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 continuing 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 work 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 while integrating this work into our day to day operations.
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 (CAMP). CAMP is an innovative practice that allows municipalities to better catalog, track and manage their assets. Using predictive modelling 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. All of our infrastructure projects are driven by our asset management program. Check out our plans for 2023.
The innovative, accessibility and safety features of the Eveline Street Reconstruction Project won an award for Transportation Excellence in April 2023. This project, consisting of seven city blocks, was Selkirk’s largest street reconstruction project in decades.
8. Right-sizing and fuel-switching our fleet!
40% of our corporate greenhouse gases produced come from our fleet of city vehicles and equipment. To achieve our GHG reduction targets, as stated in our GHG accountability By-Law, 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?
We passed our GHG accountability By-Law in 2021 and while the city had been doing much of the work already, the bylaw made the work that we do formal.
The bylaw does three important things. First, it mandates the tracking and reporting of Selkirk’s corporate and community GHG emissions using internationally recognized standards.
Second, it sets new GHG reduction targets that are consistent with the global effort to keep the climate increase to just 1.5 degrees or less.
Finally, it establishes a financial framework which clearly and transparently ensures the city can actually meet the targets that have been set.
As city fleet vehicles age out, they are replaced with hybrid or electric ones when possible. The first low carbon vehicles to join the City fleet were two Mitsubishi hybrids. It’s been noted that while driving them in city limits, the vehicle is running almost exclusively on electricity and cutting 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 significant cost-savings, the city also now owns two Hyundai Kona’s (fully electric vehicles) for staff to use during work hours to travel to and from work sites and meeting places. These two vehicles combined have resulted in a fuel cost-savings of $2,466 and have prevented the release of 4112 kg eCO2 . In 2019 we also purchased a hybrid bus for our transit fleet to replace an old bus.
What else is electric? Our ice resurfacer, our electric chain saw, pole saw, electric weed whackers, push mower and ice edgers. We’ll be welcoming new additions to the fleet in 2023 – stay tuned as we continue to decarbonize as more low carbon and electric options become available.
7. Look Good, Feel Good, Support 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 all 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 are Fairtrade, will stay out of the landfill and are recycled from post-consumer materials.
Did you know that Selkirk is a Fairtrade town? Environmental protection is ingrained in Fairtrade. To sell Fairtrade products, farmers have to improve soil and water quality, manage pests, avoid using harmful chemicals, manage waste, reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and protect biodiversity. Shop Fairtrade.
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 GHG Accountability By-Law, 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. The city’s new Wastewater Treatment Plant opened in 2021 and is fossil fuel free! Prior to decarbonizing both facilities, they accounted for about 31 per cent of the city’s total emissions! WOW.
The innovative geothermal system has the capacity to expand and meet the heating and cooling needs of all of our buildings – so when the time comes, the remaining systems can be replaced so the building will be completely emissions free.
5. Trees – Our Most Important Assets
Trees are some of our most important assets. They are our natural assets. That’s why we’re making an active effort to document the trees in Selkirk and diversify the kinds of trees we plant. Our very own Urban Forestry & Naturalization Coordinator has been busy planning for and implementing urban forestry programs and initiatives that aim to improve the city’s urban canopy and biodiversity and reduce emissions from maintenance activities. Thanks Mihali!
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 native species of trees that will last as long as possible. Our Tree Inventory Project saw staff identifying and categorizing all the trees in city parks and boulevards, making our inventory more resilient to disease and aiding us in so many ways:
To learn more about our urban forestry and naturalizations plans, click here.
- Trees provide shade, keeping people and buildings cool, reducing the need for air conditioning.
- Cost effectively retain and manage storm water that reduces the stress on our wastewater system.
- They reduce erosion on the banks of the Red River.
- Reduce air pollution by absorbing CO2.
- Naturally calm driving speeds.
- Enhance property values.
- Enriches habitat and biodiversity.
- Improves air quality and mitigates climate change.
- Improves physical and mental health.
