Innovative Pilot Project Seeks to Grow a Forest More Resilient to Climate Change

An innovative pilot project will replant portions of logged land now owned by Seattle City Light to grow a new forest that could be more resilient to climate change.

Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and its partners – City Light, Seattle Public Utilities and the Northwest Natural Resource Group — received a $140,000 grant to reforest portions of the Stossel Creek area in the Tolt watershed northeast of Carnation. The grant money is being provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society through its Climate Adaptation Fund, a program supported and established by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

“Stossel Creek presents a unique opportunity to test innovative, new habitat restoration methods designed to increase resiliency to climate change for Western Washington forests,” said Jon Hoekstra, executive director of the Greenway Trust.

A volunteer from Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust clearing invasive brush.

Trees on the 154-acre site were harvested by a private land company in 2012. Since then, the site has experienced new plant growth, but with few trees. Invasive species have taken hold in some areas. City Light purchased the land in 2015 as part of its Endangered Species Act Early Action Plan to conserve and enhance habitat for steelhead.

Crews and volunteers will reforest the site with native conifer species, such as Douglas Fir and Western redcedar. Instead of using only subvarieties that are native to Washington, this project also will include trees sourced from southwestern Oregon that are better adapted to warmer temperatures and drier summers.

“The climate of the Stossel Creek area is projected to be similar to southwest Oregon’s by the end of the 21st century,” explains Crystal Raymond, a climate adaptation specialist who helped secure the grant while she worked for City Light. “Therefore, the trees adapted to southwestern Oregon are expected to be better suited to the Stossel Creek site as the climate warms. By increasing the tree genetic and species diversity, the site’s resiliency to climate change will increase over time.”

Work to control invasive plant species and site preparation at Stossel Creek will begin this spring and planting new trees will begin in the fall. After planting, the team will have several opportunities to monitor success and share lessons learned from the project.

This pilot project will inform future climate-adapted restoration practices for lands owned by City Light, Seattle Public Utilities and other owners in the region. The long-term goal of the reforestation effort is to establish a diverse forest that will be adapted to the climate of the mid to late 21st century.

Recently, KING 5 visited the site to cover the project. Click here to watch the story featuring City Light’s Denise Krownbell.

Four Ways to Stay Cool This Fourth of July

There’s nothing better than Seattle in the summertime. But with temperatures approaching 80 degrees this Fourth of July, you may be looking for ways to beat the heat. Here are a few tips from the U.S. Department of Energy* on how to keep cool and conserve energy without breaking the bank! Check out this month’s issue of Light Reading for more innovative ways to conserve energy this summer from planting a tree to using your slow cooker. Click here to take a look!

Creating a Roadmap to Becoming a 100% Renewable Energy and Carbon Neutral City

OSE is embarking on funded 100% Renewable Cities Project, a three-year effort to develop equity-centered climate strategies with members of the Environmental Justice Committee and the community. OSE is partnering with Puget Sound Sage, SDOT and City Light in this work. Actions will focus on reducing climate emissions by transitioning to fossil fuel-free heating & hot water, increasing efficiency, electrifying transportation & reducing VMT, and expanding solar and other renewables. A potential initial priority for the group is developing a residential roadmap to achieve carbon neutrality in residential buildings by 2050.

With a generous grant from the Kresge Foundation, Puget Sound Sage is partnering with the City to work with the community to co-create a roadmap to become a 100% renewable energy and carbon neutral city. The City/Community collaboration will work to 1) embed equity in the policies and programs developed to implement the Mayor’s climate agenda and 2) design a roadmap to fully transition Seattle to an equitable, renewable, and carbon-neutral energy future.

Mayor Durkan recently released an updated Climate Action Strategy, a suite of actions designed to significantly reduce GHG emissions from the buildings and transportation sectors, Seattle’s largest sources of emissions. The overarching strategy is to transition these sectors to Seattle City Light’s clean and carbon neutral electricity. The Equity and Environment Agenda includes a suite of process and outcome recommendations to embed equity in the city’s environmental work and creates the foundation for advancing equity through climate action.

Seattle City Light Named Environmental Champion for Fourth Consecutive Year

Each year, Market Strategies International runs the Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement Survey (.pdf) for its Cogent Reports. The survey spans the markets of 131 residential electric, natural gas and electric/gas combination utilities across four regions: East, Midwest, South and West. For the fourth year in a row, the survey results led to City Light being named an Environmental Champion.

