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Summary Meeting Notes: October 24, 2012 Watershed Health and Environment PEG

Summary Meeting Notes

Watershed Health & Environmental Policy Expert Group (WHE PEG)
Meeting Date:  October 24, 2012
Time: 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

PEG Attendees
: Judy Bluehorse Skelton, Claire Carder, Corky Collier, Ben Duncan, Sallie Edmunds (BPS), Renee Hackenmiller-Paradis, Marla Harrison, Mike Houck, Roberta Jortner (BPS), Maryhelen Kincaid, Noelwah Netusil, Bob Sallinger, Jonathon Soll, Jennifer Thompson, Marie Walkiewicz (BES)

Invited Attendees:
 Marty Stockton (BPS), Paul Ketchum (BES)

Other Attendees: 
Shannon Buono (BPS), Chris Scarzello (BPS), Nan Stark (BPS), Joan Frederiksen (BPS), Peter F. Fry, two members of the public

Facilitator:
 Dena Marshall, Solid Ground Consulting

View the original agenda, including materials, for this meeting.

Key Points and Outcomes 

  • There was general support for citywide policies to address cumulative environmental impacts (negative and positive), with policies identifying focus areas/topics by watershed.  Environmental zones aren’t sufficient.  Need to look at the whole watershed not just significant natural resource areas.
  • PEG members recommended that the City address issues in addition to, and related to, cumulative impacts, including social and public health impacts of development.  The PEG encouraged City staff to address non-regulated issues in its analysis of the policy choices (i.e., air quality), and to include such discussion in a general “Decision-Making” chapter.
  • There was general support for policies that call for ongoing monitoring of watershed conditions, use of best available information in decision making, and tracking of trends to inform programmatic updates (aka adaptive management).  “It’s good to have targets so we know where we want to head.”
  • Having current data and targets in place is important, but be wary of relying on complex models and data intensive approaches to establish policy direction. Instead, have strong policies in place and use data to support common sense decisions.
  • See below for specific recommendations on language and policy.

Introduction and Review Agenda (15 minutes)
Presenter: Dena Marshall, Solid Ground Consulting

Summary: Dena welcomed the group and kicked off the meeting.

Updates on the Comprehensive Plan Process and Other Updates
(10 minutes)
Presenter: Sallie Edmunds, Watershed Health and Environment PEG Lead

Summary: Sallie provided an update an update on the Comprehensive Plan process, “equity discussion” topic for next month, and efforts of the Industrial Lands Working Group, a joint WHE and Economic Development group, convened for the purpose of examining technical questions related to the industrial lands.

  • Recommended policies from PEG members were submitted to the “Comp Plan” team on Oct. 1.  These Draft Policies are currently in the process of being combined with the policies on other topics. A second Draft Policies is expected in December, followed by a series of public workshops and outreach events through January and February.
  • Next month’s meeting will be on the topic of equity. All PEGs will be focusing on equity in the month of December. Judith Mowry and Desiree Williams-Rajee (Equity Coordinator) will help lead the meeting which will be about looking at watershed health and environment through an equity lens.
  • IndustrialLandand Watershed Health Working Group is in the process of being formed. Will be facilitated by Joe Hertzberg. Group to consist of several PEG members, possibly some other community members, and Economic Development PEG members. The group will report back. Their agenda includes building a shared understanding of why we are working so hard for watershed health and industrial land development.  They will look at options to increase supply of industrial lands and possibly create new options, and will advise on how to present materials to the public.


Comprehensive Plan Update Public Workshops (20 minutes)

Presenter: Marty Stockton, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

Handout: Process Diagram and Workshop Proposal for CIC Review

Summary: Marty summarized the staff thinking and planning around engaging the broader public in review of the Discussion Draft, including informal connections that will happen in November (“Fix It Fairs”), December (malls), January (Community Centers) and more formal connections that will happen at Community Workshops in February. Also, the Community Involvement Committee is promoting community-sponsored events which may take place in addition to the City sponsored events.

PEG comments/questions:

  •  Are there analytics about how many people are using and accessing the website?
  • Not sure. We are capable of accessing that information and can get that to you.
  • Who and what will determine the topics or key issues/choices that will be discussed in the breakout groups at the workshops with the public?
  • That is still being determined.
  • How are you imagining the feedback that will be gained from the public engagement process to be incorporated? 
  • PEG members will help with the analysis of the feedback and incorporating it into the draft. The plan is to thoughtfully summarize the feedback gained during the public process and share it in the next phase—outreach is currently anticipated for May.
  • Have community organizations already expressed interest in hosting the community-sponsored events?
  • The CIC has drafted an invitation letter. We will be sharing this invitation and feeling this out with partners (Citywide Land Use, Diversity and Civic Leadership) soon. There is also hope that interest and initiative may arise from PEG members. 

Other comments:

  • When the working draft is issued in December the workshops will be announced.

Cumulative Impacts

Presenter: Roberta Jortner (BPS), Marie Walkiewicz (BES) and Paul Ketchum (BES)

Handouts and Presentation materials: Cumulative Impacts Discussion Paper and Map

Summary: Roberta introduced the topic of cumulative environmental impacts, highlighting the opportunities through the Comprehensive Plan Update to improve how the City manages the cumulative impacts of development inPortland. Marie presented a map that was created from a watershed health perspective to inform the discussion. Paul Ketchum shared a series of new tools that are being developed to assess and understand cumulative impacts. 

