On our roads and in our river: New salt spray for Edmonton’s streets?

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At a Community and Public Services Committee meeting last week, the City of Edmonton proposed the introduction of a new anti-icing agent, calcium chloride, in its snow and ice removal strategy. The proposal to spray our roads with a liquid salt brine raises questions about how to balance costs, service priorities, safety, and environmental impacts. Everything we put on our roads also enters our river.

The proposal last week to conduct pilot projects this winter was passed unanimously by the Committee and in a few months time, operators will begin spraying the road with calcium chloride in advance of anticipated snowfalls. Whereas sanding (mixed with a lesser amount of salt to prevent the sand from clumping) is implemented on top of snow or ice, calcium chloride prevents the snow from bonding to the pavement so that traffic movement naturally clears the snow to the roadside. The City says this will result in less plowing, sanding and de-icing as well as higher cost efficiency.

A concern raised by a rust control company in Ontario (where road salts are ubiquitous) warns that calcium chloride will have “dramatic” consequences for vehicle owners and it is well documented that a variety of salt products can cause the deterioration of various public infrastructure including bridges and even the Eliot Lake Mall that collapsed in 2012. The City proposes mitigating these concerns by mixing the liquid salt spray with a corrosion inhibitor.

The environmental impacts of road salts and de-icers are also well-documented and are known to be toxic in aquatic environments. A recent study in April of this year demonstrated that the closer a lake is to a road or parking lot, the higher the threat to water quality. Ecological effects of chlorides are already measurable at levels of 100mg per litre and many water bodies test at levels that are much higher.

Balancing the need to clear our roads and protect our river is less than straight forward, partly due to the number of variables associated with a snow and ice removal strategy (see the city’s cost-benefit analysis). Although sanding constitutes the greater part of Edmonton’s strategy to date, the sand is mixed with a lesser amount of road salt already and to some extent, salt-based de-icing has also been implemented. Furthermore, even with pre-storm anti-icing, some amount of sanding, de-icing, and plowing is sure to continue. The City’s upcoming pilot projects are intended to help clarify these matters and fortunately, the City has indicated plans to invite public input before finalizing a new policy in the summer of 2018.

Given the adverse ecological impacts, the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper advocates for the prevention of chloride discharges to our water bodies and is looking to see that the City undertakes a clear analysis of snow and ice removal options and their respective ecological footprints. Indeed, last week’s meeting revealed that City councillors are looking for the same information and other City initiatives such as the River for Life strategy advocate changes to the management of our winter roads that will “minimize potential for release of pollutants (notably sand and chlorides).”

As we revise Edmonton’s snow and ice removal strategies, it is interesting to note that the City’s earliest and greatest transportation corridor will continue to retain its cover of snow and ice throughout the winter months and for years to come. It is our river, of course: the heart of our City, an artery that connects one of the largest urban parks in the world, and the life-giving source of our drinking water.

For years, the river has been free of snow-plows, but when it comes to calcium chloride and any additives, let’s not forget that most things we put on our roads end up in our river too.

 

Reference resources:

Summary of Potential Service Improvements to Snow and Ice Control Policy C409I

 

 

What do Blue-green Algae advisories mean for beach-goers?

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As the summer heats up, Albertans have already been handed five blue-green algae advisories and there will, unfortunately, be several more in the coming weeks (update: more than 20 as of August 8th). What do these advisories mean for beach-goers, swimmers, and recreational water users?

Up until 2015, the blue-green algae advisories issued by Alberta Health Services advised against swimming in any lake that was undergoing a bloom. Several years of water monitoring have demonstrated that these guidelines exceeded the necessary level of caution.

The new rule of thumb is to avoid swimming wherever a blue-green algae bloom is visible. Blooms will often appear only in part of a lake and depending on environmental conditions and wind patterns, a bloom can also move from one part of the lake to another. In general, it is safe to swim as long as the telltale green scum is not visible. Blue-green algae normally appear close to the surface of the water, but keep in mind that if it is windy, the wave action can drive the algae deeper making it more difficult to see.

