- Associated Press - Monday, July 7, 2014

Corvallis, Ore. (AP) - Everybody talks about climate change. Now Benton County is trying to do something about it.

The Benton County Climate Change Adaptation Plan, recently released in draft form, describes potential impacts of a warming climate on Benton County over the next century or so and outlines possible strategies for dealing with those impacts.

Bill Emminger, the county’s environmental health director, calls the plan a first step toward coming to grips with the concrete effects of this global issue here in our corner of the world.

“We know climate change is coming,” Emminger said. “But what does that really mean when you bring it back to the local level?”

Using data from the International Panel on Climate Change and the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, the report predicts six major impacts in Benton County:

More extreme heat events.

- More extreme storms and flooding.

- Larger and more frequent wildfires.

- Reduced air quality.

- More droughts and reduced summer water supplies.

- A longer growing season.

While these predictions aren’t new in themselves, the adaptation plan goes a step further by sketching out possible responses on a department-by-department basis.

Community Development, for instance, could take steps to encourage or require limits on new development in floodplains or wildfire zones, promote water conservation and curtail greenhouse gas emissions.

The Health Department could educate the public on increased risks of asthma, skin cancer, vector-borne disease and other dangers.

Public Works might consider road improvements for better emergency access during fires and floods, higher-capacity culverts and bridges to handle runoff from heavy rains, and expanded public water systems to make up for declining well productivity.

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