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Tag: Tristan Walker

Presenter stands to the left of crowd viewing screen at open house

Pincher Creek climate risks and adaptations

Jeff Zukiwsky, project manager for the Climate Risk Assessment and Adaptation Plan, addressed regional climate projections and risks for the Pincher Creek area along with projected costs of climate events versus the cost and benefits of adaptation measures at a June 28 open house.

Results presented focused on climate-change risks facing Pincher Creek, how these risks could affect the community, risks to prioritize and how to adapt to those risks.

The main risks identified, based on likelihood and potential consequences, include flooding, wildfire, drought, water shortage, extreme heat, loss of winter recreation and wildfire smoke.

About 20 people turned out to hear Zukiwsky speak about steps taken in developing the plan, adaptation measures identified and the economic analysis of doing nothing.

The action plan contains 35 recommended climate adaptation actions, listed under five categories: health and well-being, disaster resilience, infrastructure, parks and environment, and economy. 

According to the report, while climate change is expected to bring some economic benefits to the Pincher Creek region, the total economic impact is projected to be overwhelmingly negative. 

Under the high future climate scenario, it is anticipated that climate change will lead to economic losses estimated at $18.3 million and $32.8 million (in 2020 dollars) per year, on average, by the 2050s and 2080s, respectively.

Those who attended the open house were given the opportunity to provide feedback, ask questions and talk with those involved in the project. 

Based on the reactions, comments and questions, Tristan Walker, municipal energy project lead, feels the crowd was on board with the plan as presented.

 

 

“The positive feedback sets us up to pursue adaptation measures and stay ahead of climate change, as opposed to reacting to it,” he says. 

“This is an opportunity to invest in our future and to leverage this plan as a tool to pursue funding to go forward with some of these adaptation measures.”

For Walker, a major takeaway was hearing about a lack of trust in the town and MD’s community engagement processes, as a number of residents expressed disgruntlement with past attempts to engage the community in various decisions and actions.

They made it clear that, in the past, they felt ignored when called upon for similar community engagement due to a lack of action taken based on their comments, suggestions and requests. 

“A big part of this is going to be us rebuilding that trust and saying, look, we really do value your input, and we’re working hard to implement these things within the scope of our responsibilities,” says Walker.

The Climate Risk Assessment and Adaptation Plan was collaboratively prepared by the Town and MD of Pincher Creek, the Piikani Nation and a consulting team led by All One Sky Foundation.

The Climate Risk Assessment and Adaptation Plan report contains a complete list of recommended actions. The costs of inaction and a full economic analysis of climate risks are also highlighted in the full report. 

Funding for this project was provided by the Municipal Climate Change Action Centre’s Climate Resilience and Capacity Building Program. The Municipal Climate Change Action Centre is a partnership of Alberta Municipalities, Rural Municipalities of Alberta, and the Government of Alberta.

Residents with questions or comments are encouraged to email Tristan Walker.

Energy efficiency checklist with colours from green to red

Clean energy programs need a reboot to satisfy provincial legislation

Pincher Creek’s town and MD councils are redoing their clean energy improvement bylaws owing to a legislative technicality, according to their energy project lead, Tristan Walker. 

Both councils must rescind their bylaws, passed by town council last August and MD council last October, and then go through the bylaw process a second time. 

The original bylaws set eligibility criteria for property owners looking to finance energy improvements to their homes and businesses through Alberta Municipalities’ Clean Energy Improvement Program. 

 

Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River in southwestern Alberta

 

What’s the CEIP and who pays for it? 

Eligible property owners can apply for loans from participating municipalities and then pay off the loans in instalments tacked onto their property taxes. Under the terms of the program, the loans would be tied to qualifying owners’ properties rather than the owners themselves.  

If passed a second time, the CEIP bylaws would authorize a $2.1-million, four-year program, after which Walker said both councils could decide to continue the program. 

Walker was applying for $1.7 million in loan and grant funding for the program when he realized the town and MD had tripped on a legislative snag in Alberta’s Municipal Government Act. 

