One of the five pillars of our Community Strategic Plan is being better Environmental Stewards. This means thinking differently and finding ways to reduce our environmental footprint on the Earth.
Here are 10 ways the City of Selkirk is taking action:
10. Our award-winning Climate Change Adaption Strategy.
The strategy that leads the way. Initiated in 2018, Selkirk’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy provides a comprehensive, practical and cost-effective plan for the city to begin working towards addressing the impacts of climate change on our municipal services and our citizens. By integrating this work into our capital asset management program, we’re using leading practices to quantify, plan, budget and actually undertake the work required to adapt over the next 50 years
By understanding how changing weather patterns and climatic conditions will impact our citizens and our infrastructure, the strategy guides the decisions we will make over the next ten years to ensure we’re mitigating risk and reducing negative consequences. Science tells us that we are in for more extreme temperatures and storm events. Over the next 50 years we will invest millions in new infrastructure and our strategy ensures those dollars are spent in a way that makes us more resilient and better prepared for the future climate we face.
9. Doing it once, doing it right by CAMPing.
In 2014, the city began working on the creation of a Capital Asset Management Program. Capital Asset Management is an innovative practice that allows municipalities to better catalog, track and manage their assets. Using predictive modeling techniques, long-range maintenance planning, paired with long-term financial planning tools, capital asset management allows cities to get the most out of their infrastructure, extending its service life and helping to make better, more cost-effective construction and renovation decisions.
Infrastructure that lasts longer and requires less repairs means we use less natural resources and generate less greenhouse gases for construction and maintenance.
8. Right-sizing and fuel-switching our fleet!
40% of the greenhouse gases we produce comes from our fleet of city vehicles and equipment. To achieve our GHG reduction targets, we know that we must reduce the amount of fossil fuels our fleet uses. To do that, we are taking the opportunity to rethink each and every vehicle when it’s time to replace it. We ask three key questions – do we really need that vehicle? Does it really need to be that big? And can it be replaced with a low or no fossil fuel alternative?
In 2019, we identified that our Public Works Manager Ryan Sicinski’s big, gas-burning half-ton was due for replacement, making it an ideal time to pilot a greener option. . After a search of the available models that fit our needs, the city purchased a Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). Sicinski says that while driving within city limits, the vehicle is running almost exclusively on electricity and cutting his fuel usage by 66% . This translates to a savings of over $1,750 and reduces GHG emissions by 4.9 tons – and that’s just in one year! Because of the high-praise and cost-savings, our Manager of Recreation Facilities Travis Vandenbrand is now driving in the 2020 version.
In 2019 we also purchased a hybrid bus for our transit fleet to replace an old bus.
As more electric options are available for our fleet, expect them to replace their fuel-only counterparts as they begin to reach their end-of-life.
7. Look Good, Feel Good
To become environmental stewards, we had to take a look at everything the city puts its logo on, literally. As a large employer, we looked at the uniforms we buy and thought….we can do better. Beginning in 2018, the city began considering the environmental impact of the materials our uniforms and city issued clothing. Today – almost 50% of our uniforms are made from recycled materials and we continue to look for better options for the rest.
This also includes the clothing we sell and the promotional items we give away. While all the profits from our sales go straight to the Parks and Heritage Endowment Funds, we have made every effort possible to purchase Canadian and sustainably-made clothing, or products that will stay out of the landfill and are recycled from post-consumer materials.
We’ve purchased clothing to sell and for our staff made from recycled pop bottles and upcycled materials. We sell reusable water bottles, tumblers and coffee mugs to keep waste out of the landfill. We even purchased biodegradable doggy-bags so citizens can clean up after their pets.
6. Powering our Buildings with Green Energy
It takes a lot of energy to power our buildings and facilities. In fact, powering our buildings contributes to the majority of the greenhouse gases the city emits. To reach our commitment outlined in our Greenhouse Gas reduction plan, we looked for more energy-efficient ways to power and heat our buildings.
2015 saw geothermal upgrades to the ice plant at the Rec Complex and in 2019, the city replaced a natural gas heating system at the Water Treatment plant with a geothermal system that heats it in the winter and cools it in the summer. This process uses water from our existing wells so it costs significantly less, both in installation and in operation. It will also reduce our GHG emissions by half. This innovative system has the capacity to expand and met all of the buildings heating an cooling needs – so when the time comes, the remaining systems can be replaced so the building will be completely emissions free.
