STC Sustainability Showcase

Recognizing the following local organizations for outstanding actions that protect resources and improve our quality of life.

These organizations and individuals found a way to perform and promote sustainability here in our region over the last year, despite constraints and challenges during the pandemic. Our three pillars of Sustainability are “People, Place, Prosperity, for Posterity,” so we are recognizing environmental, social, governance and economic activities that reflect sustainability values.

Friends of Badger Mountain – Protecting public access, scenic ridges & open space

The mission of Friends of Badger Mountain is preservation and stewardship of the ridges in the Lower Columbia Basin for the benefit of the community and the environment. The group first created the Badger Mountain Preserve in 2005, added land in 2011, then the Candy Mountain Preserve in 2016.  There is now a network of 10 miles of trails over 900 acres. The Friends of Badger Mountain is close to their goal of a continuous trail system connecting three  ridges — Little Badger, Badger and Candy.  They need to purchase just 21 acres to complete the Little Badger Mountain Preserve . The group has raised all but $600,000 — and has launched a public fundraising campaign to raise the rest by the end of the year.  They also plan to open a trail through the Red Mountain vineyards this fall. More than 300,000 people used the trails in 2019. With the pandemic in 2020, the numbers using the trail were certainly  much higher. This has been such an important community resource this past year for exercise and recreation, enhanced by  the addition of signage on native plants and the Ice Age impact in this area contributing to natural resources education and conservation.

“With the pandemic in 2020, Friends of Badger Mountain has been such an important community resource this past year for exercise and recreation.”

Bob Bass, Friends of Badger Mountain President

City of Pasco – Improving street connectivity to safely walk, bike & roll

The City of Pasco street connectivity and transportation planning improvements are underway to help ensure access to safe, efficient transportation options. The transportation system has a significant impact on how users can travel within the community. Senior Planner, Jacob Gonzalez, says that this gives the City the opportunity to take a refined look at the City’s street patterns and layouts. City staff are collecting data and analyzing existing lots and blocks pattern, identifying best practices, code amendments, and long range plan updates. This is a collaboration with planning staff, fire and public works, transportation agencies and community stakeholders. Pasco street connectivity will help our most vulnerable road users. A safe network of trails and bike paths encourages an active, safe, and healthy community.

Solar Spirits – Using 100% renewable energy and business modification to support global pandemic needs

Located in the business incubation campus off Robertson in Richland is a local distillery making whiskey, gin, vodka and brandy and a new ready-made cocktail. They source their fruit and grains 100% from our State and their water heaters, masher, fermenter and distillery is powered by 100% renewable energy. They use onsite solar tubes, which combined with Green-E Energy Certified Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) means 100% renewable energy. Last year, when the world was facing a shortage of hand sanitizer because of the emerging pandemic, Solar Spirits stepped up quickly and turned their business into one making hand sanitizer and shipped their product world-wide. This is a small, locally owned business and one worthy of a sustainability recognition. 

Benton-Franklin Health Department – Informing the community on the best available science for managing COVID-19

The Benton-Franklin Health District has been providing updated information and data to help our region during the COVID-19 crisis and worked tirelessly to get the community safely through the pandemic, despite many challenges. BFHD web site provides information about testing sites, vaccinations, and safety guidelines for schools and businesses. BFHD has served the growing community of Benton and Franklin counties for over 70 years. Made up of nearly 100 dedicated staff members, BFHD serves the bi-county population of 283,000 residents, thousands of visitors, and covers almost 3,000 square miles within its jurisdiction. BFHD supports and participates in community level projects and helps address other emerging public health concerns as they arise. In addition to providing many services directly, Benton-Franklin Health District works collaboratively with dozens of community partners and organizations to address health needs of people living, working, and visiting the bi-county region.

Tapteal Greenway – Providing online environmental education

The mission of Tapteal Greenway is to promote conservation, education and recreation with a primary focus along the 31-mile corridor of the lower Yakima River extending from the Kiona Bend at Benton City to the mouth of the river at Bateman Island in Richland.

Conservation efforts include land acquisition, native plant restoration projects and stewardship of existing open space (such as Amon Creek and Chamna Natural Preserves and WE Johnson Park).

Educational efforts reach students of all ages through attending school STEM nights, classroom visits, sponsoring field trips and their Wildlands Walk event. The Wildlands Walk at Amon Creek Natural Preserve is held each spring, and features a variety of educational stations such as geology, reptiles, wetlands, and bird watching. Last year education offerings went online on Tuesdays (via Instagram, Facebook and YouTube) with #TaptealTuesday posts offering nature lessons, crafts, or story time.

Guided hikes and paddles were not offered last year but people were encouraged to get out on their own, keep group size small, and pack out trash. Having natural areas for recreation was so important this past year. This valuable community resource is made possible by many volunteers.

Futurewise – Protecting water resources and improving shoreline habitat

Futurewise partnered with Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group to bring an environmental education and habitat restoration campaign to the Tri-Cities. They will work with shoreline landowners and community members to restore and enhance shoreline areas utilizing grant funding and their technical expertise to meet the aesthetic interests of the landowner while also ensuring they are meeting the needs of salmon and other native species that rely on these important areas.

To showcase how these types of projects can look they are developing a demonstration project in partnership with the City of Pasco, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Confederate Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and others which will be planted this fall at Chiawana Park in Pasco. A goal of the initiative is also to engage with local community organizations and schools to develop exciting onsite informal education offerings about why these areas have such an important role in improving water quality and habitat for salmon and other native species.

