Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lincoln City to go carbon neutral

Another Oregon city getting ahead of its capital city ...

Lincoln City moves to become carbon neutral

Saying the reward greatly outweighs the risk, the Lincoln City Council voted Monday to approve commitment of $10,000 in support of the Salmon River/Drift Creek Watershed Project in keeping with the city's desire to become Oregon's first carbon-neutral city.

"This is not budgeted, but I believe we can afford it and can change the budget accordingly," City Manager David Hawker said of a proposal made in May by Duncan Berry, vice-president of the Westwind Stewardship Group, which manages the 500-acre Westwind conservation area north of Otis. "I believe the project shows great promise, and it is something we should support."

In its letter of intent, the city said its goal with involvement in the Carbon Co-op of Otis would be "to determine its rough carbon emissions and those of the larger community, as well as visitors to our city in order to find ways to sequester or mitigate this carbon locally within our own watersheds."

The aim of the co-op is the conservation of energy and the pursuit of carbon mitigation strategies that improve the natural systems in the Salmon/Drift Creek and Neskowin/Hawk Creek watersheds. The co-op ultimately intends to pursue four basic strategies to accomplish that goal: education, conservation, carbon mitigation and carbon sequestration.

The co-op, in conjunction with Ecotrust, a nonprofit Portland-based ecosystem group, would identify property owners of at least 20 forested acres with a mature tree stand of at least 30 years who would benefit financially by delaying or altering plans to harvest of their land.

Among other things, the Salmon River project intends to complete a carbon assessment of the area and determine what the current carbon stock per major landowner is; what the projected carbon stock over the next 100 years might be under current management regimes; how carbon stock would change over time under various scenarios of permanent protection and extended rotations to different landowners; and how many sequestered tons of carbon dioxide that would generate.

"The project is not highly defined, and $10,000 is a lot of money since it has an uncertain degree of risk. I don't know how successful it will be, but the payoff is quite substantial in several areas," Hawker said. "Considering the risk and considering the payoff, it is well worth the expenditure ... like any new and unique endeavor, the degree of success can't be predicted. We will get few better opportunities to explore a significant step forward."

Councilors agreed with Hawker's assessment.

"It shows enormous potential," councilor Rick Brissette said. "Just the idea that Lincoln City can become a zero-carbon community someday is just phenomenal.

"It's become a huge issue and a tourism-related issue now all over the country, with people only wanting to visit sustainable and environmentally sound communities on their vacations."

In separate but related action, the council unanimously voted to impose upon itself a sustainability policy to promote construction of public buildings and facilities that are environmentally responsible and healthy buildings in which to work.

The policy, which imposes upon the city measures to incorporate green building principles and practices in the design, construction and operations of all new and renovated buildings, is expected to yield long-term cost savings to taxpayers.

Saying, "Let's kick it up a notch," the council also heard from resident Jim Daniels, a member of the Lincoln City Planning Commission, urging it to adopt green building policies for residential construction as well as public.

"I say we go a step further by including an ordinance that also would include residential construction," said Daniels, who proposed a carbon fee such as one implemented in Ashland that would be refunded to contractors who build green upon completion of their projects under certain standards such as Earth Advantage, which certifies buildings with at least a 15 percent increase in energy savings.

"If we're going to be carbon neutral, let's become carbon neutral residential as well," he said. "The reason for that is there is more residential construction than commercial construction."

Daniels cited figures saying 39 percent of all environmental carbon emissions come from homes and that certified buildings outperform non-certified buildings by 30 percent, with an energy savings of up to 50 percent.

"That's significant for this city we live in to become carbon neutral," said Daniels, who also mentioned LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and the Green Building Initiative as significant programs in certifying, measuring and quantifying green building standards.

He said other items to consider along green building certification were mandatory recycling of all leftover construction materials and involvement in Pacific Power's Blue Sky renewable energy program.

He said the city and its leaders should initiate, and then be cited for requiring builders to use local materials to reduce travel and suggested faster granting of permits for builders who agree to green building practices.

"More and more people are interested in sustainable design. It's become a big buzz word, but it needs to become more than just a buzz word," said Daniels, who also proposed tax incentives and rebates to those who built to green standards.

"The builder doesn't necessarily see a profit by building green, the owner does by giving back to the community a house that uses less energy and has less carbon emissions," he said. "But it's to the builder's advantage because he gets the market share, a substantial one if you look at the statistics, but it's the homeowner one who really benefits. The city benefits as well because we have a healthier city to live in as more and more people meet these standards."

Councilors also heard from Julie Sexton, a member of the Preservation Association of Devils Lake, who has volunteered, along with her husband, Bill, of Bill X Sexton Construction in Otis, to install a watercraft rinse station at Regatta Grounds and, if successful, Holmes Road Park.

"It's a project we feel is of great need, and we want to move forward to keep out invasive species," she said. "We want to do that with what we'd prefer to call a watercraft rinse station, opposed to boat wash station, so that people don't feel they can wash their boats there with suds and stuff but rinse off their trailers, boats and motors before and after launching."

Sexton, with support from Parks and Recreation Director Ron Ploger, said they would return with a more precise conceptual plan for the station. Additional grading will be needed and designs made for infiltration to the sewer system, Ploger said.

"All the agencies I've talked to felt all "Yeah, yeah, yeah!" about it, but, unfortunately, it's not in their budgets," Sexton said.

The council expressed its approval of Sexton's efforts to aid in the preservation of the lake's water quality and wildlife.

"I think that if you've been reading the articles in the papers about the invasive species you will find this project worthwhile and well in our interest to work to stay ahead of the game," Councilman Ed Kuntz said.

How the New Reality Plays for School Budgets

Three stories about schools struggling with their past--as in the past where they built schools that are not sustainable and that depend greatly on abundant cheap energy. The typical school today is far too large and far too distant from its students, necessitating an expensive and wasteful cycle of nasty diesel powered bus travel and parents hauling kids back and forth.

Salem-Keizer Schools are planning an expensive bond this fall, supposedly to make up for failures to maintain the facilities that the district already owns. But nothing I've heard suggests that the school board recognizes that, as far as energy is concerned, this isn't a temporary blip -- this is the new reality, and that the suburban mega-school model isn't going to cut it any more.