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Friday, July 9, 2010

Making the Treasure Valley Sustainable

The word “sustainable” is heard everywhere these days. Are our farms sustainable? Our cities? Our transportation system? Our lifestyle?

Many organizations have been working on sustainability issues for many years. The federal government has now joined the clamor by advocating for sustainable communities through a series of grants designed to assist areas in developing regional sustainability plans, and when those plans exist, assist regions in implementing them. In addition, the ability to demonstrate that a region has a viable sustainability plan, or a commitment to fulfill livability principles, is already appearing as a requirement for federal grant funds and likely will remain so in the future.

This is an exciting and challenging time for COMPASS. As the regional council of governments for Ada and Canyon Counties, our work has mainly focused on transportation planning and its nexus with land use. While these are elements of sustainability, they are certainly not the only components.

So, what does make a region sustainable? There are many different perceptions and definitions of sustainability. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines a sustainable community as:

Urban, suburban, and rural places that successfully integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure investments in a manner that empowers jurisdictions to consider the interdependent challenges of: 1) economic competitiveness and revitalization; 2) social equity, inclusion, and access to opportunity; 3) energy use and climate change; and 4) public health and environmental impact.

As we look to the future, it is clear that these concepts of sustainability are where we need to focus. To that end, COMPASS will be working closely with members of the housing, economic development, health, environmental, and energy communities, as well as with our member agencies and others, to jointly develop a regional sustainable vision and plan for the Treasure Valley.

This work is just beginning…right now we don’t know where it will take us, but we are excited to help create a more sustainable Treasure Valley for everyone.

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Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho

COMPASS is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization responsible for transportation planning in Ada and Canyon Counties. The COMPASS Board comprises 39 members representing the cities, counties, highway districts, educational institutions, state agencies, and other entities within the two counties. COMPASS plays an important role in making decisions about future long-range transportation needs in the Treasure Valley, taking into consideration environmental and economic factors that affect the quality of life.