City of Thunder Bay, ON
|Population||PCP member since||GHG reduction target|
(update from 2011 census)
|1997||Community and Corporate target 20% below 2009 levels by 2020.|
The EarthCare sustainability plan was produced from the community, and so will its success come from the community. A prosperous, more livable city doesn't come from a plan, but through acting on it.
When the City of Thunder Bay and wider community first began to work on sustainability and climate change issues back in 2004, it created EarthCare Thunder Bay, a partnership between the city and the community. Their first action plan was adopted by Thunder Bay city council in 2008 and the sustainability plan is now in its second iteration. Eleven working groups that include members from the city and community, work to implement the sustainability plan and help one another achieve mutual environmental goals while sharing best practices and new ideas. While the plan continues to be concerned with GHG reductions and climate change mitigation, recent severe weather events have prompted the city to shift its focus to include more climate change adaptation projects.
Thunder Bay received support from FCM's Green Municipal Fund to achieve Milestones 1-3 of the Partners for Climate Protection program.
Key projects and results
Beverly Street low impact development
A section of unused parkland at the busy intersection of Memorial Avenue and Beverly Street in Thunder Bay has been transformed into a Low Impact Development (LID) site to showcase the benefits of sustainable stormwater practices.
Low Impact Development is a land planning and engineering design approach with a goal of maintaining and enhancing the movement, distribution, and quality of local rainwater run-off. The Beverly Street LID helps retain rainwater, avoid flooding during heavy rain events, and also serves as a demonstration site to promote the LID concept.
The site includes various elements that enhance stormwater quality, reduce the volume of stormwater run-off, and engage the community. It features surfaces that absorb rain, stone structures that can direct passing water, and systems to filter it. It also features tree, shrub, perennial plantings, benches, and educational signs. It also supports the city's new Image Route Guidelines, which aim to connect a series of adjacent districts by highlighting the unique identity of the major routes that link them together. The city has slowly been increasing the use of LIDs and has drafted a Stormwater Master Plan to focus on expanding their use.
- The water collection and treatment area is filled with materials that allow better infiltration of stormwater into the ground and reduces flow directly into stormwater drains.
- Native trees, shrubs, and grasses increase the forest canopy and contribute numerous benefits to the community, including soil retention to combat erosion, cleaner air, and a habitat for animals and insects.
- The project cost $55,000 and reduces the need for a more expensive end-of-pipe treatment where stormwater is led to away to a reservoir such as pond or a lake.
- The project will help the city and homeowners mitigate costs associated with future flooding.
- The city has received positive feedback from the community based on aesthetically pleasing landscape design features that have been incorporated into the area.
- A memorial plaque commemorating World War I veterans was moved to a more noticeable spot in the project space and now receives greater appreciation from the public.
Wastewater treatment equipment replacement
One of the highest aspects of energy use in a wastewater treatment plant is an air circulation process called aeration, of in which air is added into wastewater to naturally degrade pollutant components. As part of Thunder Bay's Strategic Energy Management Plan, the city replaced 18 of its conventional wastewater aeration machines with five high-efficiency turbo blower units to reduce energy costs at its Water Pollution Control Plant.
- Health and safety have improved at the facility thanks to a large reduction in noise from the new turbo blowers.
- The plant has reduced electricity use and related costs, as well as maintenance requirements.
- The city received funding for this project through Ontario's Showcasing Water Innovation Fund, which will share the results of this project with other wastewater treatment facilities across the province.
Local food initiatives
With the Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy, the city wanted to create a more sustainable and equitable food system throughout the region by addressing social, economic and, health issues. The strategy, which also received funding from Ontario's Trillium Fund, broke new ground by developing a "forward buy" contract with local farms to drive investment in local agriculture, help address the challenges of local producers, and build their capacity for growth. The terms of the "forward buy" contract are such that at the start of each season the city agrees to purchase a specific amount of crop at a pre-established price, which ensures that residents have access to high quality local produce. This also gives the farms the confidence they need to invest in additional crops. City staff met their goal of increasing local food procurement for municipally-run facilities by 10% by 2014.
- Locally grown produce travels shorter distances to reach the consumer, reducing transportation emissions and energy usage for refrigeration and processing.
- The city supplies locally-sourced food to its own facilities, including day cares and seniors facilities.
- By investing in the local food economy, the city can help spur demand for local products which increases jobs across the food supply chain and in related sectors.
- The forward-buy contract provides the city with local product and gives producers the time and security to increase their capacity to expand or restructure their operations, enter new markets or finance a significant acquisition while maintaining control of their business.
- The city is working in partnership with local social service agencies to offer additional services and products through food processing, such as turning local strawberries into jam, will be available for purchase in the future.
- Over the next year, the city will work with large food distributors to make them more aware of local food options at the time of purchase.
- The city will also continue to look for ways to purchase more local food within existing budgets while maintaining initiatives that raise awareness about the importance of local producers and processors in the broader community.
- The municipality must balance its due diligence with the unpredictable nature of climate change and competing budget priorities.
- Educating the public on climate change is an ongoing challenge. However, with recent extreme weather events, there is more public appetite for mitigation and adaptation projects.
- A coordinator with dedicated resources along with support from the city's senior staff and council is critical.
- Sustainability has to be embedded throughout the organization.