Proposal for a Borough Sustainable Resources Commission

This is a community proposal that needs your support.

Go here to sign a petition in support of this proposal and to give your suggestions.

Why form a Commission? 

The Kenai meteorological station records a 2.9ºF/50y increase in mean annual temperature since the mid-1940's, and Homer records a 3.9ºF/50y increase in the same period.

Over the past half-century, annual available water on the western Kenai Peninsula has declined 55%, according to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. In 2019 Kenai Peninsula communities experienced severe drought and the Kenai Peninsula Borough declared an emergency disaster on behalf of Seldovia and Nanwalek due to severe water shortages.

Significant warming trends in our rivers and ocean are beginning to harm tourism, subsistence, sport, and commercial fisheries. Water temperatures in nonglacial Cook Inlet streams are exceeding physiological thresholds for salmon in the summer months according to Cook Inletkeeper, and in 2019 warm water conditions caused high rates of prespawn mortality of salmon across the state. NOAA has determined that a recent series of collapses in Pacific Cod fisheries are linked to warming ocean conditions, and these same warming ocean conditions appear to be harming salmon survival. Warming of nearshore waters are increasing the rate of harmful algal blooms, such as PSP, hurting the mariculture industry. Ocean acidification will continue to damage vital nurseries for many fish stocks in Kachemak Bay and Cook Inlet, according to the National Estuarine Research Reserve.

According to USDA, Forest Service, current winter trends indicate that the southern Kenai Peninsula will lose 10-20% of its snowpack by 2030-2059, which threatens winter tourism, recreation, as well as fish and wildlife that are at the center of our culture and economies. As winters warm, private property values are threatened by increased instances of flash flooding, which results in erosion and bluff instability, according to new research by the University of Alberta. According to the Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, erosion rates on the eastern shores of Cook Inlet are 1 foot per year, and 2.3 feet per year on the western Homer area.

The Alaska Division of Forestry recently changed the official start date of the statewide fire season from May 1 to April 1.

There is a projected 66-percent increase in the estimated value of human structures (e.g. homes, businesses) that are at risk of fire in the next half century on the Kenai Peninsula, according to the Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment for the Chugach National Forest and the Kenai Peninsula.

According to the Anchorage Daily News, the 2019 Swan Lake Fire on the Kenai Peninsula was far and away the most expensive fire in the country at an estimated cost to fight of $46 million; this estimate does not include heavy losses to tourism revenue, losses to private property, or significant losses associated with repair of roads or power lines. A study in Climatic Change estimates that costs due to increased wildfires across Alaska are $1.1 to $2.1 billion annually from 2006 through the end of the century.

The Caribou Hills was the epicenter of a spruce bark beetle outbreak that eventually killed about 1 million acres of Sitka, white and Lutz spruce on the Kenai Peninsula from the mid-1980s through the1990s, sustained by consecutive summers of above-average temperatures, according to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Also according to the refuge. spruce bark beetle’s range is expanding as the state warms, and the scale of outbreaks is increasing.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has determined that the effects of the changing climate are “beginning to impact Alaska’s natural systems and the uses they sustain.”  

A sustainable resource commission is needed to guide and support the borough’s programmatic responses to these challenges and to implement comprehensive strategic planning to mitigate known hazards, adapt to significant changes, and modernize and diversify our energy sector.

The Borough Comprehensive Plan outlines strategies for renewable energy: “Encouraging development or adoption of renewable energy systems increases capacity for residents, businesses and institutions in the borough to diversify the energy grid and potentially lower energy costs over the long term.” It also says that the borough plans to “Investigate the feasibility of revenue generation using gas produced at the landfill at local energy producing facilities.”

In 2020, city councils across the borough passed resolutions in support of the establishment of a commission to develop strategic responses to warming trends in our environment for the protection of public safety and welfare.

A sustainable resources commission supports the ongoing work within the borough to improve energy and climate security through such projects as Bradley and Grant Lake hydroelectric, the Soldotna landfill gas energy project; the Kenai Peninsula Agriculture Initiative; the installation of electric vehicle charging stations; the banning of single-use plastic bags in Soldotna, Kenai and Homer; the development of regional building efficiency standards by the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation; the development of the borough All-Hazard Mitigation Plan; the creation of climate action plans by the cities of of Homer and Seward; as well as the ongoing monitoring of climate changes on the peninsula by such institutions as the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and the University of Alaska.

It is in KPB’s interest to implement policies that mitigate against known hazards, invest in local agriculture, improve the efficiency of buildings and transportation, reduce solid waste, protect habitats of fish and wildlife, and invest in modern, clean, local sources of energy. These policies will have additional benefits for residents, including cost savings, job creation, bolstering self reliance, increased economic stability through market diversification, greater protection of public natural resources, and better public health outcomes.

Investments in hazard mitigation, energy efficiency, grid diversification, food security, and waste reduction generally pay for themselves and create long-term jobs.

Financial and technical support for the commission is available through numerous public and private institutions who support sustainable community and resource development.

For these reasons, we propose the borough establish the Kenai Peninsula Borough Sustainable Resources Commission.