Unfortunately, if an advisory has been posted, it will generally remain for the rest of the season. The good news is that you can still swim if part of the lake is clear.

Always check the water before entering and if you see a bloom, please report it to your nearest Environmental Health Office. For more information read the Alberta Health Services advisory below.

 

A typical advisory from Alberta Health Services looks like this:

“Residents living near the shores of this lake, as well as visitors to this lake, are advised to take the following precautions:

  • Avoid all contact with blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) blooms.  If contact occurs, wash with tap water as soon as possible.
  • Do not swim or wade (or allow your pets to swim or wade) in any areas where blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) is visible.
  • Do not feed whole fish or fish trimmings from this lake to your pets.
  • Consider limiting human consumption of whole fish and fish trimmings from this lake, as it is known that fish may store toxins in their liver.  (People can safely consume fish fillets from this lake).

As always, visitors and residents are reminded to never drink or cook with untreated water directly from any recreational body of water, including Isle Lake, at any time. Boiling of this water will not remove the toxins produced by blue-green algae (cyanobacteria). An alternate source of drinking water should also be provided for pets and livestock, while this advisory is active.

Blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) is naturally occurring, and often become visible when weather conditions are calm.  Appearing like scum, grass clippings, fuzz or globs on the surface of water, blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) can be blue-green, greenish-brown, brown, and/or pinkish-red, and often smell musty or grassy.

People who come in contact with visible blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), or who ingest water containing blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), may experience skin irritation, rash, sore throat, sore red eyes, swollen lips, fever, nausea and vomiting and/or diarrhea. Symptoms usually appear within one to three hours and resolve in one to two days. Symptoms in children are often more pronounced; however, all humans are at risk of these symptoms.

Weather and wind conditions can cause algae blooms to move from one location in the lake to another.  As such, this advisory will remain in effect for Isle Lake, until further notice.

Please note that areas of Isle Lake in which the blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) bloom is NOT visible can still be used for recreational purposes, even while this Blue-green Algae (Cyanobacteria) Advisory is in place.

If you suspect a problem related to blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), or if you require further information on health concerns and blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), please call Health Link at 811. Additional information is also available online, at www.ahs.ca/bga.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.”

source: http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/news/Page13928.aspx

Looking for a beach this Canada Day weekend?

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The Canada Day weekend is proving to be a hot one and many Albertans are taking to the beach. Where will you stake out your stretch of sand?

If you’re weighing the options, take a look at the Swim Guide map to see beaches in your area and to see the latest water quality information. Before you pack and go, you’ll want to know whether to expect restrooms, showers, lifeguards, potable water, a concession, or perhaps a more secluded getaway that you can enjoy with a small handful of fellow beach combers.

Perhaps most importantly, you’ll want to be sure the water is safe for swimming. Throughout the summer, use the Swim Guide smartphone app to check water quality updates and to be sure that your beach has not been posted with an advisory.

As of July 1st, Alberta Health Services has posted blue-green algae advisories for Lake Isle, but swimmers should still be sure to look for the telltale green scum before entering the water at other lakes in the province. If you think you see a bloom, you can report to Alberta Health Services at the closest environmental public health office.

Blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) are a pre-historic bacteria that live in waters of all kinds almost everywhere on the planet, and when they exist in high enough concentrations, the cells themselves as well as the toxins they produce (like microcystin) can pose a threat to human health and lead to symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, or headaches. Read more about blue-green algae.

Advisories are also posted when test results indicate contamination from human sewer and waste. Most Albertans are also familiar with swimmer’s itch and while there are no advisories for this nuisance, you can view and submit recent reports here.

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper wishes you a safe and enjoyable weekend of swimming and summer beach fun! On our part, we will be enjoying the sun from Devonshire beach on Lesser Slave Lake – one of the longest stretches of sand in the province. See you on the water!

