A letter of federal recognition was given to the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society on the Blue Carbon Pilot Project from federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq.
“Your organization’s contribution is an essential part of the environmental agenda. I wish the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society every success in carrying out this important initiative for a healthy environment,” writes the minister.
In March, the Blue Carbon Pilot Project received $230,000 through the North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action (NAPECA) grant program of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC). They also accepted a $10,000 grant from the Pacific Institute of Climate Solutions to hire a student summer intern from a university — a first for the Blue Carbon Pilot Project.
Paul Horgen, chair of the board of the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society, is pleased with the minister’s recognition of the initiative, and hopes that both local and federal politicians will give ear to the cause. “I want to encourage politicians who don’t think about it to think about it,” Horgen says.
The Blue Carbon Pilot Project’s overall objective is to reduce the amounts of carbon dioxide damage in the environment, which is predicted to reduce climate change. The main goals include growing the estuarine habitat, restoring shorelines, and fostering a community understanding and action about the issue.
In total, British Columbia has 27, 200 kilometres of shoreline and 422 estuaries. Coastal vegetation such as marshes and seagrasses are incredibly efficient at absorbing and storing the carbon dioxide. The carbon stored within these aquatic environments is known as blue carbon.
Eelgrass, also known as Zostera marina, is one of the seagrasses that is able to hold the carbon. The education, preservation and expansion of eelgrass growth is a key component to the success of the project.
One of the next steps for the Blue Carbon Pilot Project is to figure out how to measure the carbon in these aquatic environments. “We need to measure what’s in the current sediments now, and take samples from a non-eelgrass location and an eelgrass location to measure the carbon,” Horgen says.
Comox Valley MLA Don McRae is excited to have project based in the Comox Valley, and believes that it will go beyond the local shorelines. “The project has a huge benefit to the Comox Valley, and potentially up and down the coast of North America,” McRae says. McRae notes that there are always environmental issues for local politicians to address in their communities, and that this one is well worth the time. “It’s a brilliant idea.”
In the meantime, the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society is waiting to hear back from other grant applications. Horgen says that once the amount of funding is known, then they can move forward in searching for the proper amount of volunteers and workers needed. “That’s one of the things I think is often not really well understood, is that stewardship groups bring volunteers and tourists in, and are providing economic input to the Comox Valley,” Horgen adds.