March 1st, 2024

City council opts to move forward with environmental road map

By COLLIN GALLANT on December 20, 2023.

City council has elected to move forward with a final draft of a long-term environmental road map.--NEWS FILE PHOTO

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

City council approved moving forward with a final draft of an environmental road map that sets down key focus areas, and now will await targets, potential costs and specific projects this spring.

The report arrived at committee earlier this month and outlines guiding principles for conservation for municipal operations and not the city at large.

It calls for the city to reduce its carbon footprint, water and energy use in operations, and promote that residents do the same.

The final report, including specific project and potential costs, is due by the end of April after a sixth round of feedback with stakeholders and comments from the general public.

Coun. Alison Van Dyke says she is encouraged the city is moving ahead after the previous plan adopted in 2008 was essentially shelved by council in 2016.

“We’re one of the only mid-sized cities or community of any significant size that doesn’t have environments policies or climate change strategies,” said Van Dyke, who said the plan as outlined will address concerns over time, but water usage should be made a priority.

“We’re facing severe drought. We feel the impacts all the time. People are realizing that we need to plan for the future.”

As outlined Monday, the plan would set targets for the city’s own water use, such as irrigating parks, as well as other areas besides water, specifically recycling and solid waste, energy and air quality, land development, maintaining a natural ecosystem and promoting agriculture.

“The question (for council) will be how quickly do we want to implement it,” city director of land and environment Kevin Redden told council.

Some items are already in the advanced planning stages, said Coun. Andy McGrogan, noting a food-waste composting program to reduce tonnage at the city landfill.

McGrogan and other councillors say the larger debate on spending and costs will occur in preparations for the 2025-26 city budget that will be passed late next year.

Coun. Robert Dumanowski says the plan has to be substantial but attainable.

“I’m not interested in a lot of lofty goals that would put undue burden on our residents,” he said. “Finding that balance will be important.”

A series of sub-plans will also be required to implement major facets of the roadmap, such as the clean energy strategy, currently being developed by the city’s energy division.

Approving the final round of consultations toward the final draft passed council with a 9-0 vote.

Council also voted to increase the budget for the study, compiled by consulting firm WSP, to be expanded to $280,000.

The difference is made up by an $80,000 grant from the climate change adaptation centre from the Alberta Municipalities.

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