 

The Year Ahead: Water Literacy Program Highlights

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In partnership with Swim Drink Fish Canada, the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s has this year’s water literacy programs well underway. Our new Water Literacy Manager, Hans Asfeldt, is leading the programs and of the many engagements he will pursue this year here are some key highlights.

 

Water quality monitoring program set to launch this July

In the coming weeks, Edmontonians will for the first time be able to access ongoing recreational water quality information about the North Sasakatchewan River throughout the summer. The program is now in its final stages of development and is set to begin this July. While there is a variety of water quality monitoring conducted by utility providers and government agencies, there is currently no monitoring of the river that specifically supports recreational access.

With the aim to promote river recreation in the Edmonton area, weekly testing for bacterial indicators will be conducted near Sir Wilfred Laurier Park and Capilano Park boat launches. Water quality information will be made available to the public on an ongoing basis through the Swim Guide platform, an interactive tool and smartphone app developed by Swim Drink Fish Canada. The program is designed both to promote and encourage recreational activities on the North Saskatchewan River and to ensure that users know when it’s safe to be in the water.

Keep posted for more details about the monitoring program in the coming weeks! In the meantime, download our Swim Guide app to find a beach near you and view the latest water quality updates.

 

Swim Guide tool used by more and more Albertans

Since 2011, Swim Guide has remained the single most comprehensive beach water quality service in Canada and its global reach continues to extend throughout the United States, Baja Mexico, and New Zealand. Of all jurisdictions in which Swim Guide operates, Alberta boasts the second highest level of engagement. While there are many contributing factors, this is partly a reflection of the love we have for our lakes. It also indicates a widespread interest and demand for water quality information. Lastly, it is a reminder that water quality problems remain a real challenge in Alberta and there is a need for ongoing advocacy and conservation efforts.

Historically, North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper has been heavily involved in promoting awareness of water quality issues in Alberta’s lakes and given trends that indicate increasing levels of public engagement about beach water quality, we will continue to direct much of our work toward better access to water quality information, more widely implemented monitoring programs, and above all, the protection of our lakes and rivers so that the number of water advisories decreases over the long term.

Look for an upcoming blog post that will explore the effects of climate change on lake water quality, algal blooms, and beach closures.

 

Watershed Education will engage Edmonton area highschool students

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is expanding its water literacy program to work directly with high school students and youth in the Edmonton region. We envision a watershed where everyone knows the source of their drinking water and where everyone has a voice in decisions that impact our water bodies. Our youth education program is designed to strengthen the connections between our river and the youth in our community – both of which are essential for a prosperous future.

Classroom engagement will begin in September with the new school year and additional literacy events will be hosted in the community throughout the year. If you are a teacher or a member of a community organisation and are interested in working with the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper to host a watershed literacy seminar or workshop we would love to hear from you!

 

Watermark Project celebrates stories from the North Saskatchewan River Basin

Everyone has story about water. What’s yours?

Developed by our partner, Swim Drink Fish Canada, the Watermark Project is a national database that documents Canadians’ stories about water. By sharing “watermarks”, Canadians from across the country can register a precious waterbody and tell their stories about why it’s worth protecting. There are many watermarks in the North Saskatchewan River Basin and with a number of them collected already, we look forward to hearing more stories over the coming year. Click here to read and watch the watermarks that your fellow watershed stewards have contributed and consider submitting one of your own!

 

Thank you to our Sponsors and Supporters

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper extends its sincere gratitude to the Edmonton Telus Community Board and to the RBC Blue Water Project for their generous financial support. These contributions together with the incredible ongoing support from the members of our Riverkeeper and Swim Drink Fish communities provide strong foundations for protecting clean and abundant water throughout the North Saskatchewan River watershed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper welcomes new manager of Water Literacy!

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The North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper, in partnership with Swim Drink Fish Canada, is pleased to announce the debut of our new manager of Water Literacy, Hans Asfeldt!

