Sarah Harmer’s Great Lake Watermarks – Lake Huron

posted in: Inspiration, Recreation, Watermark | 0

Lake Huron

Here we were a few years ago starting a tour, my band mates and I, in the wee town of Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, a 5-hour drive northwest of Toronto. Lake Huron washes against both sides of this ancient spine. On the west side white sand and summer beach getaway towns. On the east side the crystal blue waters of Georgian Bay. The grotto is tempting, but rumoured to be ice cold. Up on the cliff we eat smoked whitefish caught just south of here off Cape Croker; the Chippewas of Nawash unceded First Nation. Nourished by the lake’s delicious offerings we trek this rugged Niagara Escarpment and kayak the misty waters at its base.

Sarah Harmer is an award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter and activist.

Click here to check out this and Sarah’s other Great Lake Watermarks on the Watermark Project archive.

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is proud to be a part of the Watermark Project, preserving our national water heritage through storytelling. To submit a Watermark of your own click here.

Photo credit: Dustin Rabin

Watermark with Karen Percy Lowe

Born and raised near the Bow River in Banff, Karen has always felt a connection with water and passion for global water issues. An Olympic and professional downhill skier, Karen’s interest and concern grew when she was asked to ski with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at the Annual Waterkeeper Alliance fundraiser in Banff six years ago. Wanting to bring her passion to the watersheds of her home province, Karen forged a lasting relationship with the Alliance.

Two-time Olympic Bronze Medalist, recipient of the Order of Canada, and mother of five; she is now an active Waterkeeper Trustee, and dedicates ongoing time and support to the efforts of the Waterkeeper Alliance as President of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.

I ski-raced for a long time but now I am a mother of four and I do a lot of charity work – which includes being the president of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.

Water has been a special part of my life for a really long time. I grew up in Banff, Alberta. The water was so cold there it took your breath away. I used to go canoeing a lot but I was a really big windsurfer. A group of us would take our boards and go to Jack Lake and windsurf. Growing up, I spent my summers by the water. My family would pile in the station wagon and go on trips, and my dad always insisted that we had to park the trailer by a lake.

There are two waterbodies that have made a big impact on my life. The first is the North Saskatchewan River. Twenty-five years ago I married Kevin Lowe. We lived in Edmonton and in New York for a few years and then found ourselves back in Edmonton when he was traded. This is where we raised our four children. My family has lived by this river for a long time. It is important to me that the river is protected because it is Edmonton’s source of drinking water. I want people to have drinking water from the North Saskatchewan River for generations to come. I also run a lot. There are a lot of great trails that run along the river. Years ago I was training for a marathon and I would run down one trail beside the river and back up on the other side. It really is beautiful.

The other water body that I am connected to is Shuswap Lake in British Columbia. We have spent our summers there since 1992. All my kids come – but so do other family members and it ends up being 20 people by the lake. My kids love going there. We swim, fish, jump off the dock, waterski, make waterski pyramids, have canoe races, and paddleboard races. When my kids were young I used to put them to bed and wake them up when it was dark so we could jump in the lake at night. It was a tradition. Its beautiful to be able to jump in the lake. I want my kid’s children to be able to experience that.

Every year I want to do one special thing when the kids come to Shuswap Lake. In the past, we have had seven people waterski behind the boat at one time, we made a water ski pyramid. Then the following year, we made a bigger water ski pyramid. We do it every year, so next year’s pyramid will be even bigger.

I got involved with protecting water when Kevin and I became trustees for Waterkeeper Alliance. We helped raise money and brought people we knew to the events. People kept asking me what was Waterkeeper Alliance, so rather than just explain it, I decided to walk the talk and do something. I wanted to do something local, so that people could understand what Waterkeeper was and see that the money was going local. It was a big project, but I just wanted to explain to people what we were doing and to help grow clean water in Canada. I wanted to protect the water we have since it is our drinking water.

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is proud to be a part of the Watermark Project! To learn more about the Project and to check out Karen’s Watermark, visit the Watermark Project Archive.

To submit a Watermark of your own click here.

The Watermark Project is Here!

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper, in partnership with the National Water Centre and Waterkeepers across Canada, is proud to announce the official launch of the Watermark Project!

We often forget how water shapes our country, our culture, our lives. We forget how privileged we are to have access to more freshwater and ocean than arguably any other nation in world. When we forget, we become immune to the loss: the destruction and diminishment of Canada’s swimmable drinkable fishable waters.

As Canadians, we need to sharpen our memory. Our water is more than a necessity for keeping us alive, it is the thread that holds us together as a country. And that thread is best seen in our stories about being on, in or around water.