- Promote biodiversity and just look great!
4. First Energy Advocate in Manitoba & we now have a Manager of Climate Action and Environmental Services
In 2022 we welcomed our first Manager of Climate Action and Environmental Services, Kayla Dawson who was responsible for fostering an understanding of environmental decisions that impact the City of Selkirk, its residents and property owners. The position oversees the delivery of Solid Waste, Selkirk Transit, Active Transportation, and climate change mitigation and adaptation services and implements improvements to these services. 2023 will see the beginning stages of a stormwater masterplan to reduce the risk of sewer backup in peoples homes and to increase capacity on stormwater infrastructure during high rain events.
Selkirk was the first municipality in the province to receive funding for an Energy Efficiency Advocate who worked 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 was 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 and that’s why we developed and started putting our Active Transportation Strategy into action in 2021. 2022 saw extensions to the pathways allowing pedestrians and those on bikes to get from one of Selkirk to the other. 2023 will see even more and plans are in the works for a north/south path!
Pathways: Get from the Blue Bridge all the way to Selkirk Park or up Manitoba to shopping in the west end.
We also invest in our sidewalks by replacing large sections that are at their end-of-life. Staff are able to make smaller repairs which helps to reduce tripping hazards.
Selkirk Transit has been providing riders a greener transportation option for over 11 years now. Beyond the hybrid bus purchased in 2019, the City plans to replace a Selkirk Mobility bus with a smaller, more cost and fuel effective van in 2023.
2. Sewers and Stormwater Need to be Separated
Selkirk was built with combined sewers – an old system where both stormwater and sewer systems are merged into one pipe. It’s been proven that combined sewers have a limited capacity during high rainfall events, and can be harmful to the environment, and people’s homes.
In recent years, Selkirk, using its Capital Asset Management Program, has been investing into separating the city’s sewer network. Separated Sewer Systems have two separate pipe systems: one set takes household and industrial waste to the wastewater treatment plant, and, the other set of storm drain pipes routes rain water and snow melt from streets directly into the Red River, minimizing the impact on the city’s drainage system and sewer back up into homes.
Sewer separation is a critical objective of the city’s award-winning Climate Change Adaption Strategy (CCAS) and achieving full separation will take tens of millions of dollars over the coming years. By using our asset management program we’re creating opportunities to link this work directly with projects therefore making it as cost-effective as possible.
2023 will see new watermains, sewer and stormwater sewers installed in the 200 and 300 blocks of Sutherland Avenue.
1. Our State-Of-The-Art Wastewater Treatment Plant
As of 2017, new provincial regulations require that treated wastewater contain no more than 1 mg/L of phosphorus and 15 mg/L of nitrogen. The existing plant built in 1976 reached the end of its life cycle and could not meet these regulations and renovating that facility was not a cost-effective solution.
The Selkirk Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant was completed in 2021 and is now fully operational not only meeting, but exceeding provincial regulations today and well into the future. It also has the capacity to allow for Selkirk to grow for many years to come. The effluent is so clear, it’s almost drinkable and that’s essential as we want to be part of the solution of polluting our water ways and keeping the Red River and Lake Winnipeg clean for future generations.
The plant is a fossil-fuel-free facility and will eventually host a solar field to power the building.
Another impressive point is that the plant is known as a centre of excellence – 2022 saw Civil Engineering Technician Students, 2023 has seen Environmental Students (all from Red River Polytech) who looked at characterization of our biosolids from wastewater and lime sludge from our water. This was called pyrolysis in ways to mitigate both and limit waste, costs overall for operations.
Students are also utilizing space at the old wastewater plant working on a Clean Energy product – The production of biocarbon from biosolid materials through pyrolytic carbonization is an exothermic process, meaning that it creates excess energy in the form of renewable bio-oils and syngas.
The team is currently working with the University of Manitoba identifying microorganisms in our wastewater, part of utilizing our microbiology for treatment. This allows us to optimize our treatment and reuse good bacteria to produce a good quality effluent going into the environment.