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Air quality committee wants to become non-profit

Coordinator will be hired to aid in transformation, says Richer



The 20 people behind the Air Quality Coordinating Committee have decided to shift gears and move the corridor-wide initiative towards a non-profit model.

At the beginning of this month, the committee posted a job for an Air Quality Coordinator to aid in that transformation, explained Nicollette Richer, environmental coordinator with the Resort Municipality of Whistler.

The coordinator will be hired by the end of April, for a salary of $22 an hour, paid by the B.C. Ministry of Environment until a non-profit society is set up.

Duties include coordinating meetings for the air quality board, overseeing implementation of the Air Quality Management Plan and maintaining the Sea to Sky Air Quality website.

"The role of the coordinator will be to become familiar with the issues facing each municipality," said Richer. "They will also coordinate the efforts of the individual people within the organization."

Richer added the committee - which is made up of representatives from the Sea to Sky corridor and communities surrounding Howe Sound - decided to pursue a non-profit model so that the initiative would be eligible for more funding than a government or for-profit organization would be.

The committee's shift marks a key moment in the Sea to Sky corridor's eight-year quest to improve air quality.

Following concerns in the late 1990s about the future air quality in the corridor airshed, the Ministry of Environment joined forces with the affected municipalities to develop an Air Quality Management Plan.

Vancouver-based urban planning group Sheltair (now known as Stantec) drafted the plan between 2002 and 2005.

The aim of the initiative is to ensure communities in the Sea to Sky airshed will continue to enjoy clean air that sustains and ensures the health of residents and guests, as well as the economy, environment and wildlife. The airshed extends as far south as the southern Sunshine Coast and North Vancouver, and as far north as Pemberton.

Richer said one example of how the committee members are improving air quality is they are hoping to get a commuter bus going between Squamish and Lions Bay.

Other things the initiative could tackle in the future range from car idling to looking for renewable energy to eliminating wood burning and improving transit, said Richer.

"Anything that relates to air quality," said Richer.

In Whistler, Richer said idling and wood waste burning are two of the biggest issues.

Over the past five years, the Air Quality Coordinating Committee has met two to three times a year to discuss how to augment air quality throughout the corridor's airshed, and those meetings have been overseen by Sheltair.

Once the coordinator is in place, the committee will be dissolved and replaced with a board of directors. Long-term goal posts for the air quality initiative will also be set up at that time, said Richer.

"Essentially the most important thing is the coordinator is coordinating meetings between the communities as well as seeking additional funding," said Richer.

Up until this point, the majority of funds for the air quality initiative have come from the Ministry of Environment - with the province handing over $10,000 cash and $25,000 in-kind contributions this year.

Each participating municipality and government group has also contributed to the budget, with the Resort Municipality of Whistler's contribution in 2010 equating to $3,600.



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