November 28, 2010

Fish Die in Byrne Creek

UPDATE [Nov. 29]: Just interviewed by Burnaby Now - Burnaby Firefighters say their foam is environmentally benign, and it appears other chemicals were stored at the site of the fire. Initial Burnaby Now story here. And a more detailed story now here.


A couple of Byrne Creek Streamkeepers called me just after 9:00 this morning about foam in the creek. They were down at the wooden footbridge in the lower ravine near Southridge Dr., and asked us to check out Griffiths Pond further upstream near our home (near Choices in the Park). Yumi and I headed over and the pond had lots of foam in it, and a steady stream of foam was coming out of the fish ladder. We counted about a dozen dead smolt-size trout and coho around the edge of the pond. An environmental services officer from the City of Burnaby arrived as we were there and collected water samples and some of the dead fish.

Three other streamkeepers were out in the lower creek patrolling for spawning salmon.  They noticed "stunned-looking" small fish in the lower ravine, and eventually joined the crew at Griffiths Pond.

Three of us backtracked upstream. Bubbles were evident all the way up to where the creek daylights (first becomes visible from the storm drain system) in SE Burnaby. Even that far upstream, if you stirred the water, it foamed readily. We continued further up the streets, and saw a fire truck, so we followed it up to Kingsway and 16th, where there had been a house fire. We asked the firefighters if they'd used foam, and they said yes, a full load from one of their trucks. The drainage flow from the site of the fire into storm drains was evident.

Obviously it is unknown if it was firefighting foam or if other chemicals at the house were also involved. And streamkeepers are certainly not going to question firefighters for doing an outstanding job in ensuring the safety of the community. It's just unfortunate if this is confirmed as the source of the kill.

We headed back to Griffiths Pond, and five of us began counting dead fish. At this point we discovered there were some still barely alive, so we scrambled to get buckets and fresh water, and tried to save some of them, but most expired even in clean water.

The count between Griffiths Pond and Tag 535, a distance of about 350 meters or so, was 80 dead, so nearly 100 were tallied today. Some were beauties: we found one dead trout 36cm long and one 29cm. When factoring in the entire length of creek, there must be at least several hundred dead.

I suspect we're looking at yet another total or near-total kill of the entire creek.

As of 1:30 p.m., the fish ladder at Griffiths Pond was still foaming heavily.

And, to make things worse, we're in the middle of spawning season, when salmon are returning from the ocean, up the Fraser River, and into Byrne Creek, to lay their eggs. Last year was our worst spawner count in over a decade, and this year was shaping up just as bad, even before this incident. . .


The fish ladder and Griffiths Pond near Edmonds Skytrain station


Trying to save some fish that were still barely alive. Most expired. . .


Streamkeeper Yumi with a gorgeous 36cm trout


Closer look at the big fish


The 29cm trout


Another streamkeeper lives near the scene of the fire and was awakened
at 4:00 a.m. this morning. She got this shot of the blaze. She was 
troubled by all the stuff going down the street drains and into the creek,
but of course didn't say anything for she knew the safety of the
community was paramount. Turns out she knew at least one of the residents.
So sad.

Posted by Paul at 03:18 PM

November 26, 2010

Local BC MLA Raj Chouhan Hosts Holiday Season Open House

I've had plenty of opportunities to meet with Raj over the years through my volunteer activities, and he and his staff have always been helpful, and very interested in what's going on the the community. So come on out and meet your Burnaby-Edmonds MLA.



Posted by Paul at 01:10 PM

Musqueam Creek–A Story of Hope

The Vancouver Courier recently published an excellent story on the Musqueam First Nation working to restore Musqueam Creek, a salmon-bearing urban waterway that has struggled to survive over the years. I have had the privilege of attending a few events there, as a volunteer streamkeeper, and I am happy to hear of continuing positive efforts to preserve the creek.

Posted by Paul at 11:56 AM

November 25, 2010

Victoria BC Neighbours Turn Blvd into Garden with Free Produce

This is so cool! An amazing, feel-good community story on so many levels.

Posted by Paul at 04:04 PM

November 24, 2010

Language Lanterns Publishes ‘Desperate Times’ Trilogy

For Immediate Release--Nov. 23, 2010

Language Lanterns Publishes Desperate Times Trilogy

TORONTO - Award-winning Language Lanterns Publications Inc. has released a new trilogy of short stories translated from Ukrainian to English. The selected 18 authors explore the human impact of the social, political and economic upheaval in Ukraine from the tumultuous opening days of the 20th century, through World War I, the 1917 Russian Revolution, and into the early 1920s under Soviet rule. They truly were desperate times, and the stories show modern readers why so many Ukrainians of that era sought a better life in Canada and other nations.

Adaptation from the series Introduction:

The stories in Brother against Brother, Between the Trenches, and Conflict and Chaos were written from about 1900-1930 and encompass the slide of the imperial Russian Empire into chaos, the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, World War I, and the subsequent upheaval in Eastern Europe fomented by the Russian Revolution. They depict revolution, war, social upheaval, and enormous human emotional and physical costs.

By these times, Ukraine had long been divided by other empires--with Russia controlling eastern Ukraine, and various European powers including Lithuania-Poland, Austria-Hungary, and the Hapsburg Empire dominating western portions. In both regions the Ukrainian language, culture, and Ukrainian forms of Orthodox and Catholic rites were severely restricted, and life for ethnic Ukrainians was harsh. Ukrainians had little opportunity for education and advancement, and the revolutionary tide that swept Europe in the 19th century, with concepts of nationalism, democracy, and freedom, found fertile ground in Ukrainian lands.

The stories depict reform and political activism, peasant uprisings, revolutionary and terrorist acts, and the flowering of the Ukrainian independence movement.

Language Lanterns achieves 20 volumes of translations: The Desperate Times trilogy brings the number of volumes translated by Roma Franko, and edited by the late Sonia Morris, to 20.

For more information, and to order books:

Roma Franko, 416-840-8034,

Language Lanterns:

Brother against Brother (Soft cover, 416 pp; ISBN 978-0-9735982-7-8)

Between the Trenches (Soft cover, 416 pp; ISBN 978-0-9735982-8-5)

Conflict and Chaos (Soft cover, 416 pp; ISBN 978-0-9735982-9-2)

Complete Introduction, and Tables of Contents with authors and story names can be found on the website.

Posted by Paul at 05:05 PM

November 23, 2010

Edmonds Breakfast with Santa Dec. 4–Preregistration Required


Posted by Paul at 01:08 PM

November 21, 2010

Opening of Library at Franko Society Centre in Richmond, BC

Yumi and I attended the official opening of the library at the Ukrainian Community Society of Ivan Franko this afternoon in Richmond, BC., and the BC launch of Yaroslav's Treasure by Myroslav Petriw. We were invited through my work with Language Lanterns Publications. The society hosted a book launch of Language Lanterns translations of Ivan Franko's works in 2006, and Language Lanterns recently donated its latest three-volume series Desperate Times to the library.

Here are excerpts from an email I sent to Theresa Herchak, one the key organizers of the event:

Thank you so much for the invitation to the official opening of your new library at the Ivan Franko center in Richmond. The facility is beautiful, and I thank the volunteers, and honour the hundreds of volunteer hours that went into organizing and cataloguing it. A job very well done!

Of course it was also rewarding to see all the Language Lanterns volumes in the stacks, and on the fundraising table. :-)

I had no idea you were going to mention my mother Sonia Morris (the late Language Lanterns editor), my aunt Roma Franko (the Language Lanterns translator) and myself in your remarks. Thank you so much. I felt tears welling, recalling how much my Mom and Roma enjoyed the book launch at your center a few years ago.

As I sit here in my office, casting my eyes about my shelves, I may have some donations to make to your lovely new library. I'm still gradually going through some of my mother's boxes, and while I'd love to keep everything, I can't, so a caring facility like the one you've been instrumental in creating, may be an ideal repository. No guarantees, but you've certainly inspired me to put your library high on my list!

Posted by Paul at 09:59 PM

New Asus UL30A Notebook Computer

My IBM T42 Thinkpad notebook computer running Windows XP has been getting increasingly slow and flakey. It passed its fifth anniversary not too long ago, so that's not bad for a notebook. It's on its second HD already, and is old enough that I didn't feel like springing for a third HD. The battery was also getting old, averaging only a bit over an hour of useful time, down from the 3- to 4-hour range when it was new. With Windows XP, only 1.5GB of RAM, and a 160GB HD, I was ready for something newer, more powerful, with more RAM and HD space, while being smaller and having better battery life.

I settled on an ASUS UL30A for $699 from NCIX, a local computer discounter. With a 13" screen, an ultra-low voltage Core 2 CPU, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500GB HD and 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium, it's a sweet little machine. At under 4 lbs, it's easy to tote, and while I dunno about the claim of 12-hour battery life, I've seen in the seven- to eight-hour range  so far without tweaking any settings. I do miss the 1400 X 1050 resolution of the 15" screen on the T42, but the 13" 1366 X 768 screen on the ASUS is decent. I haven't been a fan of chiclet-style keyboards, much preferring the excellent Thinkpad keys, but I'm getting used to the ASUS.

I had considered a netbook-size computer, but figured that for my fairly large hands I'd be better off with a regular notebook, albeit one at the smaller end.


Posted by Paul at 09:43 PM

November 20, 2010

Sask Proclamation Recognizing Genocide-Artificial Famine in Ukraine

It's good to see democratic governments at various levels recognizing the horrific Soviet-induced artificial famine that terrorized Ukraine between the great wars. The "Holodomor" or "Death by Hunger" is increasingly being officially remembered as an act of genocide, with millions of innocent people callously killed to serve a nefarious form of dictatorial communism and Russification.


I, Ken Krawetz, Deputy Premier in the Province of Saskatchewan in exercise of the powers conferred upon me, do hereby designate the week of November 22-28, 2010 to be:

"Week of Remembrance for the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor)"

in Saskatchewan.

Vichnaya Pamyat (Memory Eternal)

Posted by Paul at 10:33 PM

Snowy Photo Ramble in South Burnaby, Nikkei Place

There was a crafts fair at Nikkei Place today, so Yumi and I wandered up the hill to see it. Along the way I got a few shots of the fresh snow.














Posted by Paul at 08:59 PM

Salamander On Snowy Byrne Creek Trail

It snowed in Burnaby overnight, and Yumi and I did a loop of Byrne Creek Ravine Park to enjoy the fresh views. We were surprized to come across a salamander on the trail. Dunno what the frozen little thing was doing out and about in the snow!


Yumi gently picked it up and moved it off the trail and into some natural cover.


I don't think we'd have noticed it but we had slowed to let another walker get by on the trail, and that's when a twitch of motion caught our eyes. At first we thought it was a huge worm. As you can see, it blends right in, and it wasn't moving very fast, particularly when it was only 5C, so it was in some danger on the trail. We could easily have stepped on it ourselves, and never known, if we hadn't happened to stop right at that spot.

Posted by Paul at 08:27 PM

November 18, 2010

Amazing Stream of Dreams Feedback!

As prez of the Stream of Dreams board, my heart glows to get this sort of response:

The Stream of Dreams presentation was a hit with our Grade Eights. The speaker clearly knew her stuff and the kids drank it in. Overall, a fun experience and a great cause.


I really enjoyed having Susan, Louise, and Joan from Stream of Dreams come out to our school.  They came very prepared to engage the students with their posters, stories, and models about protecting fish habitat and watersheds. This non-profit organization is doing amazing work and I hope they can share their important environmental message with children and adults everywhere.