Neither municipality put its CEIP bylaw to a public hearing as required by the MGA, according to Walker’s March 30 report to MD council’s April 11 agenda.

 

 

CEIP bylaws get a mulligan

MD council voted April 11 to rescind its 2022 CEIP bylaw, after which it gave  first reading to the new bylaw. Walker said council was tentatively set to host the requisite public hearing at its last regular meeting in May. 

Town council is due to rescind its CEIP bylaw at chambers April 24, after which council will put its new bylaw to a public hearing. 

If both councils re-pass their bylaws and Walker’s loan and grant applications are successful, the remaining $400,000 in available CEIP loans would be available to qualifying owners at no cost to the town or MD. 

Walker said the town and MD would encourage eligible property owners to put their CEIP loans towards structural upgrades like energy-efficient windows and insulation, new and more energy-efficient furnaces, etc., before supplementing their energy needs with solar panelling. 

The town and MD have yet to finalize a cost-sharing agreement, but Walker said the respective councils were eyeing a 50-50 split. 

With files from Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Shootin’ the Breeze.

Man speaks into a microphone while referring to results of a climate risk study projected on the wall

Climate impact assessment results presented at open house

Last Thursday, the Town and MD of Pincher Creek hosted an open house to share the results of their climate risk assessment and to inform the community of climate projections and potential risks facing the region. 

The goal was to share the results with locals and obtain feedback on the risks that were identified, as well as adaptation measures for those risks. Feedback will be used to help develop a climate adaptation plan for the area.

According to Tristan Walker, municipal energy project lead for Pincher Creek, the open house was a great success.

“There is a wealth of knowledge within our community, and to develop these plans to the best of their ability, I think we need to be taking advantage of the knowledge that is within the community,” he says.

The open house began with a presentation of the findings from the climate risk assessment, including high-risk climate vulnerabilities for the area and climate projections over the course of this century.

Jeff Zukiwsky of All One Sky Foundation explained how climate risks were identified, as well as the evaluation criteria and risk level for each climate risk.

 

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From there, Zukiwsky gave the floor to Dave Sauchyn of the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative. Sauchyn presented climate projections and what they look like within the MD.

Locals posed questions during the presentation portion of the open house before sharing thoughts in more depth during an interactive session that followed. 

Community members were encouraged to share their ideas and opinions, either by talking face-to-face with those involved with the assessment or by submitting written recommendations.

According to Walker, water supply shortage, wildfire smoke and wildfire were among the risks that seemed to concern people the most. In other words, anything to do with fire, flooding and drought.

David McIntyre and Monica Field were among the many area residents who attended the meeting. The pair are pleased with the town and MD’s commitment to pre-emptively addressing the climate risks identified. 

“We care passionately about not only the community today, but the community tomorrow, and we’d like to see some kind of legacy planning done that really saves what we consider to be an incredible landscape at our doorstep,” McIntyre said.

 

 

“It was good and proactive for the MD and the town to be looking at how to adapt to climate change,” added Field.

“Often we’re more inclined to wait for catastrophic weather events and clean them up, rather than trying to develop ways of being more resistant to the damage.”

Like many attending the meeting, Field and McIntyre spoke with presenters and made their own suggestions on how to better adapt to climate risks moving forward.

Both expressed that wildfire and flooding are two of the main risks facing the town and MD, and the pair each had their respective views of how to handle them.

McIntyre noted how reintroducing beavers to creeks and rivers within the MD could significantly help minimize flood risk. The dams would slow the flow of water, in turn delaying and reducing flood peaks farther downstream.

“I see beavers as being colossal with respect to what they can do to bring us back into some state of health,” he said.

 

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While Field agreed with him about beavers, she also addressed the importance of people examining their personal living situations.

“Each of us has to look at our own home and look for risks. We have to as individuals start trying to do what we can to protect our homes,” she said.

The engagement and knowledge from the public is something that the town and MD’s climate resilience team isn’t overlooking. 

“The attendance was above expectations for sure, and super appreciative of everybody that came out,” Walker says. 