That is why we created the Watermark Project: to collect and archive Canadian water stories to demonstrate why swimmable drinkable fishable water matters.

When you think about your favourite body of water, what comes to mind? When you recall your most powerful memory of being on the water, what is it?  Everyone has a story – a Watermark – that connects them to a waterbody; provides them with another reason to protect it. That story often becomes the most powerful reason for protecting swimmable, drinkable, fishable water. And so it should.

Watermark’s are personal and powerful. Whether your Watermark is a positive or negative story about water, it is also valuable information about your environment, at a specific place, at a specific moment, with real people. In addition to being a powerful reminder of your connection to water, it also records and archives important information that can be used to protect water from future threats. Your Watermark is a ripple in a project intended to keep Canada a place where everyone and everything can safely swim, drink, and fish.

Recording and sharing your Watermark is an incredible personal experience. You can learn so much about yourself by submitting a Watermark, making that connection to a waterbody, causing that ripple. Help us protect your waterbody.

Try it. Build a force strong enough to cause a shift in our water culture so you can’t ever forget again.

Click Here to Discover the Watermark Project!

 

Reblogged from The National Water Centre

 

 

Watermark with Rachel Schoeler

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is excited to be partnering in the Watermark Project in 2016!

The Watermark Project is a digital archive that preserves and protects Canada’s water heritage through storytelling. It acts both as a registry for the waters that Canadians love to use, as well as a unique clearinghouse for people’s powerful and personal experiences on those waterbodies.

Check out this awesome video featuring a Watermark from Rachel Schoeler with our friends at Fraser Riverkeeper in Vancouver, BC. Back in August of 2014, Rachel took on the challenge of swimming solo across the Georgia Strait without a wet-suit to raise awareness of recreational water quality issues; becoming the first woman in over 40 years to make the crossing!

 

Be sure to keep an eye on our blog for news about the launch of the Watermark Project website and more Watermarks from North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s Directors and other great Canadian water leaders coming in the new year!

 

Source: Fraser Riverkeeper – http://www.fraserriverkeeper.ca/watermark_rachel_schoeler

Federal Government Declares Proposed Mine Site To Be Critical Habitat

Last week, the federal government declared that dozens of streams and rivers in southwestern Alberta are critical habitat for endangered trout species.

On December 2nd, the Alberta Wilderness Association said that it would drop a lawsuit against Ottawa which sought to force the federal government to issue the order. Under law, critical habitat for native cutthroat trout was supposed to have been declared more than a year ago under the previous Conservative government.

“We’re happy that we likely do not have to follow through with it,” said Brittany Verbeek, the association’s conservation director.

Verbeek said the order lends protection to the creeks, streams and tributaries draining into the Oldman and Crowsnest rivers that are home to the trout. The fish were already protected under the Fisheries Act; now their home is protected under the Species At Risk Act.

“It just means that the area surrounding where the fish live has that increased protection.”

Changes to the stream, such as increasing its sediment load, are now forbidden.

The Alberta government is considering an application from a subsidiary of an Australian company to build a coal mine on a mountaintop in the protected habitat. Benga Mining proposes to turn 12 square kilometres on the top of Grassy Mountain near Blairmore into a terraced site.

At the same time, the province’s energy regulator is investigating the company for a release of coal into Gold Creek, one of the streams included in the critical habitat declaration.

A recent survey by a fisheries biologist found virtually all southern Alberta streams that spawn native trout are threatened by industrial development or overuse.

Lorne Fitch studied 54 small rivers and streams that flow into the Oldman River and which hold bull and cutthroat trout, largely in the area now considered critical habitat. He found nearly all of them face damage from logging roads, energy development and off-highway vehicle trails.

Scientists suggest land that contains trout streams shouldn’t have more than just over half a kilometre of trail, cutline or road per square kilometre. The disturbance density in parts of the Oldman watershed is nearly 10 times that.

Cutthroat populations are estimated at five per cent of historic levels.

 

From Bob Weber – The Canadian Press

Source: http://www.ctvnews.ca/business/feds-say-proposed-alberta-coal-mine-site-a-key-fish-habitat-1.2684688

Photo credit: Robert Berdan

 

 

The Best and Worst Beaches of 2015

As swimmable water season comes to a close here in Alberta, North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper and Swim Guide are taking a look back at some of the best and worst beaches from the summer of 2015.

The top 5 beaches of 2015 were:

All five of these beaches remained safe for swimming throughout the entire 2015 sampling season, with zero days of unsafe swimming.