Hans brings to the role a wealth of experience and leadership on key environmental issues in the Prairie region. With a background in environmental science and political science at the University of Alberta, Hans is ideally positioned to coordinate a diverse range of programs that have evolved since our founding in 2009 and has already made great strides on our new initiatives since stepping into the office on June 1st.

Over the past five years, Hans devoted himself to the development of an inter-disciplinary research initiative at the U of A’s Chester Ronning Centre that investigated the complex challenges of Alberta’s oil and gas economy. As part of his work on energy development in communities across the province, Hans acquired valuable experience as a field researcher and refined a strong set of project management skills that have helped him champion a number of innovative research and engagement projects. Most recently, Hans piloted a community-based research program at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary that empowered undergraduate students to enhance their classroom learning by directly engaging with knowledge leaders and stakeholders from the field around challenging energy and environment issues. Hans has also produced a series of documentary films about the relationships between land, water, energy, and communities.

With roots in Athabasca and an education earned in Camrose, Hans has always maintained close ties with the creeks and rivers in his backyard. As a professional wilderness canoe guide, Hans is well acquainted with the North Saskatchewan River right from its headwaters. Over the past two years from his home in Edmonton, Hans has also come to love running in the Whitemud Creek Ravine. During his university years, Hans trained as a competitive cross-country runner and skier and together with his paddling ambitions, Hans is an avid outdoors enthusiast. Hans’ appreciation for the diverse urban and rural landscapes of the North Saskatchewan River Basin provides a basis for his view that by working together, we can reclaim and protect pristine waters for generations to come.

“It’s a real honour to join the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper as manager of Water Literacy,” says Hans. “I am far from alone in my love for the river and it is a privilege to work alongside such a rich and vibrant community of watershed stewards from across the province.”

Hans will be out on the river regularly to monitor water quality and he will be engaging the community frequently through our education and advocacy programs as well as through our website, Facebook and Twitter. If you would like to reach Hans directly, please contact him here.

Congratulations, Hans, and welcome to the team.

JOB OPPORTUNITY: Full-time Water Literacy Coordinator

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North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper in partnership with Swim Drink Fish Canada is seeking a Water Literacy coordinator for a full-time contract to help develop and launch a water awareness and community engagement program in Edmonton.

This position is a perfect opportunity for someone passionate about protecting Edmonton-area waters and eager to engage with the community. We are looking for a motivated individual with knowledge of basic water literacy concepts (watershed, drinking water quality, swimming and boat access locations, plants and animals in the watershed, etc.) and excellent communications skills.

The Water Literacy Coordinator will work with the Swim Drink Fish Canada teams (based in Toronto and Vancouver) to develop and deliver online and in-person educational messages, presentations and resources that will help Edmonton-area residents better understand the watershed they live in. Ultimately, the Coordinator will help to inspire thousands of people in the Edmonton area to become stewards of swimmable, drinkable, fishable waters.

Responsibilities and Project Timeline

You will oversee the organization’s main program on a full-time basis, including:

In Stage 1 (April – mid-May), the Coordinator will familiarize themselves with all swimming and recreational water access points in the Saskatchewan River watershed and update Swim Guide locations and monitoring information for the 2017 summer season (www.theswimguide.org). The Coordinator will also identify key recreational water access points in Edmonton and establish a water quality monitoring program to test for bacteria pollution.

In Stage 2 (mid-May – June), the Coordinator will launch the water quality sampling program and begin regular Swim Guide updates as regions come online for the summer. The Coordinator will develop a water literacy presentation that describes the Saskatchewan River watershed, its environmental and social history, its current uses, its ecological health, and current issues of interest to the public. Using available resources, the Coordinator will familiarize themselves with the swimmability, drinkability, and fishability of the region. By this stage, the Coordinator will begin collecting Watermark stories from members of the community (www.watermarkproject.ca).

In Stage 3 (July – August), the Coordinator will manage the water quality monitoring program, recruit volunteers to assist as necessary, and build the collection of Watermark stories in the Edmonton community. During this stage, the Coordinator will begin booking water literacy presentations for the fall. Most presentations will be geared towards youth in the Edmonton area.

