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Friday, December 12, 2008

Green Ribbon Committee Requests Input

During the month of November Mayor Dean's Green Ribbon Committee sought input from the community to make Nashville the "greenest city in the southeast." In addition to the Committee holding public meetings for suggestions by the public, the Natural Resource and Mobility sub-committees requested contributions from various organizations, including RCWA. Below you can find the submissions RCWA contributed. RCWA did not have much time to prepare and therefore unfortunately did not have the time to ask for your suggestions.
As you may all understand- land, water and air interact and affect the other. The key element affecting our environment is us- how we live and our behaviors directly impact the environment and ultimately our water resources.

The questions posed by the Green Ribbon Committee precede our response below in italics.

Your comments to our submissions are welcome!

Natural Resource Subcommittee
Submit a summary of your organization, your current and future goals, barriers your are experiencing in reaching your goals and a wish list of sustainable practices you would like to see Nashville adopt or work towards..

Richland Creek Watershed Alliance Summary

Mission Statement
Richland Creek Watershed Alliance (RCWA) is a community-supported organization promoting environmental sustainability for the Richland Creek watershed.

RCWA aims to-
Reconnect local stakeholders to the significance of their watershed and offer educational tools to the community about water resource sustainability.

Establish cooperative, practical and effective programs and projects, which all stakeholders can participate and;

Seek collaborative partnerships with other organizations within the watershed to restore water quality and riparian habitat.

Current Projects RCWA hosts and sponsors
• Host annual creek clean up on Richland Creek at Charlotte Avenue (Spring)
• Host annual collaborative clean up throughout watershed (Fall)
• Provide seasonal How-to Workshops for rain gardens and rain barrels
• Provide educational PowerPoint presentations to various organizations about the importance of water resources, the environmental impacts facing our watershed and introduce ways individuals can participate and help to improve water resource sustainability.
• Host stenciling activities (“No Dumping”) for stormwater drains in concert with Metro Water Services Adopt a Stream Program
• Installing two rain gardens in the watershed
• Maintain and create venues for stakeholders to acquire and exchange information (Monthly Update Emails, Creekvoice- our newsletter, website and blog, and currently working on a RCWA video)
• Inform and report illicit discharges to streams and guide stakeholders how to report violations that impact water resources
• Notify stakeholders of community opportunities or public meetings regarding environmental sustainability
• Offer and contribute to community recommendations that improve environmental sustainability

Future Goals and Projects
• Expand on current collaborations, projects and programs
• Cultivate RCWA membership
• Grow the number of rain barrels and rain gardens in the watershed
• Participate in and organize community restoration projects that further enhance riparian habitat and improve stream water quality
• Participate in investigative projects that may affect policies that protect our water resources

Challenges to Our Goals
• Due to the fact that we are an all volunteer organization, time would be our biggest challenge
• Adequate funds on occasion prohibits us from facilitating our programs
• Mistakenly being compared to larger organizations with full-time staff

Submit a Wish List of Sustainability Practices for Nashville

Positively affect two looming environmental crisis - water resource sustainability and climate change through pollution prevention and up-front investment:

• Re-establish all stream zone buffer zones and refrain from approving variances
• Terminate polluting activities to water resources by businesses or property owners with “grandfathered in” status and industry with outdated permits
• Improve NPDES enforcement to prevent illicit discharges by construction practices, or other activities, that pollute water resources- establish stormwater monitoring requirements, increase regulatory inspection and issue fines to those that breach requirements
• Address the “emerging contaminants to the environment” when investing in any water treatment or sewage treatment improvements and permit requirements
• Protect and enhance natural and pristine areas
• Reduce air and water pollution by investing in a mass transit system that will utilizes renewable fuels or electric energy to reduce green house gases.
• Expand greenways and parks with increased deliberation to enhance wildlife habitat
• Establish Low Impact Development (LID) requirements for new and re –development
• Encourage retrofit projects that utilize LID, LEED certification and re-use of materials with tax incentives
• Establish a stormwater credit/fee system for all development (industry, business and residential) to reduce expansion of impervious surfaces
• Invest in water/ sewer infrastructure and stormwater management system improvements, utilizing cutting edge treatment technologies and LID technologies respectively
• Establish incentives for solar, wind and other clean energy investment by business, industry and residences.

