Camas considers joining climate agreement

Clark County, small cities would collaborate to help meet new state rules

Camas officials are considering joining an interlocal agreement (ILA) that could lead to cooperative climate change planning throughout Clark County.

Camas Community Development Director Alan Peters explained to Camas City Council members earlier this month that the city will need to join other jurisdictions across Washington state in meeting the goals of House Bill 1181, which calls for Washington government entities to, according to Peters, “plan for climate change impacts as part of their comprehensive planning processes.”

Such planning, Peters told Camas Council members during their Nov. 6 workshop, also require governments to include “sub-elements” in their comprehensive plans that address plans to reduce greenhouse gases and to become more resilient in the face of expected climate-change disasters such as flooding, drought, wildfires and heat waves.

The city of Camas is just beginning its required comprehensive plan update, and has received a $500,000 state grant to address the climate change requirements in its new comprehensive plan and to implement future climate-related policies, Peters said.

Joining the ILA with Clark County, Battle Ground, La Center, Ridgefield, Washougal and Yacolt for cooperative climate planning, Peters said, would allow Camas to better identify its greenhouse gas sources, as well as its risk from climate change.

“We will still have a Camas-specific team to help with our own, local goals,” Peters told Council members this month, “but by going in with these other cities and the county, we can get some good data on what our climate risks really are.”

If the Council agrees to join the multi-jurisdiction ILA — expected to appear on the Council’s consent agenda during the Nov. 16 regular meeting — the City would use $40,000 from its $500,000 state grant to pay for Camas’ share of the agreement.

“Clark County would administer the contract, and we would work with them and the cities over the next year to get that data for our (climate change) planning,” Peters said.

Councilman Tim Hein said he wanted to understand the ILA’s objective.

“Is it to reduce emissions with the city itself?” Hein asked Peters. “What is trying to be measured?”

If the City joins the ILA, Peters said, it would be able to identify the source of its greenhouse gas emissions, which is necessary for climate change and resilience planning.

“Is it transportation, industrial, something else?” Peters said of the City’s biggest contributor to human-caused climate change. “With that data, we can then decide what our goals ought to be, and which of those sources we would like to target to reduce.”

Peters said the City could fulfill the climate-planning requirement set by state legislators in 2023, without the ILA, but that it would put the City at a disadvantage.

“We could go into it blind, but this will help us create goals we can realize,” Peters said, adding that, by joining the ILA, Camas was “under no obligation to adopt the same goals or act in the same way as the other jurisdictions.”

“It’s not binding,” he said of the proposed ILA. “It does not mean we have to have the same goals and policies … Vancouver chose not to be a part of this because they are already doing some of this work on their own. The rest of the cities felt this made sense for us and our budgets. It allows us to go a little bit farther, and we can save (money) by going in on this contract.”

The proposed ILA would form a joint board made up of two Clark County representatives and one representative from each of the cities to act as the project management team to work alongside a project manager from Clark County Community Planning. The project manager and the joint board would work together to “develop mutually consistent climate elements” and establish funding priorities for things such as: a baseline greenhouse gas emissions inventory, baseline vehicle miles traveled per capita study, exploration of climate impacts, resilience plan and policy audit of each city’s comprehensive growth management plans, assessment of the juridictions’ vulnerabilities and risks, and hiring consultants to assist with technical support and/or communications and planning for resilience and greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Under the ILA’s terms, the city of La Center and the town of Yacolt will only participate in the resiliency sub-element planning, and the county will “ensure these (juridictions’) funds will only be spent on resilience related items.”

Peters said the City will still need to hire a consultant to help with Camas-specific climate change planning, but that being a part of the ILA “could help (Camas) reduce those costs.”

“We could also do more if there’s a specific metric we want to gather data on,” Peters added. “We could do that on our own and dig deeper into the data from the county.”