Project Watershed awarded grant for Blue Carbon Project

(CEC funds will help to address North American environmental problems locally

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Courtenay —The Council of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) today announced the winners of $1.2 million of grants under the CEC’s North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action (NAPECA) program.

As part of the effort to address environmental problems locally and support communities across North America, Project Watershed was awarded with $200,000 over 2 years for research on Blue Carbon in the K’omoks Estuary.  Eelgrass and salt marsh habitats are recognized for their ability to sequester carbon in marine sediments. In the past century, almost 70% of global eelgrass and salt marsh habitats have been lost due to anthropogenic disturbances, resulting in the loss of an important carbon sink.

Along the Pacific coast, community organizations and local governments are interested in reclaiming shorelines and re-establishing eelgrass and salt marsh habitats. In addition to their aesthetic and economic value as habitat for a variety of fin fish, shellfish, and other organisms, these habitats are also known to sequester carbon at several times the rate of any land-based vegetation system.

This project is being carried out to provide a strategy for the identification, mapping, land protection, and establishment of a blue carbon strategy for the K’omoks and Squamish Estuaries so that in years to come, the Estuaries, intertidal zones, shorelines, watercourses, wetlands, and riparian zones will continue to function as a buffer against rising sea levels, climate change, and changing urban and development pressures. There are over 200 other estuaries in coastal British Columbia that would benefit from such a strategy.

Paul Horgen, Chair of the Board of Project Watershed says “This is great news and should help us make great strides towards development of a protocol to measure the increase in carbon sequestration in estuarine habitats.  This would provide what I call a triple win, improving habitat in the estuary, sequestering carbon and mitigating storm surges along the foreshore and keeping carbon offset funding in the Valley to create jobs.“

“Protecting the environment is everyone’s responsibility, and we are proud to support organizations across North America who are working closely with communities to improve human health and environmental quality.  Each of these NAPECA projects serves as a model example of how an innovative idea can be put into action, so stay tuned over the next two years as we share the impact of these grants with the public,” said Irasema Coronado, Executive Director of the CEC.

CEC Council members—the environment ministers of the three NAFTA countries: Canada’s Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, Mexico’s Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources Juan José Guerra and US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy—support the grant program to encourage innovative and model environmental initiatives at the community level.

Find out more about the NAPECA program and details on how The K’omoks and Squamish Estuaries — A Blue Carbon Pilot Project will improve our shared environment at http://www.cec.org/Page.asp?PageID=122&ContentID=25734&SiteNodeID=1237&BL_ExpandID=1157.  An interactive map is available at this website so visitors will be able know what each of the rest of the grantees’ projects is doing and where they’re working.

Also, make sure to follow the progress of these new and innovative projects on Facebook and on Twitter @CECweb using #NAPECA.

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