Questions for PEG:

  • Is there support for explicit comprehensive plan policies that call for addressing cumulative impacts through City long term planning and potentially through the review and permitting of new development projects? (PEG members provided a unanimous “thumbs up” to this question, indicating support for addressing cumulative impacts through long-term planning policies.)
  • What are your views of the options presented in the paper? Is there support for the policies and actions named in the paper that would address cumulative impacts?

PEG comments:

  • New tools could really help us make the right decisions and policies because we can now actually define where we want to be.
  • What are the set targets for these tools?
  • Still working on setting precise targets, a range has been set. Some targets may be aligned with ODFW standards, using our best professional development to determine targets.
  • It makes a lot of sense to incorporate this way of thinking into long range planning with both large projects and small things too– we need to be looking at development patterns and how they play out and look at the effects. Don’t we already do this? We do this qualitatively but not quantitatively.
  • How much of the city is represented through these tools?
  • All of it (including public and private lands). Looking at all six watersheds. We need to get a better handle on terrestrial environments and their biological communities.
  • We should be working to coordinate monitoring with upstream jurisdictions, in order to understand and account for all the impacts on our watershed health that may be originating in other jurisdictions. This is true for Willamette mainstem and Johnson Creek. This affects how we interpret the data collected from these areas.
  • If we are studying watershed health site by site by site and looking at impacts, are we taking into consideration and monitoring what has failed in the past because of bad planning?
  • Consider defining and prioritizing the parameters when dealing with different watersheds and microenvironments. It is important to have policies that adapt and are flexible to deal with different variables.
  • Do other municipalities have similar systems and are they incorporating them into their long-range planning?
  • These tools are especially useful for gathering baseline data that can frame adaptive management policies and lead to better decision-making for the health of our watersheds. How do we really integrate this into the comp plan now?  How do we create valuable policies? Valuable policies can also be vulnerable to swings in priorities.
  • We should use the data we have, the best we can, but we also need to be careful of overemphasis on data. We can use common sense too. Also consider: A data intense approach might be difficult to sustain over time. Maybe some subset of data is less reliant on in depth funding. Agree with previous point made about flexibility
  • When we build in flexibility (in policies), the environment can be compromised (i.e. city’s tree targets). We should be careful not to build in too much flexibility.
  • Budget priorities can shift and “go off course” to accommodate another goal. How do we really get into the budget cycle so our priorities actually get prioritized? Could funding get tied to a specific outcome that is connected?

Specific Recommendations on Cumulative Impacts Discussion Paper Language or Policy

General:

  • Engage planning on a watershed scale.  Portland is served by 6 distinct, and inter-related, watersheds: monitor, evaluate, and plan by the watersheds, rather than the jurisdiction.
  • The success criteria should relate to specific watershed functions (such as “no net loss of function…”) Current success criteria are not related to watershed health or measurable.
  • Include a link between the economic benefits that occur when we make exceptions to a regulation.
  • Success criteria should include: “preventing degradation” and “improving watershed conditions”.
  • Add a reference for the need for adaptive management.
  • Consider using term “cumulative effects” given the negative connotation associated with the word “impacts”. OR use “cumulative impacts” (not effects) because we are really talking about the negative impacts.
  • Tree canopy and impervious surfaces seem like good indicators for addressing this issue.
  • Broaden to include all NEPA aspects, not just natural resources.
  • Measure City efforts against the other regulatory entities (Metro, County, State, Federal) to look at cumulative impacts.
  • Create clear standards – relying on discretionary review and conditions of approval tend to allow for more negative impacts.
  • Agree with removing qualifier after definition.
  • The city has the authority to be more stringent than other jurisdictions.
  • Include “health” as part of the analysis.
  • Make sure these policies are consistent with other jurisdictions’ overlays – County, Metro, State, and Federal.  Can be more stringent than other overlays?
  • Striving for positive impacts of development is important but preventing negative impacts is still key.
  • Mitigation of environmental impacts should take place in the same watershed.  We’re seeing trends of moving mitigation to other watersheds and outside the City.

Pg 1:

  • Encourage an even more robust analysis that looks at human health benefits.

Pg 6:

  • 6.2: Is that in reference to neighborhood plans and natural resource management plans? Aspirational language is not enforceable. Plans and policies need to be enforceable and have a reason for being.
  • 6.8: Add that it is important to consider them – this may lead to pushing back on the other jurisdictions that regulate them.
  • Confusion about 8 points on page 6.
  • Success criteria should include relationship to watershed functions, “no net loss of function” etc.

Pg 7:

  • Clearly define “Cumulative impacts” term. Remove application language from definition.
  • In the Policy Statement, add something that gets at the data that will be so valuable. “Understand and consider the cumulative impact…”
  • (7.2.a) Delete “to the extent practical” from policy statement. Extraneous?
  • (7.2.a) Long range plans need to be effective / enforceable, Re: Land Use Review – reign in administrative and policy decisions that influence cumulative impacts.
  • Review periodically for triggers and corrective actions.
  • Include “effectiveness/usefulness” language.

Pg 8:

  • City should consider the cumulative impacts; City is not a regulatory entity for all types of impacts.
  • (8b) Add a time sensitive directive to update programs “on a regular basis” and look at data “before it gets too late”.

Public Comment

  • None

Next Steps

  • Next meeting is Nov. 28, 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm, Topic: Equity

For more information, please contact Sallie Edmunds, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability at 503-823-6950 or sallie.edmunds@portlandoregon.gov or Dena Marshall, Facilitator at 503-249-0000 or dena@solidgroundconsulting.com.