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County steps up for climate challenge

Provincial program aims to protect infrastructure
WEB Sturgeon County file
Sturgeon County will receive support from a climate program that will provide the county with up to 650 hours of support to create a climate risk assessment and adaptation plan. FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

Sturgeon County will get some free help from a municipal agency to prepare itself for the challenge of climate change.

County council voted 5-1 (Coun. Matthew McLennan opposed) to have administration work with the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre (MCCAC) to identify climate-change impacts to the county and leverage cost-effective solutions to address them.

Council has previously worked with MCCAC to get grants for solar panels atop the Sturgeon Valley fire hall and an energy-efficiency expert, said county chief operations officer Scott MacDougall. He noted how Sturgeon County suffered $8 million in damages in 2020 due to a one-in-100-year flood and declared an agricultural state of disaster this past summer due to extreme drought.

“Extreme weather events are happening more frequently and with more devastating effect,” MacDougall said, with massive fires and floods in B.C. disrupting supply chains and destroying entire communities.

Sturgeon County was one of two successful applicants for MCCAC’s Climate Adaptation Challenge Capacity Building program, MacDougall said. Under it, the county will get up to 650 hours of support to create a climate risk assessment and adaptation plan, one that will identify risks and opportunities, project future impacts, and prioritize actions to reduce said impacts. The program will come at no direct cost to the county apart from staff time.

“We want to ensure our infrastructure is built properly,” MacDougall said, particularly when it comes to addressing flood risks.

Councillors such as Dan Derouin favoured taking part in the program.

“Climate change is here,” Derouin said, as is evident with the many fires and floods now seen in B.C., and this plan will help the county prevent future floods.

Coun. Neal Comeau said this plan could reduce the county’s carbon footprint, while Coun. Kristin Toms discussed how it could identify new economic opportunities.

McLennan called himself an “environmentalist” but said he found the term climate change “problematic” and would not support this motion so long as that term was in it.

Mayor Alanna Hnatiw said this program aligns with the county’s commitment to environmental leadership and actions it is already taking on flood prevention.

“Politics is one thing, but getting things done is another,” she said.

“We are experiencing a change in our lifetime, and this is adapting to that change.”

Council is set to receive updates on the plan’s progress throughout next year.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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