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Copyright © 2008
Express Publishing Inc
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The Sun Valley Guide magazine is distributed free four times a year to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area communities.

Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper will receive the Sun Valley Guide with their subscription.

An aerial view of Friedman Memorial Airport before the runway was rebuilt. East Hailey is in the background with the bike path and Buttercup Road heading north on the old railroad right-of-way.

Fix habitat
governing green
writer: Pat Murphy
photographer: Judy Hanselman, QEI Publishing

The path to green governance is not usually paved, so Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey was at first surprised, and later a bit smug, at finding a green plan for resurfacing its tarmac.

When the airport’s governing board decided to rebuild the Hailey field’s single 6,952-foot runway in 2007, it approved a plan to grind and mill materials from the existing strip to use in the new runway.

As a result, 80 percent of the new runway is recycled from the original material; the remaining 20 percent recycled material was used for nearby parking areas and runway shoulders.

This recycling approach eliminated removing an estimated 66,000 tons of material from the airport and importing a like amount for the project. That in turn avoided 4,000 round-trip truck journeys, saving an estimated 80,000 miles of travel that would have burned 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel. In addition to sparing the environment, this strategy reduced the airport’s runway construction costs from $6 million to $4 million.

Up and down the Wood River Valley, this sort of practical innovation and attention to detail are finding their way into public policy decisions to protect the environment, upon which much of the local economy depends.

Actually, the Wood River Valley took its first tentative steps toward green policies several years ago when cities adopted the dark sky ordinance regulating outside lighting. Aggressive recycling soon followed.

Now, driven largely by the spirit of the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, the tiny local communities to varying degrees have either planned more ambitious green programs, when funds allowed, or have implemented them.

The city of Hailey is leading the way. In February 2007, then-Mayor Susan McBryant and the City Council created a Climate Protection Committee that has drawn up an ambitious, wide-ranging set of strategies and ideas for saving energy and creating environment-friendly habits.

Hailey’s environmental matrix is not a government do-as-I-say edict, but an invitation to a do-as-I-do checklist of workable actions the city applies to its own operations that can also be adapted by its residents.

There is nothing heroic or technologically difficult in the ideas: Never allow a car to idle more than 10 seconds when parked; use china plates rather than paper products; adjust house thermostats two degrees up in the summer, down in the winter; upgrade computers to laptops that use 90 percent less energy; reduce home landscaping that requires heavy irrigation; avoid chemicals for landscaping that could seep into nearby world-class trout streams.

Hailey’s green coordinator Becky Stokes illustrates how small acts add up. The City Hall’s heating bill has been reduced 47 percent through small thermostat adjustments. Other savings that have been realized include:

- 256 pounds of lead was diverted from the waste stream through recycling the city’s discarded electronics

- 100 pounds of carbon dioxide per light/per year will be saved by the replacement of old light bulbs in city offices with CFL bulbs

- 13 percent reduction in the disposal of solid waste made by replacing virgin office paper with 30 per cent post consumer recycled paper

- 9.3 percent reduction in electricity use (measured in kilowatt-hours) achieved from March through October due to conscientious turning off of unused lights and electronics in municipal offices

- 10 percent reduction in therms (a unit of heat) used by municipal buildings from March through September

If Hailey, the valley’s largest town with close to 7,000 residents, is cutting a wide swath with its green initiatives, the valley’s smallest town, Carey, with barely 700 people, is also doing its part. Carey Mayor Rick Baird points out that the city is requiring open space as more residents move from urban areas to less congested rural places.

Baird also hails the town’s energetic opposition to a series of 100-plus-foot-tall towers requiring a 220-foot right of way for a 500-kilovolt transmission line running through the small community—a project the residents consider degrading to the environment.

The spark plug of the valley’s green movement, the Ketchum-based Environmental Resource Center, is not just concerned with the outdoors. The group is urging local governments to build more efficient buildings to increase productivity of occupants. ERC Executive Director Craig Barry cites studies showing student grades improve 10 to 20 percent in buildings with better lighting and air quality. It is also vigorous in campaigning for computer users to dispose of old equipment at the central valley’s Ohio Gulch waste station.

Other cities are doing their part, too. Bellevue City Administrator Tom Blanchard aims to replace all the lights on Main Street to conform to the dark sky ordinance as well as to acquire land for a greenbelt and hiking trail along the Big Wood River.

At the valley’s largest private employer, the Sun Valley Company, green has been in for years at a resort operation virtually the size of a city.

Marketing Director Jack Sibbach says transportation is the largest and costliest of the company’s green efforts. It funds two daily bus runs between Twin Falls and Sun Valley, picking up employees along the way. It also meets and transports by van all resort guests arriving at the airport. At least 80 passes have been bought by the resort and given to employees for use on Mountain Rides’ local commuter bus. The company also bought four vans to use as rideshare vehicles for workers who live in distant areas.

Each of these strategies aims at reducing the number of private vehicles on the valley’s sole transportation artery, Highway 75, to save fuel and cut back on polluting emissions that would obscure the area’s spectacular vistas.

In addition, recycling bins have been installed throughout the resort grounds. Shops are reusing shipping supplies and all the resort’s housekeeping products and cleaning supplies are certified as environmentally friendly.

And, perhaps as a tribute to owner Earl Holding’s long-range vision of the resort’s legacy, Sibbach said a conscious decision has been made not to develop all the company’s extensive land into housing or recreation activities, but instead to leave much of it as open space.