He and his team will review the surveys, suggestions, posters and forms submitted and begin moving forward with a climate adaptation plan based on community feedback and their own research.

For more information and updates on the climate adaptation plan, be sure to visit the Town of Pincher Creek and MD of Pincher Creek No. 9 pages on Facebook, or reach out to Tristan Walker  by email.

Mike Peters, a white male with short brown and grey hair, moustache and beard, stands in front of information panels at an Evolugen open house in Pincher Creek,.

Sunrise solar project presented in Pincher Creek

A renewable energy company that plans to build a solar farm in the MD of Pincher Creek hosted community stakeholders Tuesday at an open house in town.

Evolugen, an affiliate of Canadian-based Brookfield Renewable Corp., invited residents within an 800-metre radius of the proposed project one week before the open house on March 28. Company representatives meanwhile had in-person conversations with residents within a 400-metre radius, as per provincial regulations, according to project spokesman Mike Peters.

The proposed Sunrise Solar Project has cleared initial regulatory hurdles at a time when renewable energy projects are proliferating across southwestern Alberta. Evolugen says the project will inject $140 million in local capital spending, but observers, including Rural Municipalities of Alberta president Paul McLauchlin, have cautioned that unrestrained development for renewables could disrupt local food-security networks.

The project aims to generate enough solar electricity to power the equivalent of about 28,500 homes every year, although Peters said the company intends to sell the energy to a corporate buyer through a power purchasing agreement. Evolugen hopes to deliver the juice by installing more than 210,000 photovoltaic cells on 575 acres of privately owned, cultivated land near Highway 507, northwest of town limits.

The landowners intend to raise sheep on-site if the project goes ahead, Peters said. Tristan Walker, energy project lead with the town and MD, said sheep are suited to solar projects because their constant grazing effectively mows grass without kicking up dust or rocks.

 

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Make hay while the sun is shining

Southwestern Alberta is ripe for solar energy due to its prevailing clear skies and its long summer days. The Pincher Creek area is relatively flat, allowing for solar farms on industrial scales.

Peters acknowledged that Sunrise would be a fairly big project, but “it’s certainly not the biggest” in the region.

Walker, who has no involvement with Sunrise or Evolugen, broadly concurred.

“In terms of solar farms, [Sunrise would be] a little bit smaller than a lot of projects that have gone through lately,” especially in Vulcan County to the northeast, he said.

Today’s photovoltaic cells generate power year-round, regardless of temperature, and can be adjusted to resist strong winds, Walker and Peters said.

Snow tends to melt off solar panels, especially because they’re designed to absorb light and heat. Photovoltaics inevitably reflect some glare, and Peters said Evolugen was working on a glare mitigation program for the benefit of local residents and motorists on Highway 507.

The company anticipates that Sunrise could generate about $140 million in local spending, the bulk of which would pay for solar panelling and construction costs, Peters said.

Evolugen would pay municipal taxes to the MD, while the farm would likely support two full-time positions post-construction, Peters said. Renewable energy isn’t subject to Alberta’s royalty scheme for non-renewable energy resources owned by the Crown.

 

 

Who allows the Sunrise? 

The RMA has consistently advocated for rural municipalities who say they want to be more involved in land-use decisions for all energy projects within their jurisdiction, prompting a conciliatory response from the Alberta Utilities Commission, which independently regulates the province’s utilities sector.

Food producers generally oppose fragmenting agricultural land for industrial development, but many producers welcome renewable energy projects on their land for the money the projects bring in.

“It’s obvious that utilizing [renewable] sources of energy is going to be an important part of our energy mix going forward,” the RMA’s McLaughlin told Shootin’ the Breeze shortly after a proposed wind farm near the Waterton Biosphere stirred controversy in Cardston County in mid February.

In determining whether or not utility projects are in the public interest, the AUC “makes land use decisions in rural Alberta, [without] considering incompatible land uses, food security, and other issues,” McLaughlin said.