(Incentives and credits measured by carbon footprint and stormwater run-off reduction or land donations for buffer zones)

Mobility Subcommittee

What programs or actions with little or no cost could be or should be implemented quickly?

• Release public health announcements featuring facts/truths about the public health hazards of the different green house gases (GHGs), how the formation of ozone occurs and how our specific topography in Nashville is vulnerable to its’ accumulation.
• Release public announcements about the Metro-Nashville Mobility Plan- the challenges and attributes.
• Educate the public how air/water/land interacts and how the decrease of GHGs in our city will improve our natural resources and our quality of life on many levels.
• Ask local media stations and publications to feature these educational topics as a public service.

Changing Mobility Behavior
• Submit a community challenge to employees/residents to walk, bike, telecommute, take the bus, or car pool to work. Begin this program with a base-line measurement of green house gases (GHGs) and collect (weekly/monthly) regular measurement of the same locations throughout the challenge, reporting improvements to community.
Ask employees/residents to report the money they saved for their changed behavior. This data will be helpful to measure benefits also.
Ask employers to join and support community contest/challenge. Their reward will be the city’s publication of their corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Companies and businesses can also measure employee behavior improvement as well (employee sick days, work performance, attitude).
• Continue releasing public announcements to familiarize the public about the Long Term Mobility Plan, and the Community Challenge with follow-up progress reports.
• Prepare an integrated mobility system plan (see below) which utilizes non-motorized modalities, urban electric streetcars, alternative fuel connector buses and fast passenger rail service to outlying destinations from multiple park-ride business centers that doubles as a sub-terminal mobility station.

Regulatory Program
• Review and inspect for accuracy all regulated air emission permits. Working with TDEC/EPA, issue violations/penalties to those exceeding permit requirements and deadlines for modifications to meet current requirements.
• Create an industry investment incentive to apply technologies for the emissions releases that can be curtailed by modern applications, but are not required. Offer violators to use penalty funds to invest towards these applications.
• Implement a carbon footprint tax ordinance to discourage excessive motor idling. Attention should be put upon business activities that often let trucks/cars/buses idle excessively (contractors/construction, delivery, garbage collection, cabs) to meet the new city ordinance.
• Offer carbon tax credit for business/industry to utilize alternative fuels (low/no GHG), with credits relative to their GHG reduction (measured and rewarded for cleaner and more efficient fuels).
• All of the above could be a part of a new GHG regulatory requirement standard.

• Expedite the timing of traffic lights to reduce congestion and keep traffic flowing to reduce idling.
• Implement “green street” program recently proposed by some Metro Council Representatives. Plant trees, rain gardens and other oxygen producing urban green spaces utilizing community volunteer projects and/or support groups who do the same. Seems there should also be a requirement for current urban landscaping to have living plants (maintenance/replacement requirement). Often I see dead plants in these landscape areas.
• Install the planned sidewalks and bike paths to encourage non-motorized behavior.
• Develop a plan for developer investment (by tax or other funding outlet) towards mass transit system since it will attract and direct patrons to their business area(s).

What programs or actions that require funding could be or should be implemented in the next fiscal year?

Local Mobility System Plan
Finalize the Plan and begin investment in a more non-polluting integrated transit system that utilizes electric streetcars/tram, alternative fuel connector buses, fast trains to outlining areas, bike and pedestrian paths. Create multiple sub-terminals that double as business/commercial centers rather than having just one major terminal downtown. Utilize park/ride system at these sub-terminals.
Trains’ crossing our river rather than just car bridges seems to be an efficient supplemental alternative also.

