County Executive Releases Multi-Year Blueprint to Prepare County for Climate Change, Extreme Weather Costs
September 30, 2013
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive 608.267.8823 or cell, 608.843.8858
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today that the Climate Change Action Council he convened in the spring has issued an initial report with recommendations to ensure that county government is better prepared for weather extremes brought on by global climate change.
The multi-year blueprint includes several recommendations for near-term steps the County Executive will include in his 2014 budget, to be introduced Tuesday, October 1st.
"The findings of this report will enable us to plan for extreme weather events and respond quickly and efficiently to keep our residents safe," said Parisi. "In the months ahead, we will share our findings with other community partners to build awareness and to partner on additional adaptation steps."
Decades of climate data compiled by Wisconsin scientists shows the state has become warmer and wetter over time. Around 150 years ago, Dane County's lakes were frozen four months out of the year - now, they are only frozen for three months. Extreme weather, such as the heat waves of two years ago and spring flooding this year, are becoming the new normal.
The Action Council was charged with assessing departments throughout county government and reporting on the impact these continued weather extremes will have on county operations and residents. Findings have shown that climate change will have serious effects on public health, public safety, and will put increased strain on county infrastructure. The full report can be viewed online at: http://danedocs.countyofdane.com/webdocs/pdf/press/10-14_Climate_Change_Emergency_Preparedness.pdf.
The County Executive's 2014 budget includes nearly $1 million in capital dollars for near-term climate change adaptation initiatives outlined in the Action Council's report.
Funding for a $10,000 emergency sandbag program and $250,000 dedicated solely for the replacement of outdated culverts under roads will help the county address frequent high volume storms. Culverts help move runoff along after heavy rainfall. Many aren't equipped to handle the volume that comes with big storms - resulting in backups into valuable agricultural lands and in some cases, flooded highways.
To provide additional aid from county government to emergency response during blizzards, the County Executive's budget also includes resources for Park Rangers who find themselves called upon during search and rescue efforts. A $40,000 investment in Parisi's budget will outfit rangers with radios that connect to the emergency responder network DaneCom, and an additional $60,000 will equip ranger vehicles with blizzard buster track technology to ensure they can navigate deep snow and get people the help they need.
In addition to adapting to climate change, Parisi's budget ensures the county will continue to be a leader in mitigation with $3.8 million in energy and fuel efficiencies. Investments include $1.6 million in energy efficiency upgrades for the county's human services building on Northport Ave. This facility currently has 38 different heating and cooling units that are several decades old.
A $2.3 million investment expands Parisi's commitment to make the county "CNG by 2023" through the acquisition of 13 additional vehicles, eight of which are snowplows, fueled by the cheaper, cleaner BioCNG made from decaying trash at the county's landfill. The county currently has 30 CNG vehicles in its fleet.
The county's CNG fleet costs taxpayers less to fill up (Bio CNG costs the county only $1.25 a gallon) and because the fuel burns cleaner, maintenance costs on vehicles are reduced as well. This switch to CNG has offset the use of approximately 25,000 gallons of diesel and gasoline in the county fleet, saving county taxpayers roughly $50,000 annually.
In the coming months the county will reach out to other municipalities and emergency responders to share the findings of its assessment and begin to coordinate the community systems necessary to quickly and effectively adapt to the realities of increased extreme weather events.
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