Alberta Environment and Protected Areas signed off on Evolugen’s baseline environmental study late last year, ruling that Sunrise would pose a “low risk” to local wildlife and wildlife habitat, but provincial regulations don’t require assessments of potential disruptions to food security.

 

 

The AUC adjudicates projects on a case-by-case basis and has not yet ruled on the Sunrise farm. The regulator’s decisions “will prevail” when project approvals conflict with decisions by local governments, according to an FAQ page on the AUC’s website.

“The AUC encourages, appreciates and values municipal involvement and input in its regulatory decision-making process around energy projects and encourages their participation through its application rules,” a home-page bulletin states.

The proposed site falls within an urban fringe where the town and MD are obligated to consult each other on proposed developments, as per their intermunicipal development plan bylaws.

In order to be successful, project proponents would need MD council to rezone the Sunrise site for industrial use through a land-use bylaw amendment, according to Roland Milligan, the MD’s chief administrative officer. The amendment and subsequent permitting decisions would need to be referred to a joint IMDP committee, Milligan explained.

Solar energy doesn’t produce greenhouse gas emissions, but unmitigated heat absorption through solar panelling can fry topsoil to the point where disturbed land can’t support agriculture.

Evolugen hopes to get AUC approval by year’s end.

Evolugen hasn’t scheduled any follow-up public consultations in Pincher Creek or the MD, but Peters said the company will continue to engage stakeholders.

 

 

Liz Dolman, a middle-aged woman with long, straight, blonde hair, sits at a table collecting petition signatures

Borrowing bylaw for curling rink petitioned

A petition circulating in Pincher Creek could upset council’s plan to build a new curling rink, according to an administration report in council’s March 27 agenda. 

The petition, launched by town resident Elizabeth Dolman on March 17, aims to block the passage of a borrowing bylaw for a multi-million-dollar construction loan, pending a referendum on the loan, Dolman told Shootin’ the Breeze

“We don’t have enough information [about the curling rink project],” Dolman said, questioning the potential tax implications and calling for more attention to other civic priorities, namely housing

“Curling is a wonderful thing, … but people can’t move here for jobs because there’s no place to live. The town’s known this for at least 20 years, and they’ve made plans here and there. But they haven’t done anything yet,” she continued. 

 

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The petition is the latest development in a long-running and hotly contentious debate about whether or not to build a new rink and where to build it. 

Whatever might be said of the project, the town’s existing curling rink at 837 Main St. is at the end of its working life, according to structural studies dating back at least to 2008. The rink is run by the Pincher Creek Curling Club, at the club’s expense. The club has around 150 members, roughly evenly split between the town and MD of Pincher Creek, according to outgoing president Glenda Kettles.   

Council on Feb. 13 narrowly passed a resolution to build a new rink at the Community Recreation Centre at 942 Hyde St., to be renamed the CRC and Events Centre if the build goes ahead. The borrowing bylaw, still before council, was given the first of three readings at chambers on Feb. 27. 

Second and third readings are not listed on council’s March 27 agenda. 

 

Pincher Creek holds approximately $3.5 million in debt as of the new year — roughly $1.85 million for the town’s early learning centres and around $1.65 million for Pincher Creek RCMP’s current headquarters at 1369 Hunter St., according to finance director Wendy Catonio

That burden represents just under one quarter of the town’s approximately $15 million allowable debt limit, which the Municipal Government Act caps at 150 per cent of a municipality’s most recent annual revenue. For context, Catonio said the town’s current debt load is unremarkable compared to regional municipalities. 

If passed, the borrowing bylaw would authorize council to take out a loan for up to $4 million in estimated construction costs for the curling rink build. The town would then be obligated to pay down whatever amount it draws on the loan. 

The town has meanwhile applied for a federal grant that could cover up to 60 per cent of the build. Tristan Walker, the town and neighbouring MD’s energy project lead, said he hoped for a decision by the grant funder sometime this summer. 

 

Town council in 2017 committed $1.25 million to match the curling club’s hoped-for grant through the province’s Community Facility Enhancement Program. The CFEP grant didn’t come through, and council has included the $1.25 million commitment in subsequent budgets. 

