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Castlegar chosen for regional climate change initiative

Columbia Basin Trust’s (CBT) leading-edge initiative, Communities Adapting to Climate Change, is wrapping up Phase 1 with two communities in the Columbia Basin now equipped with action plans on how to adapt to impacts of climate change at a local level...and three more ready to get started on new work, including Castlegar.

“After months of community and scientific input, the first two communities to participate in CBT’s Communities Adapting to Climate Change Initiative have completed climate change adaptation strategies,” said Kindy Gosal, CBT Director, Water and Environment. “This planning process has increased their ability to prepare for and adapt to changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, which will increase the community’s resilience to expected climate change impacts.”

Science-based analysis and modelling, done by the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, provided the communities with local information on changing temperatures, precipitation patterns, glacial recession, and changing stream and river flows.

“Climate change is real. How it is occurring is not the issue,” said Jim Ogilvie, Mayor of Kimberley. “The effects need to be looked at and addressed.”

Residents in both the City of Kimberley and the District of Elkford confirmed the climate change science with their own observed changes such as warmer summers, longer growing seasons, changes in local water levels, and new bird species that were not seen locally until recently.

“If you are aware of the changes happening already and that will continue into the future, you can adapt to them. If you anticipate, for example, that wildfires or flooding may occur, you can take steps now to address them,” said Gosal.

In Kimberley, a community-based process that started in May 2008 identified three priorities for climate change adaptation planning: 1) water and forests, 2) municipal infrastructure, and 3) tourism. Specific actions were developed to address a range of vulnerabilities for each priority. For example, recommendations to protect local water supplies in the case of fire or drought were developed. Recommendations were also developed to protect homes and municipal infrastructure from the risk of floods. Kimberley’s elected officials are currently reviewing recommendations for action.

“Many of the recommendations will help inform Kimberley’s Official Community Plan review and renewal,” said Ingrid Liepa, Local Coordinator.

In the District of Elkford, community members, stakeholders and elected officials went through a similar process that increased awareness about local climate change impacts, identified vulnerabilities, and set priorities.

“We used the best available science and combined it with community input and focused on three priority areas: wildfire, flooding and water supply,” said Dean McKerracher, Mayor of Elkford. “These are the areas where Elkford is most vulnerable to local climate change impacts and that are of the most concern to community members in terms of community safety and wellness.”

Kimberley City council will receive a full presentation on their report, Adapting to Climate Change in Kimberley, BC. A climate change adaptation strategy has also been delivered to the District of Elkford and will be integrated into a new Official Community Plan (OCP) expected this fall. This will make Elkford the first community in BC to integrate climate change adaptation planning into an OCP.

Now that successful pilot adaptation planning processes have been completed with two communities, CBT is moving forward with Phase 2 with the communities of Rossland, Castlegar, and Kaslo in partnership with RDCK. Local governments across the Basin are invited to participate in a free climate change adaptation workshop hosted by CBT in Nelson on October 14, 2009 (www.cbt.org/workshop).

“The Communities Adapting to Climate Change Initiative is a great example of how CBT works with local communities across the Columbia Basin to help them address their priority issues,” said Gosal. “It’s also one of several ways in which CBT is taking action on climate change.”

In addition to this initiative, CBT is taking the lead and working with a range of partners to:

* increase Basin residents awareness of local climate change impacts;
* provide credible, science-based information on expected local changes in temperature and precipitation; and
* support local governments, municipalities and First Nations to reduce their emissions through a multi-year mitigation effort.

Find out more about CBT’s climate change work at www.cbt.org/climatechange, and watch The Source for more information on Castlegar's participation, which centres around storm water.