200 gather for day-long ozone summit | TheUnion.com

200 gather for day-long ozone summit

Locals, out-of-towners and land-use planners must work collectively to make the air in the Sierra foothills cleaner for future generations, experts said at a regional ozone summit held in Grass Valley Wednesday.

A group of 200 people packed the Holiday Inn to listen to air quality experts, doctors, economists and scientists discuss ozone and its impacts on the economy, public health and the environment during the day-long event.

If counties want more people to use transit and drive less, then land-use planners must manage growth by shortening the distance between people’s homes and their workplace, said Mike McKeever, executive director of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.

“Driving long distance clogs highways, pollutes the air and makes people broke,” McKeever said.

Made up of six counties, SACOG began its Blueprint project six years ago, outlining ways for communities to grow prosperously while eliminating sprawl and the need to commute.

In Nevada County, 30 percent of the working population commutes outside of the area to work, according to the 2000 census.

“We need to be investing in mobility that is sustainable, because single occupancy vehicles will kill us,” said Gregg Albright, deputy director of planning and modal programs for Caltrans.

In Sacramento, as much as 70 percent of commuters drive alone, said Dan Landon, executive director for the Nevada County Transportation Commission.

The bulk of unhealthy ozone precursors wafting into Nevada County during hot summer evenings come from vehicles driving in the Sacramento and Bay Areas.

But county residents are not off the hook, Landon said.

Every day, 40,600 “journey to work trips” originate in the county, with 5,000 cars going to Placer County, 3,000 to 4,000 going to other counties and 816 departing for the Bay Area, Landon said.

“We’re part of the problem. We need to deal with that,” Landon said.

Less than one percent of people living in the county use buses to get to work, Landon said.

“We have this dispersed land use that makes it really difficult to do transit,” Landon said.

Another seven and a half percent work from home.

“That’s something I think we can build on and make better,” Landon said.

The Bay Area has a population of 7 million people who drive 150 million miles per day, said Jean Roggenkamp, deputy air pollution control officer of Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

“It’s absolutely clear to me this is a partnership effort in every way,” Albright said.

“We’re going to continue to work with state people. Just by putting this on we developed relationships that are going to benefit the county for a long time,” said District 5 Supervisor Ted Owens.

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail lbrown@theunion.com or call 477-4231.

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