The $1.25 million was always intended to be financed through a loan rather than the town’s capital reserves, Catonio explained.

Coun. Mark Barber, a longtime supporter of the build, told council last month that the curling club would contribute $200,000 through fundraising efforts, adding that the club would donate its ice plant, which Barber said was worth $500,000. 

Barber also said the MD would probably kick in some money. Reeve Rick Lemire later told the Breeze that MD council discussed that possibility in a joint session with town council, but the MD hasn’t made any financial commitments. 

 

In order to be successful, Dolman’s petition would have to satisfy a number of conditions listed in the MGA.

Petitions to council need signatures from 10 per cent of municipal residents, which amounts to roughly 360 people in Pincher Creek, according to the 2021 census. 

The petition would have to come to Angie Lucas, the town’s new chief administrative officer, no later than March 30. Lucas would then have 45 days to decide if the petition satisfies the Act’s requirements. 

If the petition holds up, council would have to either scrap the curling rink build or put the borrowing bylaw to a town referendum. If the petition fails, council could pass the borrowing bylaw and move ahead with the project, according to Lucas’s latest report to council.  

 

Lucas has recommended that council receive for information an explainer at chambers Monday evening about the petition process.

Few of the project’s vital details have been made public as of Friday afternoon, including a detailed cost estimate, according to an FAQ page on the town’s website.

The curling club owns the existing rink, while the town owns the land on which it sits. There is no plan for what happens at the old curling rink after the building comes down,  nor information about the financial implications for the town and tax implications for residents, the FAQ page explains. 

The curling club did not respond to a request for an interview before Shootin’ the Breeze published this story online on Friday afternoon. 

 

Roughly 170 people had signed Dolman’s petition to that point. Dolman has said she will continue to collect signatures at Ranchland Mall over the weekend. 

Kettles said Friday that the curling club has so far raised around $100,000 toward the new rink.

Group of people in business suits at the base of a large hurdle

Borrowing bylaw for curling rink passes first hurdle

Pincher Creek town council narrowly approved first reading of a $4-million borrowing bylaw to pay for a new curling rink at the Community Recreation Centre at 948 Hyde St. Council then unanimously voted to expand the project in hopes of qualifying for a federal Green and Inclusive Community Buildings grant for up to 60 per cent of the build. 

A second grant could deliver up to $1 million in construction costs, while council has already set aside $1.25 million in its 2023 capital budget.

Council greenlit the new curling rink through a contentious 4-3 split Feb. 13, with councillors voting along the same lines when the borrowing bylaw was put to the test Feb. 27. 

 

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Coun. Mark Barber tabled the borrowing bylaw at chambers, stressing that grant funding and a hoped-for contribution by the MD of Pincher Creek would offset the rink’s $4-million price tag.

Both councils discussed a potential contribution by the MD at a closed meeting last month, but MD council hasn’t decided anything, Reeve Rick Lemire told Shootin’ the Breeze last Thursday. 

“We’re keeping our options open at this point,” he said. 

Mayor Don Anderberg and Couns. Gary Cleland and Wayne Oliver supported Barber’s motion, with Couns. David Green, Sahra Nodge and Brian Wright voting against. 

 

 

Barber and Anderberg cited the town and MD’s joint master recreation plan, which ranked a new curling rink as a third-tier priority in March 2021, based on a survey of around 630 residents. 

The curling club and its estimated 150 members hope to donate $200,000 toward the project, plus an ice plant that Barber said was worth $500,000. 

Anderberg said council has funded new walking trails and has started to address upgrades to the Memorial Community Centre arena at 867 Main St., which survey respondents listed as first- and second-tier priorities.

The mayor’s comment drew jeers from residents in attendance, to which Anderberg replied, “I believe the survey was accurate and that it was done for a purpose.” 

 

 

“I would say we’re aggressively pursuing grant money, and all indications are that there would not be a need to borrow the entire [$4 million] amount,” Coun. Oliver said. 

