Port Angeles City Council Awards Contract to Begin Climate Action Plan Update

Port Angeles City Councilmembers

Port Angeles City Council members at meeting on Zoom.
Top row left: Mayor Kate Dexter | Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin | Deputy Mayor Navarra Carr
Bottom row left: Mike French | LaTrisha Suggs | Charlie McCaughan | Brendan Meyer-picture not available

November 17, 2020, | Port Angeles Virtual City Council Meeting

Full Recording of City Council Meeting

It was way back in June of 2018 when the Port Angeles City Council voted unanimously to prioritize developing a climate action plan as part of the city’s strategic and community work plans for 2019. Early last year Port Angeles City Council created a Climate Action Group to update its 2009 Climate Action Plan. This community-driven Climate Action Plan included proposed strategies and actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Then the City Council changed the current update due to strategic plan priorities and workload requirements.

On February 18th, 2019, City Staff recommended that the City Council approve a professional services agreement with Cascadia Consulting Group for an estimated cost of nearly $50,000 to manage the inventory and climate resiliency plan. COVID-19 then delayed the contract approval. Volunteers from the Climate Action Group and other stakeholders are now welcome to participate, but Cascadia Consulting will be in charge of the process.

Richie Ahuja-City of Port Angeles Planning Commissioner

Public comments by Ben Stanley, Bob Vreeland, and Ed Chadd, all City of Port Angeles residents who have been active in getting the update going, voiced concerns that Clallam County also needed to be involved in the carbon emissions inventory. Without a larger geographic area, it would be difficult to qualify for the upcoming grants to help communities implement their resiliency plans. Another priority is for Cascadia to include The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe immediately.

Mr. Chadd encouraged someone from the City Council to attend the Board of Clallam County Commissioners Work Session Monday, November 23rd. The Commissioners will be discussing their climate inventory and might want to include the City.

Councilmember Schromen-Wawrin made a motion to delay awarding the contract for two weeks. He wanted to get more information and possible contract revisions for:

  • Collaboration with Clallam County for the inventory task
  • Synergy with Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s planning process
  • North Olympic Peninsula Resource Conservation Development Council collaboration
  • Cascadia’s public participation process regarding racial equity and frontline communities

Deputy Mayor Carr seconded the motion because she believed climate action is the most important issue stating, “Because if we don’t solve this issue, there won’t be any other issues”. She wants the contract written properly, but doesn’t think the County will move quickly enough and doesn’t want to be held back by them.

Deputy Mayor Carr sits on the North Olympic Development Council (NODC) and knows there will be funding available to municipal governments early next year around climate. She attended a keynote a month ago of an organization called Of/By/For All. It is a non-profit that provides digital tools to help public institutions matter more to more people. They support a global community of action-oriented teams at libraries, theaters, museums, parks, and cultural centers, all working to become more inclusive, equitable, and relevant to their communities. They state that it’s important to engage community members at the beginning who will be affected by plans being made, such as Tribal members and the communities who will be most affected by climate change, as well as those people whose homes are in vulnerable areas.

Councilmember French was against the motion. He appreciated the community’s comments to help clarify the density of the information and was satisfied with Director Brekke’s assurances. He sees this project as ongoing, with concerns addressed as they occur. Councilmember French remarked he uses the lens of climate change for every decision he makes regarding adaptation and mitigation. He also noted that Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe had been a leader in restoration work.

Allyson Brekke, Director of Community & Economic Development for the City of Port Angeles

Councilmember Suggs felt confident that Cascadia would include the County and Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe as stakeholders. Allyson Brekke, Director of Community & Economic Development for the City of Port Angeles confirmed this and added there are ways to partner with the County, although the data collection software will likely be different.

The motion failed 5-2.

Councilmember Schromen-Wawrin made a second motion to sign the contract for $49,998 with Cascadia Consulting Group, and it passed unanimously.

Councilmen Schromen-Wawrin then motioned to create a committee from the Council of not more than three members to work with City staff and community partners on the community resiliency planning process. Three council members volunteered: Councilmembers Schromen-Wawrin, Suggs, and Carr. The motion passed unanimously.

During the final public comments, Richie Ahuja, a Port Angeles City Planning Commissioner who was involved in the selection process of Cascadia, suggested a coalition of participants from other jurisdictions beyond Port Angeles, such as NODC, adjacent counties, and cities be involved as the City conducts its own internal process of outreach, develops the emissions inventory, and the Climate Resiliency plan. He believes the plan itself is more policy guidance, incentives prioritizing investments, and identifying the right investments. Mr. Ahuja stated, “Having all these stakeholders be a part of this exercise not only educates them about the process and perhaps inspires them but also allows the City to receive good input and create a network of cooperation over time.”

Mr. Ahuja concluded his comments by noting, “Experience has taught me that amalgamating inventories of disparate entities is much, much easier than integrating plans of climate-related actions”.

Recently City Staff has indicated there will be a “kickoff” meeting on climate planning held in January or February 2021.