• Utilize the old streetcar tracks beneath the major corridors from downtown outward with electric track conduits for installation of an urban electric trolley/tram system to connect with an integrated mobility system. (Examples: Charlotte Pike, Broadway/West End/Harding Road, and Franklin Road).
Investment in an electric urban trolley/tram system would reduce GHGs greater per dollar-by not only reducing cars, reduce traffic jams and wasteful idling but produce no GHGs into our Metro-Nashville basin.
Personally, I live off Charlotte Avenue and the reduction of cars and traffic congestion could be reduced considerably here. Cities like Portland have utilized these systems and Nashville may benefit by reviewing their proposed and past installations, taking advantage of their mistakes (best bike path designation with this system).
• Begin investment/acquisition into multiple sub-terminals locations as part of the Mobility Plan rather than funneling all travelers towards one major downtown terminal.
o These sub-terminals should be located at the urban streetcar corridors, interstate exchanges and railroad tracks. The sub-terminals could also double as business/retail centers which welcomes park/ride, pedestrian and biking alternatives for travelers and consumers.
o Example- The Whitebridge/I40/Charlotte Pike intersection is a perfect spot to create a mobility sub-terminal. The terminal could also offer a commuter or traveler to park their car and choose to go in town by streetcar, catch a connector bus or a fast passenger train to more distant locals. The John Tune Airport and Cumberland River is convenient here also and may also be utilized into the Plan- a transportation hub.
o The mobility sub-terminal as a businesses center would create concentrated urban development, welcome business from many venues and include many types of retailers (ex: bicycles or smart/electric car rentals).
Cab service included here must meet the new GHG emission standard requirement.

What long-term major programs or actions that require extensive planning, development and funding could be or should be implemented in the next 5, 10, 15, 20 or 30 years?

Implement Larger Mobility System Plan
Utilize a passenger train service to our Parks (Bells Bend, Percy Warner…) and most traveled regional destinations (Franklin, Murfreesboro…) where we have daily congestion. Create more sub-terminals as described (terminal/business centers) convenient to these corridors. These park/ride sub-terminals will be accessible to all types of travel modalities- pedestrians, bikers, streetcars, buses, cars, trains and; encourage centralized and concentrated urban development- as commercial/business centers for that area.

• Continue the investment into sub-terminals, the urban streetcar/tram system pedestrian/bike connection paths.
• Utilize the Federal funding for passenger trains that is likely to occur, into our larger mobility plan. This system should encourage and support a regional train system to be created. The fast passenger train system should also be integrated with the local system expressed above.
• Partner with CSX for track use to connect outlying areas and cross Cumberland River
• Other funding sources towards a sustainable mobility system should come from higher carbon footprint generators, a pollution/gas/health tax and by creating a transportation non-governmental organization
• Successful expansion of urban system will pave the way for regional investment and participation into a larger system. This will curtail polluting commuter behavior more and make travel to Nashville easier, more affordable and attractive to patrons in outlying areas.

Please add any other notes or ideas you want to share with the Mobility Subcommittee.

• I believe we could help improve multiple and obvious economic and environmental issues facing Nashville by utilizing such a system.

• We could utilize local workers, perhaps create an on-the job training of streetcar track restoration for the unemployed and homeless residents.
The City of Portland Oregon successfully uses volunteers to run their streetcars.

• Investment in reduced/non-polluting and electric streetcar/tram system offers other and more peripheral cost savings and lifestyle improvements (some listed).
o Decreased regulatory costs
o Noise reduction
o Lower health hazards
o Road repairs needed less often
o Reduced car accidents and traffic congestion (idling)
o Less maintenance cost for electric systems
o Reduction of water/soil pollution by fossil fuel constituents via storm water run-off and air pollution
o Attracts new business, tourism and increased green investment/businesses’

• Investment in fossil fuel buses seems not to be the best investment in Nashville’s future and just a temporary solution, which will likely become a wasted long-term investment. It is suggested that objective research in the cost and GHG savings over the long term, including peripheral costs/savings, be conducted by Nashville planners and not by a consultant/contractor that builds roads or by another biased group.

o As the future brings increased production of other fuels and technology Nashville will be the prepared to utilized them
o Investment in an urban streetcar system with sub-terminals throughout city will attract more types of riders quicker than just traditional buses.
o Priority investment to a streetcar system brings a reduction to GHGs faster: $100,000 invested in a non-polluting streetcar/tram is more fiscally frugal than a $50,000 fossil fuel bus investment per carbon ton.
o Prioritize investment to congested and busy traffic corridors first.

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