Coun. Nodge was the first to speak against the motion, reminding council that the project remains largely unfunded, and warning that residents might have to support a heavy debt load through higher taxes. 

Nodge also highlighted the town’s 2022 master infrastructure report by the engineering firm ISL, a planning document that recommends roughly $13 million worth of sidewalk, storm sewer and other upgrades as part of a 10-year capital plan. 

Acknowledging strong support for the curling rink among some portions of the community, Nodge insisted that council hasn’t hadn’t done its homework ahead of the project. 

 

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“If this goes ahead, which it probably will, and somebody asks, ‘What are the implications for this on taxpayers for the Town of Pincher Creek?’ I don’t have an answer other than my own speculation, and that worries me.” 

Noting the town’s acute, chronic housing crunch, Coun. Green reminded council that the community and the municipality have limited resources to bear across a host of civic projects. 

“Consequently, a plan for priority spending should be developed in conjunction with the current council’s strategic priorities from 2022 through 2026, which will help eliminate any reactive or misaligned development decisions,” Green said. 

Council then unanimously voted to add a bouldering wall and an exhibition space to the Community Recreation Centre. The additions strengthen the town’s chances of receiving the GIBC grant by making the facility more accessible, according to the grant’s funding criteria. 

 

 

The grant requires a carbon net-zero build, which would add about 30 per cent to projected construction costs, according to Tristan Walker, municipal energy project lead for the town and MD. 

Walker said the additions would ultimately save money because the grant would cover up to 60 per cent of total construction costs — if council receives the grant. 

The recreation centre currently runs year-round, and project supporters say the new amenities would offer a more robust selection of activities.

The borrowing bylaw must be put to a public hearing and two more readings at chambers, according to the Municipal Government Act. 

If passed, opponents would have 30 days to challenge the borrowing bylaw, according to finance director Wendy Catonio.

 

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Man wearing black clothes and toque points out a location beside a red stone building with a blue door

More EV chargers for Pincher Creek

A climate change initiative is set to deliver electric vehicle chargers to Pincher Creek, the outlying municipal district and Castle Mountain Resort.

The project combines funding from the SouthGrowth Regional Initiative, a non-profit economic development organization based in Lethbridge, and Enel Green Power, which operates Pincher Creek’s Castle Ridge wind farm, according to Tristan Walker, energy project lead for the town and MD. 

The town will install a public EV charger on the northeast corner of the Pincher Creek Spray Park at 1020 Robertson Ave., where batteries can be topped up at an estimated cost of between $2 and $5 per hour. The charger will fit any EV, with a special adapter required for Teslas, Walker said.

The spray park was selected for its easy accessibility and for the average length of stay at the nearby multipurpose facility, which includes the town’s swimming pool, library and Memorial Community Centre Arena. An hour’s worth of juice will fuel most EVs for between 50 and 75 kilometres.

Town hall hopes that the added boost will ease EV drivers’ “range anxiety,” especially as they travel between regional swim meets and hockey tournaments.

Two more EV chargers are destined for the MD administration building and work yard at 1037 Herron Ave. One will be installed for public use in front of the main office, with the second dedicated to the MD’s vehicle fleet, which doesn’t currently operate EVs.

“The MD is looking at bringing in electric vehicles within the next one to five years,” Walker said last week.

All four chargers will run off the province’s energy grid, drawing electricity powered by coal, natural gas, wind and solar energy. 

“You’re going to propel an electric vehicle much further, using much less energy, regardless of where that energy is coming from,” Walker said, contrasting EVs’ 80 per cent fuel efficiency with the internal combustion engine’s 36 per cent. As an added benefit, EVs don’t emit greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change. 

All four EV chargers are due for installation in early 2023, according to Walker.

Nov. 2, 2022

 

Kids trick or treating in lion costumes – one roaring and one smiling on the front page of Shootin' the Breeze. Alberta news from Pincher Creek area and Crowsnest Pass.

Nov. 2, 2022

Lion’s share of fun

Ames and Miles were spotted enjoying Spooky Town and the great weather Saturday at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek.