February 29, 2008

Edmonds Association Sets Strategic Planning Dates

The Edmonds Town Centre Business & Community Association in southeast Burnaby has confirmed dates, times, and locations for two planning sessions on the future of the organization.

Both sessions will cover the same ground, so choose the date that works best for you.

1) The first (evening) session will follow our regular 6:00 p.m. monthly meeting and will start at 6:45 p.m. on Tuesday, March 11. This meeting will be held at the Eastburn Community Centre at 7435 Edmonds St. Our goal is to wrap up by 8:15 p.m.

2) The second (morning) session will start at 7:45 a.m. on Friday, March 14, and will be held at Myles of Beans coffee shop at 7010 Kingsway.

Please think of ways in which we can increase our membership, particularly from the business community in the neighbourhood. How can we improve what we offer to the community? What sorts of activities and events would you like to see? And please consider one of the purposes of our group as stated in the Constitution -- to work toward becoming a full-fledged Business Improvement Area.

Posted by Paul at 11:56 PM

Premier Screening of Eagle Eye

The Fraser Valley Hatchery was the site of the premier screening of Peter Donaldson's Eagle Eye, a video based on his one-man show "of ecological intrigue about the ancient dance of interdependence between Salmon and Eagle, creating a classic teaching legend."

Donaldson is a breathtaking writer and performer, known for his Salmonpeople masterpiece. Tonight's event, hosted by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C., was a "beta" run of the video, with Donaldson seeking input from the audience as to what parts really engaged people, what sections lost their interest, and how the project could be disseminated and used in secondary schools, colleges, universities and communities for environmental education dealing with biodiversity and systems thinking.

Donaldson's show was filmed during the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival, and is an emotionally powerful performance that really gets you thinking about life and our interdependence with other species and nature.

Posted by Paul at 11:30 PM

Byrne Creek High School Global Issues Event

In the afternoon I represented the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers at a climate change workshop at Byrne Creek Secondary in southeast Burnaby. The Check Your Head group (Educating Youth for Global Hope and Local Action) facilitated the event, and I provided background on streamkeeping and how kids could volunteer on creek activities. I love working with students and getting their perspective on these sorts of issues.

byrne_creek_secondary_event_2_20080229.jpg

byrne_creek_secondary_event_20080229.jpg
Our 3D relief map of the Byrne Creek watershed was a big hit.

Posted by Paul at 04:38 PM

UBC Learning Exchange Breakfast

This morning I represented the Stream of Dreams Murals Society at a recognition breakfast thanking people and organizations involved in Learning Exchange Programs run by the University of British Columbia. The event was held at the beautiful First Nations Longhouse on campus, and Dr. Richard Verdan provided a moving, inspirational, and humorous welcoming greeting, while explaining and sharing the cultural significance of the venue. Professor Stephen J. Toope, the UBC President and Vice Chancellor, hosted the event and gave an excellent speech thanking all those involved in the program.

SDMS hosted a group of UBC student volunteers as part of the program this year. I wasn't involved in the day-to-day activities, but as president of the SDMS board of directors, I dropped by a couple of times and listened, learned and shared with the students. I was impressed with the diversity of backgrounds, and by the interest the students showed in the SDMS environmental education and community art program.

Posted by Paul at 01:00 PM

February 28, 2008

Environmentalists Roast Run of River Power Inc.

"We want our park, we want our wild salmon, and we want you to go away," said Burke Mountain Naturalists activist Elaine Golds, to rousing cheers from the crowd at a forum on multiple run-of-river power projects planned for several streams on the upper Pitt River.

The overflow crowd jammed into the much-too-small venue was spirited and angry, with cat calls often interrupting presentations by the BC Environmental Assessment Office, BC Parks, and the proponent, Run of River Power Inc.

Although I strongly oppose the projects and the accompanying proposal to cut a power transmission right of way through Pinecone Burke Provincial Park, I was dismayed at the uncivil attitude dominating the crowd.

