legend, Rear Admiral David Farragut was frustrated when one of his ships suddenly slowed during an assault on a small Confederate fleet and three forts during the pivotal Battle of Mobile Bay.

When he inquired, he was told that the ship cut speed due to naval mines in the waters — mines known as "torpedoes" — which had just claimed one of his warships. Farragut's famed response: "Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead."

Those exact words may not have been voiced during a landmark Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday. But make no mistake, they could be heard. You could hear them in the passionate entreaty of Supervisor Efren Carrillo to his colleagues to press ahead with one of two major county-backed initiatives. He captured the significance of the vote, saying "This is really the county's moment ... and it's our future."

He is exactly right, but maybe not in the way he intended. This is certainly the county's moment when its ambitions will be put to the test.

That test will come, of all places, in the cities, those beastly independent communities that have been the source of such frustration for the county over the years regarding redevelopment, water, growth, water, garbage ... . Did I mention water? Those cities now essentially have veto power over two major county-driven initiatives. One involves giving up control of a major county asset — its central landfill off Mecham Road near Cotati — and handing its operations to a large corporation, Republic Services of Arizona, to operate for the next 20 to 30 years. The

other involves creating a power authority — Sonoma Clean Power — to give locals the option of buying more renewable energy than PG&E otherwise provides. The hope is the system also will foster the development of local solar, wind and other renewable power systems, reinvest profits in the community and create jobs.

Great idea. The problem is, as Californians have learned in suffering through the consequences of the state's costly attempts at deregulating energy markets and enhancing public employee pensions, there are torpedoes out there for bold initiatives that authorities claim won't cost the public a dime. And there's not a lot of enthusiasm right now for allowing government to launch into more.

The county has already done the heavy lifting on both initiatives. At Carrillo's encouraging, the supervisors, on a 4-1 vote, moved all of their chips to the center of the table on Tuesday. We're all in, they said. What say you, cities?

But here's the strange dichotomy. One proposal involves relinquishing control of a major public asset — a waste disposal site — and handing it over to a large private company. The other involves creating a new public agency to address a major public need — power — and taking control away from a large private company — Pacific Gas & Electric Co. One calls for essentially privatizing a public function. The other calls for doing the opposite.

Granted, it's not an all-or-nothing proposition. The county would still officially own the landfill site. And PG&E would continue to handle billing, transmission, metering, customer service, all of the backbone issues. PG&E also would remain a competitor, providing power to those who opt out of the county's system.

What's curious is that while the county has essentially concluded it's no longer capable of handling the complications, regulations and cost-related issues regarding its landfill, it believes it's capable of overseeing a new power authority. It's hard to believe that managing power is going to be any less complicated than managing garbage.

That's not to suggest either of these initiatives is a bad idea. On the contrary, it's not clear that Sonoma County has any choice but to go along with the deal to let Republic repair, upgrade and manage the landfill. The county has already ruled out Plan B (selling the site outright), Plan C (trucking garbage out of the county) and Plan D (trying to get the cities to agree on a new deal to operate it ourselves). None of those are going to happen, and there is no Plan E.

As for Sonoma Clean Power, there are alternatives. One is to do nothing, but that's not very attractive. Not given the early success Marin County has had in creating its own community choice aggregation system. Not with the strong community desire and commitment to do something about the reduction of greenhouse gasses. Not with the opportunity now presenting itself for local entities to have control of their energy.

The other option is for the county to slow down, to do an economic analysis of the potential impacts of this new system, to get more input from the public, to develop a strategy for how the county is going to encourage the development of local renewable energy systems, to get a better idea of what the opt-out rates will be like once PG&E starts offering its own "green" energy option and to hire someone who really understands how to run a system like this. In other words, to avoid the torpedoes.

I'm often asked why it takes government 10 years to install a stoplight, but it can launch large new programs seemingly overnight. I expect to be asked that question some more. The county has held 37 public meetings on the landfill issue which it has debated for years. The Sonoma Clean Power idea was just assigned to staff a year ago. And it seemed to go from a concept to a concrete reality on a Tuesday — last Tuesday to be specific.

In truth, the county doesn't need the cities to participate to make Sonoma Clean Power a reality. According to Water Agency officials, who are overseeing the project, the system would pencil out even if only the unincorporated areas participated. But politically, that would make the system a tough sell when it comes time for supervisors to approve a contract. So it would behoove the county not to rush the cities into making a decision, either. At the moment, the cities have been told they have until June 30 to join.

Carrillo is a smart guy, and I hope he is right. I hope this is the county's moment, that these initiatives will be successful, and they will usher in a new era of city-county cohesion. But I don't understand the rush.

Being bold turned out pretty well for Farragut. But as much as some people may dislike PG&E, this is not the Civil War, and antipathy toward a utility and a strong desire to take control is not a business plan. There are safer ways to navigate these waters.