Suggested Format includes–

Purpose and Scope. The commission promotes the economic stability, safety, self-reliance and wellbeing of the inhabitants of the Kenai Peninsula Borough while maintaining the ability of future generations to do the same.

The scope of the sustainable resource commission includes:

1. Divert materials that would otherwise be discarded in landfills within the borough to extend the lifetime of landfills and save taxpayer dollars;
2. Improve cost and energy efficiency of buildings and transportation;
3. Increase use of local, clean energy to (a) modernize electricity generation, storage and distribution; (b) increase energy independence; (c) diversify the grid and reduce supply volatility;
4. Support hazard mitigation planning that accounts for changing environmental conditions on the peninsula;
5. Improve food security through support of local agriculture, protection of the ecological integrity of fish and wildlife habitat, protection of water resources, and other means;
6. Conduct cost-benefit analyses of sustainable resource initiatives;
7. Educate, engage and communicate with borough communities on sustainable resource initiatives;
8. Seek funding to support the work of commission;
9. Other similar efforts focused protection on our natural resources, economy, security and wellbeing.

Duties. The duties of the commission are as follows:

A. Collaborate with borough staff, communities, utilities, agencies, universities, and the private sector to lead the development and modification of strategic planning to mitigate and adapt to significant changes in our environment;
B. Develop programmatic strategies for sustainable development that anticipate, adapt to, and mitigate against changes in our natural systems;
C. Collaborate with utility cooperatives to conduct energy assessments, evaluate borough investments in the energy sector, and diversify energy portfolios.  
D. Conduct cost-benefit analysis of Borough investments in sustainable resource management.
E. Lead implementation of strategies through continued collaboration with the mayor, assembly, staff, agencies, utilities, universities, the private sector, and communities;
F. Provide metrics for monitoring progress toward meeting goals, and report annually to the mayor and assembly at the end of January on the progress made for the previous year along with recommendations on how to support or improve those efforts;
G. Engage borough communities and stakeholders through collaboration, education, and outreach;
H. Make recommendations to the mayor on public purpose grants that promote sustainability goals of the borough.

Memberships. The sustainable resources commission shall consist of nine voting members appointed by the assembly.

Appointed members shall have experience in at least one of the nine areas defining the scope of the commission

and shall serve overlapping three-year terms for no more than two consecutive terms.

Appointments shall include one member from each first class or home rule city of the borough. The first class or home rule cities of the borough are:

  1. Kenai
  2. Soldotna
  3. Seward
  4. Homer
  5. Seldovia

Sustainability commissioners from outside of first class and home rule cities shall be appointed by the assembly from each of the following geographic areas as generally described below, following Ordinance 2001-29:

  1. East Peninsula;
  2. Southwest Borough;
  3. Anchor Point/Ninilchik/Kasilof/Clam Gulch;
  4. Kalifornsky Beach
  5. Ridgeway;
  6. Sterling;
  7. Northwest Borough.
In addition, the assembly shall appoint and two non-voting youth members.

Youth members shall serve one-year terms.

Officers. A chairman and vice-chairman of the commission shall be selected annually from and by the appointed members of the commission.

Liaisons. The Mayor shall designate a staff liaison to the commission to publicize minutes, make recommendations, etc. The Assembly shall appoint a liaison to make recommendations.

Liaison seats for a representative from the Homer Electric Association, Chugach Electric Association, and the Seward Electric Department shall be available, though are not required to be filled, to provide maximum coordination between the energy priorities of the borough and power providers.

The liaisons shall not have the power to vote and shall not be counted in determining whether a quorum of the commission is present.

Meetings. Meetings shall occur once a month at rotating locations in the first class or home-rule cities.

Duration. The commission shall have an indefinite duration.

Plan preparation and personnel employment authority—Expenses. The commission shall prepare plans for the systematic development and betterment of the borough as a place of residence or for business. It may employ engineers, attorneys, clerks and a secretary, or other personnel considered necessary, subject to the approval of the assembly. The assembly shall fix the compensation of persons employed by the commission. The compensation and necessary expenses of the planning commission shall be paid out of the borough treasury in the same manner as other expenses of the borough government, within the limits of appropriations by the assembly for that purpose. In no event may the sustainable resources commission be authorized to create a deficiency.

Investigation and recommendation authority. The sustainable resources commission may consider and investigate subject matter tending to the development and betterment of the borough and make recommendations as it considers advisable to any department of the borough government and to the assembly. The commission may make or have made energy assessments, surveys, maps or plans.

Compensation and travel expenses.

  1. Duly appointed, confirmed and qualified official members of the commission shall be compensated monthly at the rate of $125.00 per regular or special meeting attended.
  2. Commissioners shall receive an allowance of $150.00 per month for use of their personal vehicle on borough business and shall be reimbursed for mileage at the current IRS rate for attendance at planning commission meetings, scheduled workshops or committee meetings and other trips as authorized by the commission chairman.
Go here to sign a petition in support of this proposal and to give suggestions.

Click here for document on climate changes that includes links to sources.