Yet people had reason to be frustrated. Pinecone Burke is a pristine Class A park that people fought for many years to be declared off limits to logging, mining and hydro projects. To ask that the boundary be adjusted now is crazy.

To invade all the salmon-bearing streams in the upper Pitt is crazy.

To pay private producers 5 or more times the rate for power than the province produces is crazy.

Eventually the fire marshal showed up, and said the number of people in the room had to be reduced. At that point, several hotter heads began shouting "We won't leave!" OK, act like children having a tantrum in the face of logic and safety -- I thought it best to slip away.

As I was wriggling myself out of the room, people were demanding that the meeting be rescheduled in a larger venue. I'm all for that. And while I admire the passion, I think some of the behavior tonight was counterproductive. The mandarins in the room have to follow this provincial government's restrictive policies -- it's the politicians noted for their absence who should bear the brunt.

As the cry went up: "Where are you Environment Minister Penner?"

Posted by Paul at 10:22 PM

February 27, 2008

Nooksack Dace Recovery Strategy

The Nooksack Dace is a little fish found only in a few rivers and streams in the Lower Mainland of BC. It has been listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act, and tonight I attended a Department of Fisheries and Oceans forum on steps being taken to identify and protect crucial habitat. It was an interesting presentation on the dace and its preferred habitat. Unfortunately, the ratio of audience to DFO staff was about 10:6 -- it could have been better publicized.

Something that I found interesting was that all remaining Nooksack Dace habitat is in developed/developing areas. That's going to make it really tough to preserve this species. I asked if in the future there would be attempts to transplant dace to other streams in their previous range. They're not at that point yet, but one of the biologists said that transplanting would certainly contribute to keeping the species from going extinct.

Here is the recovery strategy for the fish, and watch the SARA public registry for a 60-day comment period after the strategy is officially posted soon.

Posted by Paul at 09:38 PM

February 26, 2008

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers, DFO Tour Habitat

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers and several representatives from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans toured the artificial spawning habitat constructed as compensation when a major road was built over prime spawning habitat. Since the habitat was built around a decade ago, there have been some problems with siltation and flow. It was instructive to share our stream and salmon spawner monitoring observations with the DFO staff, and we discussed several potential ways to remedy some of the problems.

byrne_creek_habitat_dfo_tour.jpg
Getting the lay of the land.

Posted by Paul at 09:49 PM

February 22, 2008

Lower Fraser Coho Conservation & Enhancement Initiative

The Musqueam Fisheries Commission and the Pacific Salmon Foundation co-hosted Pulling Together, Making a Difference The Lower Fraser Coho Conservation & Enhancement Initiative today. The day-long workshop brought together First Nations, scientists, and stewards. It was a stimulating event with many excellent speakers, and the Musqueam were wonderful hosts.

Over the lunch hour, participants toured Musqueam Creek and then planted trees in the riparian zone.

paul_planting_musqueam_coho_workshop_20080222.jpg
Here I am with "my" tree.

fish_lanterns_musqueam_coho_workshop_20080222.jpg
Stream of Dreams Murals Society decorated the gym. Here are some fish lanterns, several made by my wife, Yumi.

dreamfish_musqueam_coho_workshop_20080222.jpg
Stream of Dreams Dreamfish.

Posted by Paul at 11:58 PM

February 17, 2008

Garbage Blights Burnaby Bus Stops

Since the new big box outlets and accompanying smaller stores and restaurants opened in Burnaby's Big Bend area on Marine Way, streamkeepers have noticed more and more garbage in the neighbourhood. In particular the bus stops along Byrne Road and Southridge Dr. have become fast-food container and coffee-cup dumping grounds. I don't know who is responsible for putting in and maintaining garbage cans, the City or Translink, but someone ought to get a handle on this ASAP. It's disgusting.

Meanwhile, perhaps the businesses responsible for most of the garbage could live up to some of their talk of corporate social responsibility and send their staff out to clean up the mess.

garbage_above_habitat_20080217.jpg
The bus stop on Byrne Road just above Marine Drive.