In Stage 4 (September – March), the Water Literacy Coordinator will engage the community in water literacy activities and build Watermark collections that document knowledge and perspectives in the community.

In Stage 5, the Coordinator will report on the project’s impact and develop a strategy and recommendations for the next phase of the project.

Throughout the project, the Water Literacy Coordinator will be responsible for curating and publishing Watermarks to the Watermark Project website (http://www.watermarkproject.ca), managing North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s social media presence, blogging regularly, sending email updates to Riverkeeper’s subscriber list, reporting on project impact to the Board of Directors and to the project funds (RBC and TELUS), and helping to secure additional grant and individual donor support for water literacy work in Edmonton.

Required skills and experience

  • A strong understanding of Alberta’s ecosystems with an emphasis on the Saskatchewan River (knowledge of other major Canadian watersheds is also an asset)
  • Enjoy spending time on the water and be able to act as an ambassador for an active, water-friendly lifestyle
  • Be familiar with WordPress, know how to post and edit content
  • Have some experience engaging the community through social media
  • Be detail-oriented, able to organize information and content
  • Have strong professional communications skills, capable of handling outreach to school organizations, media, board members, and other constituents
  • Familiarity with database systems such as Salesforce is desired, but not required
  • Be able to write effective emails and briefing notes for board and funders
  • Have a background in education or experience leading small groups/ teams
  • Have at least one year’s work experience in a nonprofit or educational setting
  • Bi-lingual preferred, but not required

Position Details

This is a full-time, contract position in Edmonton. The position is open now, and applications will be reviewed as they arrive.

Please send a cover letter ASAP to:
Krystyn Tully
℅ admin@waterkeeper.ca

In your cover letter, please state clearly why you believe you are a great candidate for this position and why you want to work for Swim Drink Fish Canada. Note: Cover letters are very important to us.

About Us

Founded in 2009, North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s mission is to restore, preserve, and protect the quality and biodiversity of our watershed through actions that inform and connect our community with the North Saskatchewan River. For more information, visit: http://saskriverkeeper.ca/.

Founded in 2001, Swim Drink Fish Canada is a growing charity working for a swimmable, drinkable, fishable future. Our programs bring together law, science, culture, and digital media in order to connect and empower people to restore polluted places, protect human health, and promote thriving natural spaces. For more information, visit: www.theswimguide.org and www.watermarkproject.ca.

Watermark with Britt Standen

Posted in: Inspiration, Recreation, Watermark | 0

 

I’ve lived on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River since I was 7 years old. At the time, I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to grow up on such a unique property, so close to this amazing body of water that feeds the city of Edmonton.

My cousins and I spent countless hours swimming and canoeing in the river. My parents bought a ski boat and along with their friends, we would waterski, swim and picnic all summer long. My parents, with their gymnastics backgrounds, were quite often asked by the city of Edmonton to come downtown and put on waterski shows during festivals and events. In the winter, my father would clear a patch of the river so we could ice skate and we would also cross country ski along the banks for hours.

Now that my husband and I own the property and my kids are growing up here, we realize how lucky we are to be living on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. It has changed a lot since I was a child; now having walking trails, walking bridges, and boat launch sites for all Edmontonians to enjoy.

Nine years ago, my friend Karen Percy Lowe invited me to the Waterkeeper Alliance Gala in Banff and we both decided we needed to walk the talk. We have this amazing body of water; a glacier-fed river that flows east from the Canadian Rockies and, eventually, into the Hudson Bay. That is what prompted me to get involved and protect our drinking water. So, I became one of the founding members of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper to help keep our waters swimmable, drinkable, and fishable.

Every day our family wakes up looking at the river and its surroundings and feel very blessed to live on such a beautiful body of water: The North Saskatchewan River.

 

Britt has always been closely connected to the North Saskatchewan River. Since the inception of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper, Britt has been an advocate for swimmable, drinkable, fishable watershed. She is currently the Vice President and Treasurer of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper. Today, Britt is the president and owner of Physique Fitness Stores, Alberta’s premier retailer of fitness equipment. She continues to nurture her connection to the river with her husband, Craig, and two children.

