Watermark with Krystyn Tully

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My North Saskatchewan River watermark dates back to 2009. This was around the time Karen and Kevin Lowe, Mark Mattson, and Britt Standen were starting the Riverkeeper organization, based in Edmonton.

I had been asked to join the board of directors for North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper. I’m guessing it had more to do with my experience as a co-founder of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper than my knowledge of the river. I didn’t know as much then about the North Saskatchewan River, or Alberta water issues for that matter!

Britt Standen, one of my fellow directors, has a son named Max. At the time, I don’t think he was even old enough to drive a car, but he was really into aircraft and flying. The Standens had a friend with a small helicopter who was willing to take a couple of the Riverkeeper folks up for a 45 minute tour. He promised to give us an aerial view of both Edmonton and the river that flows through it.

I’d never been in a helicopter before. I thought it would be enormous, but it was sleek and relatively small – almost like a mechanical dragonfly. I sat in the back, away from the domed window in front. I had a side window to myself, with an incredible view of the landscape below as we cruised above the North Saskatchewan River.

What immediately struck me as I looked down at the shining river snaking through Edmonton was how completely different this was from Toronto, where I live and work. Toronto sits on the edge of Lake Ontario, but access to the waterfront is extremely limited, either cut off by the 401 and the Gardiner Expressway or dominated by urban development projects. Here, the city looks as though it has been woven around the river; incorporating wonderful green spaces at almost every bend along its course.

The parkland serves a practical purpose. It is a tool for mitigating the damage caused by seasonal flooding. But the presence of all this green space along the river’s edge meant that people here enjoyed more free and easy access to the riverfront than I did my own waterfront in Toronto. The psychological barriers that I was used to didn’t separate water from city in quite the same way.

This view was the first hint of a perspective that would become clear to me on countless return visits to the city: Edmontonians take great pride in their river.

Looking down at that beautiful river and the city that wove around it, I found myself speechless. The uncharacteristic silence must have been worrying for my fellow passengers. Just before we landed, someone turned from the front. “Are you okay?” said a crackly voice over the headset.

Yes. Absolutely, yes.

 

Krystyn Tully is a director of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper. She’s also the co-founder and Vice President of our partner Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. She oversees LOW’s many programs, staff, and volunteers working to create a swimmable, drinkable, fishable Lake Ontario. After graduating from Ryerson University with a degree in Radio and Television Arts, Krystyn worked with Mark Mattson as a researcher at the Walkerton Inquiry. She is currently working towards her second degree in Public Administration and Governance.

On behalf of LOW, Krystyn has written many comments on licenses and legislative proposals that have contributed to better decisions and environmental protections. She has appeared before the Federal Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities (TRAN), and the Ontario Goverment Standing Committee on Legislative Affairs. Krystyn has also been a two-time contributer to the Great Lakes Town Hall, an international organization dedicated to identifying and addressing common issues across our shared Great Lakes. For many years, Krystyn Tully was the Lake Ontario Advisor to Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network Fund, now Freshwater Future.

In addition to the day-to-day management of the LOW organization, Krystyn also takes the lead on several of our key ongoing issues alongside Mark. Krystyn oversees LOW’s Clean Water Workshop, a volunteer mentoring program offered to 20 law students each year.

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

To submit a Watermark of your own click here.

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/

How you can be a water leader.

About a month ago, I was in Toronto’s distillery district during the Panam Games. I happened to walk through on one of the nights that Porte Parole’s Watershed Project was being exhibited.

If you haven’t heard of it, the Watershed Project is a live art installation composed of two small rooms. As you walk through the exhibit, you have the opportunity to converse with water. Water literally speaks to you – and you speak back, talking about your earliest memories of water, what it means to you, and what you will do to protect it.

 

I don’t remember my first experience with water. I can’t tell you the first time I saw the ocean, or the first time I dipped my toes in a lake. I don’t remember how I felt the first time I saw a fish while I was snorkelling or whether I even liked swimming as a small child.

 

What I can tell you, though, is that as a teenager and in my adult life, I developed a strangely protective, passionate love for water. As I grew older, I never felt more happiness and awe as I did when I looked upon the ocean. But I also never felt more anger and hurt as I did when I learned of the burden our oceans were carrying, and the lack of protection they were receiving from us.

 

It seems now that everything I do comes back to water. I’ve researched the extensive impact humans have had on fish populations, large and small, around the globe. I’ve signed petitions to ban toxic chemicals’ use in Canada. And I spread the word as much as I can about the importance of protecting Canada’s most precious resource.

 

Being a water leader – it isn’t something that will burden you. Rather, it will empower you, make you know you’re doing the right thing. All it takes is your belief that water is important to protect, and your desire to use your skills – whatever they may be – to support the life force that flows through yours, and my, veins.

Sometimes, though, it’s hard to know where to start.

…So, where do you start?

Here are a few ideas:

 

It doesn’t matter if your contribution is big or small – it’s enough that you’re making a contribution. Together, we’re a united voice for Canada’s watershed.

Sturgeon Hole Reach

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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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