With the usual contributors, McDonald's, Tim Hortons, and Starbucks:

mcdonalds_cup_byrne_habitat_20080217.jpg

tim_hortons_cup_byrne_habitat_20080217.jpg

starbucks_cup_byrne_habitat_20080217.jpg

Yes, I realize that it's the people buying the stuff who are dumping it, but with no food or drinks allowed on buses, what are they supposed to do when there are no garbage cans around?

How about adding 5 or 10 cents to each fast-food or coffee takeout, and put the funds toward installing and maintaining garbage cans? Or what about a 5- or 10-cent deposit on each paper cup, each burger or fry container and each paper bag -- our streets would be spick and span in no time...

Update Feb. 18: Translink says the sites are City property and therefore it is up to Burnaby to do something about the mess.

Posted by Paul at 06:58 PM

Frosty Fotos Around Byrne Creek

An overnight frost lent some sparkle to Byrne Creek Ravine and the salmon spawning habitat this morning.

frosty_pond_byrne_habitat_20080217.jpg

dead_grass_leaves_byrne_habitat_20080217.jpg

frosty_leaves_byrne_habitat_20080217.jpg

sun_rays_light_byrne_woods_20080217.jpg

Posted by Paul at 06:47 PM

Successful Byrne Creek Fish Trapping Survey

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers found 17 cutthroat trout in the Gee traps that they placed in the creek yesterday. While far off the record, we were happy to see fish at all as the creek has been hit by several toxic spills through storm drains over the last couple of years. One disappointment was the lack of coho salmon smolts (yearlings); however, we had not been expecting much as there have been almost no successful coho spawners in the last couple of years.

We handle the fish as gently and quickly as possible as we size and ID them, and then return them to the creek. NOTE: It is illegal to trap fish, and streamkeepers do so with DFO permission.

trapped_cutthroat_byrne_creek_20080217.jpg
Measuring a cutthroat.

heading_into_byrne_ravine_20080217.jpg
Streamkeepers head up the ravine.

Posted by Paul at 06:44 PM

February 16, 2008

Fish-Trapping Streamkeepers Find Herons

Members of the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers set traps in the creek today hoping to catch some fish to see what species are resident. We do this every year under the auspices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to gather data. (Note that trapping is illegal unless sanctioned by DFO). We weren't the only ones out looking for fish! We spotted herons several times -- likely repeat viewings of two birds.

heron_byrne_creek_20080216.jpg
This one was fishing the big pool where the stairs come down into the ravine from Brynlor.

heron_byrne_creek_ravine_20080216.jpg
This one was further up the ravine.

byrne_creek_fish_trapping_20080216.jpg
Streamkeepers bait Gee traps.

Posted by Paul at 07:28 PM

February 15, 2008

Greenwashing BC's Power Policy?

There's a lot of talk about "green power" in British Columbia, but are initiatives like privately developed "run of river" power projects really green? Few citizens seem to be aware that companies have applied for such projects on streams throughout the province -- and that they are using our water for free while selling their power to BC Hydro at higher rates than the public utility charges.

Run-of-river is being spun as green, but it looks more like death by a thousand cuts.

Problems with these projects include the amount of water diverted (up to 80%!), the roads built to get access to streams to build the plants, the swaths cut through forests for power lines.... It goes on and on. Companies are already trying to get land removed from parks for their construction.

I urge people to check out the video series "Power Play: The Theft of BC's Rivers" at the Save Our Rivers Society website.

Thanks to the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation for making me aware of these videos.

Posted by Paul at 07:19 PM

February 14, 2008

'Porridge' Fouls Byrne Creek Again

The mystery "porridge" has fouled Byrne Creek yet again. We know it comes down the Hedley St. storm drain and into the creek, but the City of Burnaby's engineering department has not managed to confirm the source yet. This has been going on for months now in a haphazard manner. Hope they track it this time!

porridge_guck_byrne_creek_20080214.jpg
The stuff was pooled all along the creek. While it does not appear to be toxic, it has no business coming down storm drains into the creek.

