Photo courtesy Alaska Wildland Fire Information                                The Swan Lake Fire can be seen from above Aug. 26 on Kenai Peninsula.

Photo courtesy Alaska Wildland Fire Information The Swan Lake Fire can be seen from above Aug. 26 on Kenai Peninsula.

Residents urge for climate action plan inclusion in borough comprehensive plan

The 2019 Kenai Peninsula Borough Comprehensive Plan final draft has been released and residents are calling on the assembly to maintain the plan’s recommendation for a climate action plan that includes local climate adaptation and mitigation measures.

The comprehensive plan is for the systematic and organized development of the borough and is updated to reflect changing conditions, trends, laws, regulations and policies, according to the ordinance asking the assembly to approve the 2019 comprehensive plan.

The last Kenai Peninsula Borough Comprehensive Plan was updated in 2005. The social, economic and environmental conditions of the Kenai Peninsula Borough have changed over the past 14 years, the ordinance said.

The comprehensive plan includes details on how climate change may impact the borough and strategies the borough can implement to combat and adapt to warming climate impacts.

The assembly has already received public comment in support of the climate action plan’s inclusion, including two public comments at the Oct. 8 assembly meeting and 10 letters sent to the borough asking to “protect our future.” The letters encourage a climate action plan that includes adaptation measures, renewable energy strategies and a carbon footprint reduction.

The cities of Seldovia and Soldotna also have resolutions on their city council agendas supporting the inclusion of a climate action plan in the borough’s comprehensive plan.

“While not everyone agrees on the causes of climate change, there is no doubt that Alaska is seeing significant and accelerating changes in temperatures, precipitation, storm events and Habitats,” the comprehensive plan said. “More work is needed to assess the specific nature and anticipated pace and intensity of these changes, and possible adaptation strategies. Some of these changes will likely be negative, like increased wildfire and flooding hazards; others may be positive, like expanding seasons for agriculture. The Borough has a large role to play in the planning for and response to climate change-related impacts on existing and future public infrastructures.”

Known impacts to the borough include warmer temperatures, unpredictable and more severe weather particularly along the coasts, later winter freezing and earlier spring thawing, increased risks of flooding and erosion, increased risk of fire due to receiving less rain, and threats to vegetation by invasive species, and environmental shifts that change behavior patterns and availability of resources for native plants and wildlife, the comprehensive plan said.

Planning department staff and the comprehensive plan consulting team have been working on the comprehensive plan document for over two years, a Sept. 26 memo from planner Bruce Wall to Mayor Charlie Pierce said.

Throughout 2017, over 2,000 residents shared their ideas with the planning commission and comprehensive plan consulting team, Agnew Beck, who was hired in February 2017 team to assist with the project, the memo said. The team conducted more than 50 interviews and small group discussions with local organizations, they conducted a random sample telephone survey of 600 households within the borough and had a booth or other presence at 20 public events in the borough, the memo said.

On Sept. 23, the planning commission approved the comprehensive plan document and recommended its adoption by the assembly.

At the Nov. 5 assembly meeting, there will be a public hearing and the assembly will vote on the plan’s approval.

Jeff Helminiak / Peninsula Clarion                                Areas burned by the Swan Lake Fire can be seen from Vista Trail at Upper Skilak Campground.

Jeff Helminiak / Peninsula Clarion Areas burned by the Swan Lake Fire can be seen from Vista Trail at Upper Skilak Campground.

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