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Yk attracts green attention

Nicole Veerman
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, February 16, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - People across the country are talking about Yellowknife's future plans.

Whether it's the proposed Con Mine community energy system or the city's recently completed Smart Growth Development Plan, the city is turning heads. So much so that city councillors Shelagh Montgomery and Mark Heyck were both asked to speak at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference in Victoria last week, while at the same time Mayor Gord Van Tighem was speaking at the Alaska Forum of the Environment.

Van Tighem said the invitations city council is receiving to speak at national and international conferences is a good indication that Yellowknife is at the forefront.

Another sign is the national recognition the city is receiving.

While at the FCM conference, Montgomery accepted a Sustainable Community Award for Yellowknife's Smart Growth plan.

The plan, which was completed last summer, provides a 50-year growth and development vision for the city. Council formed a Smart Growth Implementation Committee last October as a way to make the plan's recommendations a reality.

As part of the conference, Montgomery and Heyck spoke to representatives from other Canadian municipalities about how the city approached the development plan.

"People were very keen to hear about what we've been doing," said Heyck. "In particular there were some people from Nunavut and the Yukon who had lots of questions for me about how Yellowknife started achieving some of these goals and what advice we could offer them to move down that path as well."

During a discussion outlining ways to engage the community in sustainability initiatives, Heyck spoke about the extensive consultation process that went along with the plan, which included speaking with upwards of 2,000 Yellowknife residents.

He also discussed the city's communication efforts about the proposed Con Mine energy project - a topic people found particularly intriguing, he said. The project, if completed, will use both geothermal heat and wood-pellet boilers to heat 39 downtown buildings, significantly reducing the city's greenhouse gas emissions.

Montgomery said people were especially interested in how the system would operate in Yellowknife.

"Clearly it's not every city that has a mine or two mines in its backyard to be able to tap into," she said. "So people are certainly very interested in the source of the potential energy."

Van Tighem said people were equally interested in Anchorage, Alaska, where he was invited to speak on a panel about climate change in Northern communities.

"It was one of the highlights of discussion," he said.

Outside of conferences, Yellowknife's proposed community energy system is also being noticed by national media outlets. The project has popped up in the Canadian Business Journal, it put Yellowknife on The Mark's list of the five up-and-coming cities in Canada, and on a list of Canada's Green Cities of Tomorrow, created by Green Living.

"It's not unexpected," said Van Tighem, who suggested the attention is in part due to the fact that Yellowknife is the most recent city to look at a community energy system.

The city is working with the most up-to-date numbers and the potential for alternative energy sources, which grabs people's attention, he said.

"They see us as quite advanced."

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