UPDATE on Feb. 15: City staff have found the source and are dealing with it. While for legal reasons they can't tell us the details, streamkeepers are relieved that this ongoing irritant will be under control. Thank you!

Posted by Paul at 02:36 PM

February 13, 2008

Sun Splashes Byrne Creek

The sun broke out for a couple of hours today, so I trundled off to do a quick loop of Byrne Creek ravine, checking for fry along the way. Fry are baby fish, and while the coho and chum salmon returns to the creek were very poor last autumn, I'm hoping we did have some successful spawners. In the past we've seen fry as early as mid-February, though I think that is a bit unusual. Streamkeepers will be keeping an eye out for the cute little fish over the next couple of months.

byrne_stairs_20080213.jpg
Heading down the stairs into the ravine.

Posted by Paul at 06:48 PM

February 12, 2008

Edmonds Association Sets Clean Sweep Dates

At the Edmonds Town Centre Business and Community Association monthly meeting tonight we decided to fix the dates for our twice-yearly Clean Sweeps for the first Saturday in May and the first Saturday in October. That means that this year they will take place on May 3 and October 4.

This way people can anticipate when they will be held each year. The events have been very successful in pulling community groups and individuals together to clean up our neighbourhood.

I have some photos of streamkeepers participating in the spring 2006 event and the spring 2005 event.

Posted by Paul at 08:56 PM

February 11, 2008

Burnaby Anti-Idling Initiative Needs a Boost

I don't like ratting people out, and I won't specifically finger anyone today, even though the Year of the Rat is now officially underway :-).

All I will say is that on my walk today I ran across a City of Burnaby truck with two gentlemen sleeping inside with the motor running. While the City does not seem to have an anti-idling bylaw, it does have a DriveSmart educational program that includes city staff. One of the main initiatives of the program is to reduce idling. I guess the guys in the truck missed the message... They could have been on a legitimate break, but the optics certainly didn't look good. And I've seen this sort of thing several times all over the city.

I think it's important for the City to set a good example, and workers like the ones I saw today ain't it. Not only were they polluting, they were burning my tax dollars for no useful purpose.

Posted by Paul at 02:28 PM

February 01, 2008

Dual-Flush Toilet Replaces Old Clunker

We replaced the crappy (no pun intended) Cranada toilet in our downstairs bathroom with an American Standard Flo-Wise dual-flush unit today. The Cranada had never, uh, done its business very well, often requiring two flushes of its outdated and wasteful 13.25-liter tank.

In contrast, the FloWise offers a choice of a 3-liter flush or a 6-liter flush.

Of course nothing went as smoothly as it should have. To begin with, we went to Home Depot to buy an American Standard regular flush 6-liter model that we'd looked at previously, only to discover they had the dual-flush units in stock. The question was, how much did they cost? The bowls were $93.60, but we couldn't see a price for the tank. A staff member came along, and told us the tanks were $137, pointing to a tank that obviously was not a dual-flush unit. We had a little debate about model numbers, etc., but he kept insisting he was right. OK, we took a bowl and a dual-flush tank to the checkout expecting an exorbitant price for the tank, and it was only $96.38! (BTW, the bowl included a seat and lid, something that not all models do). The dual-flush was actually about $80 cheaper than the 6-liter single flush.

Happy with our savings, we headed off home, removed the old toilet and began installing the new one. When we opened the tank box, we discovered the tank cover was badly chipped. OK, back to Home Depot, where they readily refunded the first tank and sold us a second one. As soon as we were out the door, out came my trusty Swiss Army knife, and we checked the second unit. It was OK.

We are pleased with the appearance, and especially the performance and water savings of the new unit.

Dual-flush toilets have been commonplace in Japan for at least 20 years, and I'm glad they're finally appearing in Canada. Another common feature in Japan that I have yet to see in Canada is the hand-washing tank recharge -- the water that refills the tank come out of a little spout on top of the tank, and the tank lid has a depression like a mini sink so that you can wash your hands with the water that is refilling it.

Posted by Paul at 07:06 PM