PT seeks input on lighting pollution

Online survey takes comments on Dark Sky initiative

PORT TOWNSEND — City officials are seeking input on a Dark Sky initiative regarding the use of LED streetlights and other possible ways to reduce light pollution.

Port Townsend city officials are conducting an online survey through June 15 to garner input in regard to possibly removing streetlights from some residential areas, lighting levels of street lights, lighting impacts on vision impaired residents and other lighting impacts.

The survey can be found at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-PTDarkSkies.

The city received a $177,460 grant from the state Transportation Improvement Board to replace lights in cooperation with the Jefferson County Public Utility District, which owns and operates the city’s street lights.

As part of the process of replacing lights, input is being sought on the public’s desire for lighting levels in residential areas, city officials said.

Community members can provide their opinions on if the city should remove some street lights in residential areas; what is appropriate streetlight spacing, such as 500 feet apart or every block; how lighting impacts those with disabilities such as impaired vision; and the impacts on safety.

Lighting that is around pedestrian crosswalks will not be removed, city officials said.

In addition to location and distance apart of current streetlights, the city also is considering if lights should be dimmed by 50 percent and the appropriate lighting level and spacing for new residential subdivisions, according to the website.

The city anticipates adopting a new street-lighting policy based on public feedback in July.

Dark Sky is an international movement focused on reducing light pollution so more stars to be seen at night, according to the International Dark-Sky Association website.

Dark Sky doesn’t mean darkness; instead it is an effort to cut light pollution and the effects of electric light on the environment. The aim is to decrease energy use, increase the number of stars visible at night and improve the health of wildlife and humans, according to the city’s website.

The effort is in regard to light pollution both from street lights and private property lights such as those on porches. The initiative relies on both public and private efforts to reduce light pollution, city officials said.

The city has conducted several tests over the last few years regarding the use of LED street lights verses traditional high pressure sodium lights; LED lights allow for Dark Sky-compliant fixtures while saving energy, operations and maintenance costs, city officials said.

“Port Townsend engineering staff has been working since 2017 on ways to be more energy efficient and cut costs where it is practical on streetlights,” the website said.

“More recently, this effort is beginning with replacement of existing high pressure sodium lights with Dark Sky-compliant and energy-efficient LED lights.”

More information on the dark sky initiative can be found at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-DarkSkiesInfo.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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