On the other end of the spectrum, 2015’s worst beaches were:

While these four beaches suffered the highest closure rates, they were far from the only ones to experience extended closures during the 2015 season. Without question, the most common cause for beach closures in Alberta this summer was contamination from blue-green algae blooms.

Blue-green algae is a cyanobacteria present in all Alberta lakes. It grows best in still or slow-moving water when the weather is warm, which is part of why we saw so many blooms during the hot and dry summer of 2015. Add nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen to the mix, and the bacteria will reproduce even more rapidly.

You can help to reduce beach closures due to blue-green algae contamination. Here are a few simple actions you can take to limit the flow of nutrients into Alberta’s streams, ponds and lakes:

  • Don’t use more lawn fertilizers than the recommended amount, and keep fertilizers out of storm drains and off driveways and sidewalks.
  • Maintain or plant native plants around shorelines and streams. Native plants don’t require fertilizers and they help filter water.
  • Properly care for and maintain your septic system.
  • Do not allow livestock to drink or defecate in streams or lakes. Don’t overfeed waterfowl.
  • Avoid clearing riparian vegetation to help prevent soil erosion.

Keeping informed about the water quality at our favourite beaches is an important step toward protecting public health and preventing the spread of waterborne illnesses. Make sure that you’re ready for 2016’s swimmable water season. Download Swim Guide today!

Sources:

Cyanobacteria / Blue-Green Algae – Facts & Information. (2015). Vermont Department of Health. Retrieved from: http://www.healthvermont.gov/enviro/bg_algae/bgalgae_fact.aspx#do

Swim Guide. (2015). http://www.theswimguide.org/

What does a “State of Agriculture Disaster” mean for Alberta (and the rest of our country)?

posted in: Climate Change | 0

Over the last few months, we’ve watched Alberta counties and municipal districts declare local states of agriculture emergency. On Friday, Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier approved the decision to declare Alberta in a state of agricultural disaster.

A warm winter coupled with intense drought and hail have been at the heart of many of individual counties’ decisions, and largely the reason for the provincial declaration. The Weather Network, which developed this map, says that parts of the province have “experienced 1-in-50 and 1-in-100 year drought conditions” so far this summer. It’s a similar story in Saskatchewan, where our easterly neighbours are suffering dry conditions that have lasted several weeks to months.

 

But what does it mean?

 

When a county or municipal district declares agricultural disaster, the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation pays out money to support farmers around the province. However, crop insurance isn’t enough this year, where the hardship has included not only drought, but also grasshopper infestations.

Producers are worrying they’ll have to reduce their herds of livestock, both due to the cost as well as lack of availability of food. Producers might not have enough hay to sustain their herds throughout the winter1.

So far, the Alberta government has cut rental fees to help farmers pump water to fill their dams and dugouts, and is actively working to identify more lands for public grazing2.

But the reaches of the drought go much farther than individual farmers.

Crop yields are expected to be about a quarter of the five-year average. Retail beef prices are expected to continue to climb into next year, and could cause Canada to start importing more beef. It’s the same story with pork.

 

As climate change increases the likelihood and prevalence of extreme weather, it will be increasingly important for Alberta to be prepared. One study has shown the importance of investing in irrigation, which could generate three dollars for every 1 dollar invested to fight extreme droughts.

 

What do you think about investing in irrigation? Or do you think there are other solutions for being prepared for drought in the future?

 

Resources

 

Mertz, E. (July 15, 2015). Several Alberta counties consider declaring states of agricultural disaster. Retrieved from http://globalnews.ca/news/2109660/dry-weather-causes-state-of-agricultural-disaster-in-parkland-county/.

 

The Canadian Press. (August 22, 2015). Alberta declares agricultural losses from extreme weather a ‘disaster’. Retrieved from http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/alberta-declares-agricultural-losses-from-extreme-weather-a-disaster-1.2529087.

 

Martins, D. (August 23, 2015). Agricultural disaster declared in Alberta. Here’s why. Retrieved from http://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/disaster-declared-as-albertas-drought-continues/56076/.

 

 

Sturgeon Hole Reach

posted in: Uncategorized | 0

We prepared and submitted our letter of appeal in opposition of the approved permit application for a gravel pit in the Sturgeon Hole Reach Environmentally Significant Area of Parkland County (p.198). The lake sturgeon is an amazing fish and this project is adjacent to an important North Saskatchewan River sturgeon spawning area (hence the name “Sturgeon Hole Reach”). The appeal board hearing was postponed from Dec. 2 to Jan. 19/2015. We will be presenting our appeal reasons then.

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