To be designated an Environmental Champion, a utility must facilitate consumption management, enable environmental causes, encourage environmentally friendly fleets and buildings, and generally show its customers a dedication to promoting clean energy. These traits comprise the survey’s Environmental Dedication Index. City Light was one of the highest-rated utilities in the study, scoring second in the West region on the survey index.

In 2005, Seattle City Light became the first electric utility in the nation to reach carbon neutral status. The utility is actively involved in protecting fish and wildlife, promotes renewable energy development and has the longest-running energy conservation program in the country.

Seattle City Light Announces $1 Million of Green Up Grants

Thanks to the generous contributions of Seattle City Light customers, seven local organizations will receive Green Up grants totaling nearly $1 million to support renewable energy projects and education. The seven organizations will use the grants to help install solar panels at 14 public school, affordable housing, and community-based locations.

“Over 13,000 generous community members are investing in a clean, sustainable energy future by sending a few dollars each month to purchase renewable energy credits through our Green Up program,” said City Light Customer Energy Solutions Director Craig Smith. “City Light is proud to be the steward of this grant and part of the community partnership that will benefit our schools, affordable housing, parks, and hospitals.”

Grant recipients are:

  • Seattle Public Schools – $150,000 for solar installations at Bailey Gatzert Elementary, Ballard High School, Denny International Middle School, South Shore K-8 School, Hazel Wolf K-8 ESTEM School and Arbor Heights Elementary
  • King County Parks — $119,014 for a solar installation at the Steve Cox Community Center
  • Seattle Parks — $50,000 for a solar installation at the Brig at Magnuson Park
  • Seattle Colleges — $200,000 for a solar installation at Seattle Central College
  • Harborview Medical Center — $50,000 for a solar installation at the hospital
  • Capitol Hill Housing – three grants totaling $225,000 for solar installations at three affordable housing complexes – the Elizabeth James House, Ponderosa Apartments and El Nor Apartments
  • Pacific Science Center — $164,851 for a solar installation at the center

“We will soon be able to power the White Center community center and the adjacent basketball court using only clean, renewable energy,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said. “Our partnership with Seattle City Light will accelerate the work we are doing to transform Steve Cox Memorial Park into a model for sustainable operations.”

“Seattle Public Schools’ goal is to optimize energy conservation through cost-effective practices. We are grateful for the Seattle community members who contribute to Green Up and to Seattle City Light for this grant of $150,000. It will help us fund an energy efficiency project utilizing solar technology at six of our schools,” said Flip Herndon, Seattle Public Schools’ associate superintendent of capital, facilities and operations.

“We are thrilled to receive a Green Up grant award from Seattle City Light. With this award, Pacific Science Center will be installing a rooftop solar panel array, not only to make our campus more energy efficient, but also to create hands-on guest experiences focused on renewable energy,” said Chris Wheaton, Chief Operating & Financial Officer of Pacific Science Center. “We’re looking forward to introducing our community to a real-word application of clean tech innovation, enabled by Seattle City Light’s generosity and leadership.”

“This grant will allow us reduce the operating costs of our buildings and serve more low-income families and individuals. It’s a great way to keep renewable energy credits local and ensures that the beneficiaries are local residents who need it the most,” said McCaela Daffern, Capitol Hill Housing sustainability manager.

ABOUT GREEN UP

Green Up is a voluntary program that allows City Light customers to support renewable energy development and education by donating an extra $3 or more on their utility bills. Green Up funds are used to purchase renewable energy credits, and remaining contributions are used to pay for projects such as Sonic Bloom at Pacific Science Center and solar installations on three residence halls at the University of Washington. The program has expanded to provide direct grant funding for solar or other renewable energy installations and education projects in Seattle City Light’s service territory. To learn more, visit: http://www.seattle.gov/light/Greenup/

Interested in contributing to Green Up? Sign up here: http://www.seattle.gov/light/Greenup/for-home.asp 

Solar and innovation grants of up to $200,000 were awarded for renewable energy installations by public, nonprofit or educational organizations with a system size of less than 100 kilowatts. Projects must be connected to City Light’s distribution grid and equipped with a monitoring system. Education grants of up to $5,000 support projects that have a focus on educating students about renewable energy, such as curriculum development, research, extracurricular activities, supplies and teacher training.