At tonight’s Waterkeeper Gala, Britt will be introduced as one of 12 Swim Drink Fish Ambassadors, community leaders who have demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to creating a future where every Canadian can swim, drink, and fish. Click here to learn more!

Check out Britt’s story on the Watermark Archive!

 

Riverkeeper to launch new water literacy program in Edmonton

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Doug Goss (centre) presents a cheque to Riverkeeper board members Britt Standen (l) and Karen Percy Lowe (r) to support water literacy work in Edmonton.
Doug Goss (centre) presents a cheque to Riverkeeper board members Britt Standen (l) and Karen Percy Lowe (r) to support water literacy work in Edmonton.

 

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper is launching a new water literacy program in Edmonton. Beginning in spring 2017, a full-time coordinator at Riverkeeper will help local residents discover the watershed, find swimmable water, and document local water knowledge.

The coordinator is part of a water literacy network established by Swim Drink Fish Canada in 2017, with hubs in Vancouver, Edmonton, and Toronto. The project is made possible by the Edmonton TELUS Community Board.

 

Watermark with Kevin Lowe

One of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s directors, Kevin Lowe’s interest in clean water grew out of his original bond with the Shuswap Lake. As he became educated on everyday practices that were threatening our watersheds, Kevin felt a pull to take responsibility for stewardship of this lake and other waters. Along with his wife Karen, Kevin has developed a leadership role as a Canadian Trustee in the Waterkeeper Alliance. They have worked hard in collaboration with other Canadian waterkeepers to make the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper program a leader in the protection and preservation of our watershed.

As the President of Hockey Operations for the Edmonton Oilers and long-time resident of Edmonton, Kevin demonstrates commitment and dedication to making Edmonton a great city. Other endeavours include his support for fundraising efforts by the Stollery Children’s Hospital and leadership role with the Edmonton Oiler Community Foundation.

I grew up about an hour northwest of Montreal in the small city of Lachute, nestled in the foothills of the Laurentians, in Quebec’s cottage country. My family didn’t own a cottage back then; my father and uncles worked together running the family business and I think that sort of forced us to stick close to town during the summer months. But that never stopped us from loading the whole family up in our cars on hot, humid summer days and taking the 20 minute drive north to picnic at a place we used to called ‘Flat Rocks’. It was a spot where a stream (whose name escapes me now) flowed over a series of little waterfalls, forming small pools that were perfect for swimming. I’ll always remember the instant relief I felt jumping into those cool clean waters, and the great times we had together on the banks.

Now my family does have a cottage. It’s on Shuswap Lake in Southern B.C., where the summers are often scorching. On some of the hottest days, my wife and I would take our kids on hikes through Herald Provincial Park to Margaret Falls so we could all cool off in the spray from the waterfall. The comparison feels a bit funny now, but standing in the mists of that thundering waterfall with my kids would always bring me back to those days splashing around at the Flat Rocks with my family. I guess that’s probably why I care so much about safeguarding swimmable, drinkable, fishable water today; so everyone has a place to beat the heat and enjoy some good times with the people they love.

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.

Sarah Harmer’s Great Lake Watermarks – Lake Erie

Posted in: Inspiration, Watermark | 0

It’s dark. I have driven overnight and arrived where the mouth of the Grand River meets the shallow north shore of Lake Erie. I am here to sing a song at a small sunrise wedding ceremony. I was given directions to this lighthouse, and I wait with my guitar on a gravel spit jutting into the water. I’m the first one to arrive but I’m not the only one awake. In the pre-dawn grey perch boats motor out from the harbour, their lights glowing as they pass. There’s a clatter of chains. I imagine anchors being hoisted, nets being hauled. I hear talk between the fishermen. Is it Portuguese? The sky slowly begins to lighten and a few silhouettes, wedding guests I hope, make their way down the path towards me.

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

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