"All drains lead to salmon habitat!"  We got it!  Thank you for your enthusiasm and for sharing your expertise with us.  My Grade 7's thoroughly enjoyed it, and we appreciate your passion.  Thanks for bringing our community on board this project.

The habitat connection was great for our grade 4's who will be studying this further during the year.  They really enjoyed the maps of the neighborhood surrounding the school.  However, their favourite part was putting their creative genius to work in painting the fish.  Thank you for showing us how we can be wise stewards of creation.

I totally love these school-wide  events.  Aren't those just the greatest and most creative fish you've ever seen!?!?! The whole school did a fabulous job painting them and a special thanks to those parents and others who helped string the fish.  It's good to know that when you say "All drains lead to"...the children all reply..."fish or salmon habitat." It was exciting to witness how enthusiastic the students were. I was renewed by how everyone used the gifts God has given them to praise and worship Him by doing their best work when they painted their fishes.
The people were really good. They really knew their stuff, and everything was so streamlined that my class was engaged the whole time. The fish look great and so does the fence now. Good work everyone involved.

Stream of Dreams staff and volunteers do amazing work. It's a privilege to work with them, even in a minor capacity.

Posted by Paul at 11:23 PM

November 08, 2010

Heron Stalks Byrne Creek

A heron has been hanging around the lower ravine in southeast Burnaby's Byrne Creek the last several days. I first surprised it while on a patrol for spawning salmon with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers. It gave a Jurassic-like squawk and mightily flapped its way up into a perch in an evergreen.


The next day on another spawner patrol I saw it before it saw me, and so I hunkered down to observe it slowly Tai Chi its way along the creek, looking for lunch. It wasn't long before it struck, and swallowed a small cutthroat trout or juvenile coho salmon.

The linkages in nature never cease to amaze me. It's the season for spawning salmon to come up our creeks in the lower mainland of BC, and that attracts other animals like clockwork. The trout start gathering in expectation of stray eggs as the salmon dig their nests and spawn, various species of birds like American Dippers suddenly start frequenting the creeks also looking for stray eggs, and herons and other fishing birds come to stalk the trout who in turn are stalking the female salmon. . . Not to mention the increased number of paw prints of various sorts in the soft sandy or muddy banks: coyotes, racoons, skunks. I've seen even squirrels get excited about spawning salmon, though I've never seen them actually take an egg or feed on a carcass.

Posted by Paul at 06:31 PM

November 07, 2010

Subaru Outback Hits 200,000 Km

Our steadfast 1998 Subaru Outback hit 200,000 trouble-free kilometers today. That's about 123,456 miles for those of you still on the British Imperial system for distances (like the U.S. Smile ). I like these numbers, because the last time I posted an odometer shot from the Outback was when it hit 123,456 km.

I know there are trusty Subarus out there with way higher mileage, but we don't use our car for commuting - I work from home, and my wife is a staunch Translink Skytrain work commuter.


With regular maintenance, this car has been absolutely dependable. Of course there have been a few other maintenance items like one blown fuse, a couple of light bulbs, and a couple of sets of wipers, but those are to be expected with normal wear and tear. The only unusual item was a head gasket that was replaced under warranty.

While I originally got the car new on lease in Saskatoon, it's spent 99% of its life based in Burnaby, BC. (we liked it so much we bought it out when the lease expired). I'd like to thank Don Docksteader Subaru for providing excellent maintenance services for 12 years. Docksteader Subaru Service quickly gained my trust, and I hope to see another trouble-free 100,000 km with their assistance.

Posted by Paul at 05:36 PM

November 06, 2010

Sustainability Makes Sense–Edmonds Association Biz Seminar

Business & Networking Seminar
$ustainability Makes $ense - Go Green and Save $$$
Nov. 16, 2010, 6:30 p.m. Tommy Douglas Library, Kingsway & Edmonds, Burnaby
Please pre-register at 604-522-3971
or email
before noon Friday, November 12th, 2010.

Business Seminar Poster

Posted by Paul at 09:17 PM