The borough assembly voted to establish a commission on climate resilience and security on Tuesday without much opposition.
The commission will be advisory and include nine members with experience in at least one of the commission’s areas of focus representing the various regions of the peninsula. They will recommend policies for the borough on items like reducing waste going to the landfill, improving energy efficiency, increasing local use of renewable energy, and improving food security, among other areas. The commission will meet once per month and collaborate with the borough, utilities, communities, and other entities to adapt or mitigate significant changes to the environment, according to the ordinance.
The commission came from a combination of grassroots efforts and a recommendation in the borough’s 2019 comprehensive plan. During the Tuesday meeting, the assembly heard more than a dozen people testify supporting it, with reasons ranging from food security to wildlife and tourism.
For Sue Mauger, a fisheries scientist with Cook Inletkeeper, it’s a matter of urgency. Last summer’s soaring temperatures pushed into the streams, and she recorded water temperatures in line with predictions for fifty years from now. That’s bad for fish, and it’s not the only impact peninsula residents are feeling.
“As a reminder, in just the last 12 months, borough residents have health with wildfire related highway closures, extreme drought designations, drinking water shortages, the collapse of local and state economies, and a global health emergency, just in the last 12 months,” she said. “…We will experience all these things again. When it unclear, but their inevitability is certain. As I see it, the goal of this commission would be to provide tools and solutions and resiliency in the face of this certainty.”
For Hannah LeFleur of Seward, it’s a matter of future business. LeFleur is the operations manager at Kayak Adventures Worldwide in Seward and is part of the Seward Wilderness Collective, both of which depend on intact ecosystems to attract tourists.
“Tourists visit to experience our wild places, they’re here to see our wildlife, fish for salmon, and enjoy the outdoors in so many other ways,” she said. “The common theme is all of these visitors and all the related spending, and in my case, my livelihood and those of many other tour operators on the peninsula, rely on our ability to manage these resources from clean water to clean air through road construction and landfill use. The resilience and security commission will help safeguard all of the fragile systems that we as Alaskans and our visitors rely on.”
The ordinance, sponsored by assembly members Tyson Cox, Willy Dunne and Hal Smalley and assembly president Kelly Cooper, also received support from city councils in all the major cities of the borough and the Planning Commission. Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce said…