Further protecting water resources: a settlement agreement between Benton County and Futurewise established a County Rural Water Supply program to mitigate impacts on the Yakima River from residential exempt wells that have hydraulic continuity with the Yakima River .

Energy Northwest – Horn Rapids Solar, Storage & Training Project

As an independent joint operating agency of Washington state, Energy Northwest comprises 27 public power member utilities. Energy Northwest owns and operates a diverse mix of 100% clean electricity generating resources: hydro, solar, battery storage and wind projects, and the Columbia Generating Station nuclear power facility. These projects provide carbon-free electricity at the cost of generation – enough clean, cost-effective and reliable energy to power more than a million homes each year. The agency is committed to developing clean energy resources to help meet the state’s Clean Energy Transformation Act goals by 2045.

  • The Horn Rapids Solar, Storage & Training Project provides Washington state its first opportunity to integrate a utility-scale solar and storage facility into its clean mix of hydro, nuclear and wind resources. The project was created in partnership with Tucci Energy Services, the City of Richland, Potelco Inc., the Department of Commerce, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. This facility combines solar generation with battery storage and technician training.  The 20-acre project north of Richland is a 4-megawatt direct current solar generating array of photovoltaic panels that can provide enough energy to power about 600 Richland homes. The project also includes a 1-MW/4MWh battery energy storage system and serves as a training ground for solar and battery technicians throughout the nation. The combination of photovoltaic solar with battery storage provides a predictable, renewable generating resource. Construction began in February 2020 and the project came online in November 2020.

New Solar Project: Energy Northwest and Tucci Energy Services are planning what could become Washington’s largest utility-scale photovoltaic solar project. The companies signed a letter of intent in the fall of 2020 for Energy Northwest to lease Tucci Energy Services 300 acres of land north of Richland to build more than 100 megawatts of photovoltaic solar panels, which could provide electricity to more than 11,000 homes.  Construction is projected for spring of 2022.

  • EVITA:  The Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Transportation Alliance (EVITA) is leading the way to advocate for sustainable electric transportation infrastructure in Washington state and the Pacific Northwest. EVITA’s visionary members include Energy Northwest, Benton Public Utility District, Franklin Public Utility District, Benton Rural Electric Association, City of Richland Energy Services, City of Ellensburg Energy Services and the Mid-Columbia Energy Initiative (MCEI), an industry collaboration effort coordinated through the Tri-City Development Council (TRIDEC). EVITA was formed to aggregate the efforts of local utilities toward the support and adoption of the installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.  Formed in 2016, the group collaborated on a project and grant application that Energy Northwest received from Washington State Department of Transportation to install nine electric vehicle charging stations along underserved corridors in Washington state.  Additionally, EVITA partners with regional leaders, community members and private vendors toward the further development of electric vehicle charging stations throughout the Pacific Northwest. 
  • Energy Northwest has led installation of ten charging stations to date, with several more to be installed throughout the state. Charging stations consisting of one 50 kW fast charger and one Level 2 charger have been installed through the EVITA program in Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, Connell, Prosser, Moses Lake, Yakima, Ellensburg, Cle Elum and Dayton.
  • Special recognition to Jennifer Harper, Energy Northwest Project Developer, who headed up the effort to bring EVITA here. She also chairs the Transportation Sub Committee of the Mid-Columbia Energy Initiative, is a member of the Mid-Columbia Electric Vehicle Association, and serves as board president for Drive Electric Washington.

Ben Franklin Transit – Air quality preservation via vehicular trip reduction and ensuring safe mobility during COVID-19.

Champion for single auto occupancy trip reduction. In 2019, just prior to Covid-19, BFT orchestrated more than 3.13 million passenger trips – thereby removing almost that many vehicles from the regions road network. BFT is currently implementing a WA State Ecology funded trip-reduction grant program.

BFT campaigns for all active transportation options and hosted WSDOT State bicycle plan workshops plus contributed to the Benton Franklin Council of Governments Active Transportation Plan.  BFT promotes Bike-on-Bus via equipping all their buses with bicycle racks (some even have capacity to carry three bikes), and have plans to place bike repair stations and bike storage rings along select bike corridors in the Tri-Cities.

With the assistance of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory engineers, BFT became the Washington State pioneer in Electric Bus operations by converting a diesel bus to fully electric power in 2013. Fleet bus electrification and charging is in the programming stage, as part of the response to the BFT 2015 Strategic Plan Board directive to “pursue environmentally friendly buses”.

COVID-19 Current Practices: Seniors and mobility challenged individuals, regardless of ADA (Dial-A-Ride) eligibility, are able to schedule trips to and from vaccine sites. BFT CONNECT, on-demand service is being offered fare free to the general public with expanded destination options including front-door drop-off to local COVID-19 vaccination sites.

Endorsed and enforced the Governor’s social distancing rules by limiting large buses to 10 passengers, and vans to 2 eligible ADA passengers. Drivers are protected by having passengers enter via the rear door. The entire transit system is fare free until further notice.

  • Wear a face covering (if needed, drivers provide free face coverings),
  • Stay home and stay safe – do not use public transit if sick or experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.

Special thanks to all our affiliates not mentioned above for their support and ongoing sustainability efforts. Sustainable Tri-Cities works with affiliates to identify issues of common concern and educate the public on these issues. By bringing community stakeholders such as schools, businesses and local governments together we can work toward the common commitment of building a sustainable community.