Laying out Minneapolis environmental future

Minneapolis received mixed marks in a new report that gauges the progress the city is making in efforts to protect and enhance the environment.

A week before this years Earth Day celebration, officials outlined where the city stands in its environment and sustainability practices in a report titled Minneapolis GreenPrint. The report lays out the progress the city made last year in 10 sustainability areas, which are part of Minneapolis broader 24 sustainability initiatives.

The city did well in some areas and is on track to meet or exceed goals such as adding bicycle lanes and trails, increasing alternative transportation and managing rainwater by increasing permeable surfaces such as the number of green roofs.

Yet in other areas, the report notes there is still work to do. For example, the citys air quality goal is to reduce the number of moderately unhealthy air quality days per year to fewer than 35 by 2015. Yet, the number of moderately unhealthy days increased by 23 percent from 2005 to 2006, totaling 98 days last year. The goal of improving areas lakes and the Mississippi River also needs further work, as all of the lakes targeted by the city except Brownie Lake worsened in clarity during 2006.

The report also lays out future benchmarks for addressing renewable energy, global warming, air quality, bicycle lanes, Downtown transportation alternatives, tree canopy, airport noise, combined sewer overflow, permeable surfaces and water quality.

Council Member Scott Benson (11th Ward), who chairs the City Councils Health, Energy and Environment (HEE) Committee, said some goals of the report will be easier to accomplish than others.

The report is a huge step forward. The city is doing quite well in dealing with some of the 10 initiatives, while there is still a ways to go on others, he said. GreenPrint is basically a report card that gives us a good measurement of where we are and where we want to be.

Daniel Huff, Minneapolis sustainability program coordinator, said the city itself has the power to accomplish items in GreenPrint like increasing bike lanes and reducing combined sewer runoff, while others the city plays merely a role in.

Water and air come in and out of the city, so these types of things are more regional issues, he said. Our goal is to lead by example through regulations, incentives and lobbying.

Some of the more ambitious goals of the report include the city using 10 percent more electricity from renewable sources than what Xcel Energy supplies by 2008, reducing citywide carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020, adding 44 miles of bike lanes and trails by 2015, getting 67 percent of people entering the city using alternative transportation by 2013, planting at least 2,500 trees annually until 2015, and eliminating combined sewer overflows completely by 2014.