Boise’s Public Works Department has a new division.
On Tuesday, Public Works Director Steve Burgos announced to City Council the creation of a new Climate Action Division within the city to specifically focus efforts on reducing the city’s impact on the environment and work toward Boise’s goal of using 100% clean energy by 2035. Burgos said the new division will help bring focus to the variety of climate projects underway at the city.
“We didn’t commit to a clean energy goal just to commit to a clean energy goal, it’s about reducing greenhouse gases,” Burgos said. “This new division will be in charge of all of this work. They are really excited about it and the folks who are included in the division and they’re excited about the prospect of what’s coming.”
The effort will start out with five existing employees in Public Works, with plans to add a sixth new full-time position for an Energy Manager in the 2021 fiscal year. The division will be led by Steve Hubble, who headed up the city’s Boise’s Energy Future plan on clean energy in 2019.
Burgos said the group will be working on creating a “climate action framework” to help develop plans for reducing Boise’s carbon footprint, completing analysis on future projects and coordinating with the city and outside utility companies to implement their ideas.
Boise also set a goal of moving city operations to renewable-powered by 2030. The Climate Action Division will also be completing research for the city to set a goal of sharply reducing natural gas use.
Adapt, grow resilience and mitigate impacts
The projects the division will work on span several focus areas, including energy, water, waste reduction, and community involvement. Burgos said the city will split different climate-related projects into three categories: mitigation, resilience, and adaptation.
Mitigation projects will focus on ending activity harmful to the environment, like producing greenhouse gases. Resilience projects will help the city be more prepared for extreme weather events in the future. This could include more intense wildfire seasons and heatwaves. Adaptation projects will help the city adapt to the new realities of a warming planet, such as the city’s work to research wastewater recycling.
“We know drought conditions will increase, so how do we adapt to that?” Burgos said.
City Council Member Lisa Sanchez asked if the city is requiring new construction use energy-efficient techniques. Burgos said the city is putting as many of those requirements as Idaho state code allows, but they are also using city zoning policy to promote more sustainable dense development.
“Density is a good thing for climate work,” he said. “The denser you can have a community, the better that is for carbon emissions so that’s another point of emphasis just in how council is allowing development to happen.”