There’s no shortage of environmental questions for St. Albert’s mayoral candidates to consider but few of the answers are easy.
Challenger Shelley Biermanski has been talking green since she announced her candidacy. For her, the main environmental issue is the state of the Sturgeon River, but there’s no easy solution to it.
“The river is so bad now we don’t even know where we’re going to start,” she said.
“I support developing a plan for the fix. I’m not an expert on fixing the river. We have to get a plan and follow through on it because we’ve had plans before. They just weren’t followed through on.”
Biermanski is also interested in seeing residential development in St. Albert take on a green theme, rather than continue with conventional homes.
“I would like it to be the theme of St. Albert, enviro-business, enviro-building and just start there,” she said.
Biermanski said she’s taking her cues from residents and is hearing a lot of good ideas. One simple one that she’d like to explore is the introduction of dedicated bike lanes.
Based on input from a resident, she thinks this could be as simple as painting a line on a street to designate a lane for cyclists.
“I would like to [try it]” she said. “The lines is a good start. It’s not a huge expense.”
Mayor Nolan Crouse has a lengthy campaign platform on his website and many of his points touch on some aspect of the environment.
One pressing priority is to bring in an air quality monitoring station to St. Albert, an issue he discussed with the province this past summer.
“We’re the only city of our size not to have an air quality monitoring station,” he said. “I want to collect baseline data now, before we’re a big city so we know what our air quality is today.”
The state of the Sturgeon River is another high priority. The city’s environment branch is due to present a report on the river’s state this fall. Once council has some data it can start to think about possible solutions, Crouse said.
Council is also awaiting an assessment of the two grit interceptors that the city has installed to protect the river from the harmful effects of run-off. Adopting them throughout the city would be a major expense but it’s one council will have to consider once it has a cost-benefit analysis to go on, he said.
“Perhaps once we get past this organic waste pickup cost, maybe this is the next phase of utility costs that we’re going to have to suck up,” Crouse said.
But he isn’t sure what’s the right approach yet.
“At this stage I don’t know,” he said.
Crouse said he’s “all in” when it comes to the curbside recycling program the city introduced this year and the addition of organic waste pickup to the program next year.
Once this next phase of waste pickup is established, he’d like to push St. Albert toward becoming a “zero-waste” city, which would require that the city “legislate tough actions” to keep other waste out of the landfill, he said.
Crouse also wants to bring in a tree bylaw to protect trees on public property.
“We really upset residents when we clear trees from an area and we replace them with smaller trees,” he said.
Unlike the tree bylaw that created an uproar in 2007, the one he’s proposing wouldn’t pertain to trees on private property, except for those on undeveloped land.
“We were able to maintain the trees up in Erin Ridge North for the most part but that took a lot of work with Landrex,” he said.
A more conceptual idea on Crouse’s mind is the creation of an “eco-area residential development node.” The idea would be to foster a housing development that incorporated the latest in energy efficiency, perhaps one with self-contained water systems and solar power, likely in the annexed lands.
“At this point it’s a little bit of a pipe dream,” he said.