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Putting force into Spokane's sustainability

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Posted: Wednesday, April 1, 2009 9:00 pm

While all of America seems to be "going green," the City of Spokane is working to lead the region in a movement toward energy security and climate mitigation. On Monday night, the Mayor's Task Force on Sustainability presented the Spokane City Council with its action plan for environmental conservation.

The 51 specific recommendations for city action were the culmination of a year of research and planning by the task force, which is composed of 13 citizens from the Spokane community. The specific recommendations in the action plan are proactive steps meant to protect Spokane from the economic and social challenges presented by climate change. Chair of the task force, Roger Woodworth, presented the recommendations to City Council for further consideration.

The overall goal of the action plan, Woodworth explained, is to improve the city's responsibility for the environment.

"By striving for good stewardship in all things, the city can be better," Woodworth said.

Members of the City Council and the public were asked to comment on the action plan on Monday night, although City Council President Joe Shogan made it clear that these are just recommendations and that the plan has not been put into action yet.

The specific recommendations that Woodworth presented to the City Council include promoting clean mobility and conserving water.

The City of Spokane has already been working toward these goals in recent years, but Councilman Richard Rush told Woodworth that the recommendations are still very helpful.

Rush said that the action plan, "Reinforces what we're already doing."

At Monday's meeting, City Council members discussed a resolution to promote clean mobility by updating the Spokane Transit Authority bus fleet. With the help of federal funding, the STA has begun replacing its standard diesel buses with hybrid electric buses.

Shogan explained that the new hybrid diesel-electric buses use 20 percent less fuel and produce 352 fewer tons of carbon dioxide than standard diesel buses throughout their lifespan.

Woodworth said that the task force recognized the work that the STA has already done to provide environmentally friendly modes of transportation. To encourage STA in its efforts, the task force will "stay tuned in and support where it makes sense," Woodworth said.

Increasing the use of "purple water" was one of the specific ways that the task force is attempting to encourage water conservation. Water referred to as "purple water," has not been filtered enough to be drinkable by humans, but can be used to water grass and for landscaping.

Woodworth said that there is one golf course in Spokane that has already been using "purple water," and the task force recommends that it be used more widely. Federal stimulus money could be used to build more "purple pipes" in Spokane. Other recommendations of the task force include encouraging small businesses and green businesses, along with compact communities for optimal land use, Woodworth said.

The Task Force on Sustainability was created in 2007 as the result of a grant from the Washington State Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development. The City of Spokane was awarded $75,000 for one year to create a strategic action plan that will help the city to improve its environmental stewardship.

Woodworth said that the action plan presented to the City Council on Monday has room for expansion and improvement. Some members of the task force, who come from a variety of businesses and universities in Spokane, will continue to work with the city toward the implementation of the plan.

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