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Medford plan will address effects of climate change

The Medford police Department has been using hybrid vehicles in an effort to reduce reliance on gasoline and reduce its carbon footprint. (Image from Flickr)
The plan will be a working document as weather conditions evolve

Medford City Council heard about some of the information going into the city’s Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Plan during a study session last week.

The idea behind the plan is to “make it so people can and will want to live here, start businesses, raise families” amid a changing climate, said Matt Brinkley, the city’s planning director.

“Record-high temperatures in the summer of 2021 negatively impacted agriculture, farmworker safety and public health — particularly for vulnerable populations,” Brinkley explained.

The 28-page draft resiliency plan will provide information to assist city officials in addressing climate-related challenges.

Even if there’s no increase in greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures around the state would increase an average of 5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050 and 8.2 degrees by 2080.

Heatwaves like the record-setting 2021 event impacting the Pacific Northwest will become more routine and by the end of the century, and the region would experience more than 40 days a year with high temperatures reaching or exceeding 100 degrees, according to the Fifth Oregon Climate Assessment report.

The average temperature in Jackson County has gone up 2 degrees during the past century, according to records kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Experts predict Medford will have temperatures resembling current-day Bakersfield, California, by 2100.

“That is all seasonal variation — winter to summer, night and day,” Brinkley said. “But the impacts concentrate and compound. It actually makes a big difference.”

The document won’t just sit on a shelf once it’s adopted by councilors. It will prepare not only the city government but also residents and businesses for the impact of coming changes.

There have been some efforts within the city government in recent years. For example, the Medford Police Department has been using hybrid vehicles in an effort to reduce reliance on gasoline and reduce its carbon footprint, Brinkley said.

The department has nine Ford Interceptors, which are pursuit-rated hybrid SUVs. Another 14 of the vehicles are on order, according to the department.

An example of a long-term effort would be its operation of a methane-gas system to power its wastewater treatment plant. The methane comes from the wastewater product already produced there.

Something that is being planned: A program to provide 200 low-income households access to solar energy by 2023. It’s dependent on whether there is money available from the state Legislature or some other source, however, Brinkley said.

Assisting residents to have more weather-resistant dwellings that are also energy-efficient is going to be important. There will be less use of heaters in winter but more air conditioning will be required to stay comfortable in summer.

The city anticipates it will be working with developers to create buildings that will be more energy efficient as well as having to update landscaping on streets and in parks because of future weather conditions.

Councilors Sarah Spansail and Michael Zarosinski will serve on the plan’s steering committee. Public input about the plan has been received.

There will be two steering committee meetings each month through June. The second meeting of each month will highlight specific areas of interest and will be available to the public online, Brinkley added.