The new fire hall, also competed in 2019 is run almost completely without fossil fuels for heating. And our new Wastewater Treatment plant will be completely emissions free!
5. Trees – Our Most Important Assets
Trees are some of our most important assets. That’s why we’re making an active effort to document the trees in Selkirk and diversify the kinds of trees we plant. Trees not only boost the aesthetic appeal of the city and clean the air, they do so much more.
Diversifying our urban forest is an integral part of keeping it healthy. After Dutch Elm Disease took its toll on the elm trees in Selkirk, we made a more conscious effort to plant various species of trees that will last as long as possible. Our Tree Inventory Project has seen our staff identifying all the trees in city parks and boulevards, so that we can better prepare if another disease hits the trees in our city.
Trees absorb storm water that reduces the stress on our wastewater system. They reduce erosion on the banks of the Red River, provide shade not only for our citizens, but for our infrastructure and your homes as well that extends their life significantly, and they are even proven to increase the value of property.
4. First Energy Advocate in Manitoba
We are the first municipality in the province to receive funding for an Energy Efficiency Advocate who will work with residents, businesses and the city itself to become more energy efficient, a win for the environment and your bank account.
The Community Energy Efficiency Program, set out in the new Crown corporation Efficiency Manitoba’s approved 2020-23 Efficiency Plan, offers financial and technical support for municipalities to hire and train an Energy Efficiency Advocate.
The role of the Advocate is to identify energy-saving opportunities in the community and encourage participation in Efficiency Manitoba’s energy efficiency programs, ultimately leading to reduced energy consumption and lower energy bills. The program supports local economic development as it relates to energy efficiency and is set to begin this summer.
3. Making Transportation Options More Public and Active
An easy solution to get people to use less fossil fuels is to get them to drive less. Easier said than done, but we are trying to give our citizens every opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint and live a healthier lifestyle.
In 2018 we started Phase 1 of our active transportation pathway that stretches from Easton Dr. to HWY 9. This year we are extending the pathway from Easton to Main Street connecting to the new bike paths and expanding sidewalks on Manitoba Ave East.
We also are investing in our sidewalks by replacing large sections that are at their end-of-life, and making smaller repairs and repairing trip hazards internally. This year we will also be finalizing our Active Transportation Strategy, which will help guide our investments going forward.
This year Selkirk Transit will celebrate its 10 year in operation – that’s a decade of providing citizens with a greener transportation option. Beyond the hybrid bus purchased in 2019, the City plans to purchase an electric bus for its next replacement in 2023.
2. Sewers and Stormwater Need to be Separated
Sometimes it’s hard to even fathom, but there are thousands of metres of sewage pipes underneath our streets. A lot of these sewage pipes are combined sewers, an old system where both stormwater and sewer systems are merged into one pipe. While this tactic can be cheaper for developers, in can be very harmful to our waterways. And now with more high rainfall events, they’re known to be a big reason why your basement may flood as well.
When there is a high rainfall event, the combined sewer system sometimes can’t handle that amount of water. Instead, the excess water either floods into your basement or is spilled directly into the Red River. By separating the sewer and stormwater systems, this drastically reduces the chance of your basement flooding, and ensures the sewer water goes to the Wastewater Treatment Plant, not the Red River.
1. Our State-Of-The-Art Wastewater Treatment Plant
As of 2017, new provincial regulations require that treated wastewater contains no more than 1 mg/L of phosphorus and 15 mg/L of nitrogen. The existing plant built in 1976 has reached the end of its life cycle and cannot meet these regulations. Renovating the existing facility would not have been cost-effective. Our new WWTP is almost complete and can meet these requirements and allow for expansion as the City grows.
The new WWTP is the largest capital project in the city’s history, costing $39.5 million. Not only will this facility meet the provincial requirements outlined today, it will produce treated wastewater that will still meet the increasing standards we are projecting for years to come without having to spend more on upgrades. This is an essential part of reducing pollution in our water ways and keeping the Red River and Lake Winnipeg clean for future generations.
Not only will the plant not use fossil fuels for heating, but it’s been designed to be solar ready, meaning in the future it can be powered by solar cells.