Soldotna planning ahead for climate change

May 19, 2020

The city of Soldotna is working toward a more ecologically prepared future. The council passed two measures at its May 13 meeting meant to help plan for and mitigate impacts due to climate change.

The first is agreeing to participate in a climate action planning cohort with the University of Alaska and other partners. Dr. Micah Hahn, with the University of Alaska Anchorage, explained the program.

The plans involve looking at historic climate data and future climate models, identifying potential impacts of climate change and doing an inventory of a city’s greenhouse gas emissions. Then using that baseline data to develop and prioritize resilience strategies, looking for opportunities to become more energy efficient, coming up with a framework to monitor progress and updating the plan to make sure it stays relevant.

She’s been working to develop a plan with Anchorage for the last couple of years and realized the process could be shared with other cities.

“We had several communities from around the state contact us to say, ‘You know, we’ve been talking about the same thing. We would really like to do this, as well. We want to look at both our climate vulnerabilities but also opportunities for mitigation of greenhouse gasses that can save us money and really make our energy use more efficient in our communities. How can we do this?’” Hahn said.

Hahn is looking for cities to go through the process together. Each plan will be different, based on the situations and priorities of each community, but the basic steps will be similar.

“So this cohort is basically a way for communities to be working on this process at the same time and to receive technical support while also having an opportunity for personal, one-on-one guidance on the topics that are important in their particular community. And, really, at the end of the day, it’s a cost-savings measure," Hahn said.

Participating communities could get $10,000 to $15,000 in grant funding to use however they like in the process — getting climate data or doing market research, for instance. Technical support from the university would be free. 

Homer, Seward, Juneau and Fairbanks have indicated their willingness to participate if grant funding is secured. Kenai is being approached, as well.

Councilman Jordan Chilson brought the measure to the council.

“I really think it’s critical that we start planning now because this is happening, whether or not you embrace it, and we need to be able to adapt as a city and continue to offer the quality of life that we do to our community,” Chilson said. 

The council voted unanimously to write a letter of support, with Councilwoman Lisa Parker abstaining, as she is on the University of Alaska Board of Regents.

The council also approved a resolution supporting an ordinance before the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly establishing a Resilience and Security Advisory Commission. The commission would look into ways of mitigating climate change hazards, investing in local agriculture, improving energy efficiency, reducing solid waste, protecting fish and wildlife habitats and pursing clean, local sources of energy.

Council support was unanimous on this one, as well. The borough ordinance is scheduled for a hearing at the assembly’s June 2 meeting.