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Getting Warmer: Globally 2015 Exceeds All Other Years

by Paul Horgen – Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto, Board Chair Project Watershed


PW-summerversuswinter-web

Quoting the great New York Yankee hall of fame catcher Yogi Berra, “Its deja vu all over again.”

In an announcement released on Wednesday, January 20th, Both NASA and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) reported that 2015 was the warmest year since global temperatures were first recorded. During the same week last January, the same message was reported for 2014. These two US based agencies report that globally the high temperatures were fueled by record El Niño and its affect on climate change. In 2015, the month of December became the first month ever to increase 2 degrees F. In most of North America, December was more like March or April.

Despite this global information, the hottest year on record did not apply to Canada. According to Environment Canada, Atlantic Canada was one of the only regions on the planet that had cooler-than average temperatures last year. Canada only experienced the 11th warmest year on record in 2015.

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Project Watershed 2014 Volunteer Appreciation event

On 12/12/2014 Project Watershed invited their regular volunteers, and some other friends, to an appreciation event at the Comox Valley Community Justice Centre in downtown Courtenay.

With more than 50 attendees, including some of the local city council members who openly support Project Watershed’s work, enjoying local snacks and refreshments, the event highlighted the interconnected nature of the organisation’s work.

In this video some top volunteers are acknowledged individually by Project Watershed chair Paul Horgen and Acting Estuary Coordinator Jennifer Sutherst.

Keeping It living – Calling all ARTISTS

Project Watershed is inviting you to join us in inspiring the Comox Valley to experience the estuary by submitting a piece of your work in our 6th annual Keeping it Living Art competition and silent auction.

Keeping it Living is an art and literature awareness and fundraising campaign to give everyone the opportunity to contribute to the preservation and restoration of the K’ómoks Estuary.


Keeping it Living
Art for the Estuary
Then, Now and Future

The year’s title “Then, Now and Future” is to inspire the artist to capture their version of the past, present and future of the estuary…or all three! And as in every year the theme encompasses “all things estuary”, and is wide open to the whole ecosystem which extends into the Georgia Strait. Nationally renowned First Nations artist Andy Everson will be creating a unique image for this years’ campaign. Join Andy in the creation of art inspired by our one of  kind estuary.

All types of art including (but not limited to) painting, sculpture, jewelry, pottery, photography and glass are encouraged.

Art is displayed as follows:

Details:

  • Artwork image submitted online as JPEG using the form found at www.keepingitliving.ca or by clicking here.
  • Artwork must be submitted with entry fee ($20) and form (2 pieces can be submitted for this fee)
  • All mediums accepted; must be your own original work
  • Creative writing pieces are free to enter; max 200 words
  • All 2D artwork must be framed and/or ready to hang
  • All entries must be for sale, proceeds split 50/50 between Artist and Project Watershed
  • Submission deadline is Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

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Courtenay Council Candidates Consider Field Sawmill Site

With an election coming in a few days, all of the candidates running in Courtenay are firming up their platforms. One of the important issues facing our beautiful community and is on the minds of not only citizens of Courtenay,  but all of us who have chosen the Comox Valley as our home, is the old Field Saw Mill site.  In November of last year, Project Watershed presented some preliminary ideas about the site and published them in local papers.  They included feasibility of restoration.  We have recently submitted our most current thoughts in another article submitted to local papers in the first week in November.

 
I can tell you as a speaker that has talked to Rotary clubs, Probus clubs, Newcomer groups and courses that I have taught on the Estuary at NIC Elder College, that a question that comes up at every talk or course is, “What is going to happen to the old Field Sawmill Site?”
What to do with the Fields Saw Mill
 
The Project Watershed Board of Directors believes that this should be an issue discussed during the fall campaign. Consequently during the first week in October, Project  Watershed invited or attempted to invite all of the candidates running to meet and discuss the issue.
 
To date  we have had replies /or and met with Jon Ambler (mayoral candidate) and Council candidates Doug Hillian, Bob Wells, David Frisch, Bill Anglin, Starr Winchester, Rebecca Lennox, George Knox, Eric Erickson, Stu MacInnis and Marcus Felgenhauer.  All agreed that this issue should be put on the table for consideration. What a great start!
 
We look forward to involving the entire Comox Valley in discussions related to restoring this site. What a legacy it would be for future generations.
Yours sincerely.

Paul Horgen

Restoring Tidal Marshes in Royston

A tidal marsh is a type of marsh that is found along the shoreline of coasts and estuaries of which the flooding characteristics are determined by the tidal movement of the adjacent estuary.  The vegetation on the shore is called a salt marsh and it is a complex of many salt tolerant plants.  The vegetation from the tide line out into the waters of the estuary is composed of a single flowering plant known as eelgrass.  Volunteers including three local candidates running for office in November have been working on the shoreline by the new Royston Seaside trail creating salt marsh benches.

This new park site, in the early part of the 20th century, was an area with extensive tidal marshes. As the first settlers began to log forests in the area rails ran along the shoreline on an artificial dyke and logs were transported and dumped into the estuary for movement to saw mills.  This activity went on for decades and caused major habitat damage to the estuarine ecosystems.

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The sunken ships that can be seen off the estuary shore are known as the ‘Royston Wrecks’.  For years, these ships served to protect the shoreline against storm action and the scouring of the shore with logs in the water.

“All of the damaging industry is in our past, but now is the time to work together and restore habitat.  The amazing success so far is really encouraging”, commented Bob Wells, candidate for Courtenay Council. The Comox Valley Project Watershed Society has embarked on a major restoration project to re-establish the tidal marsh system lost during that time.  All of this is occurring along this new CVRD trail which will become a major destination in the Comox Valley for residents and tourists wanting seaside outdoor activity.

“I was very encouraged  with the enthusiasm of the staff and volunteers of Project Watershed for  this tidal marsh restoration effort ,”  stated Rebecca Lennox, candidate for Courtenay Council.

“We have restored almost 2000 m2 of eelgrass in the intertidal and sub tidal waters near the Wrecks and have just started the construction of three salt marsh benches which will occur over the next six months” reports Paul Horgen Chair of the Board.

Jim Gillis, running for Director of Area B in the Regional District, exclaimed that  “it was wonderful that a stewardship group like Project Watershed could secure over $100,000 in competitive funding to carry out these restorative activities on our new seaside trail.”

Image Credit:

  • Photo by Jennifer  Sutherst –  Rebecca Lennox and Technical Director Dan Bowen discussing the planing of salt tolerant species on the newly formed Royston salt marsh benches.

Climate change could increase estuary flooding

Image Credit: Contributed – In the spring of 2012, residents along the Dyke Road were evacuated by the RCMP due to flooding. This was how things looked in front of the old cement tower.

Contributed – Comox Valley Recordposted Oct 15, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Today’s coastal areas face an unprecedented challenge, struggling to cope and adapt in the midst of a changing climate.

In coastal areas, the consequences of climate change are already evident, with global sea-levels rising 10 to 25 cm over the last century. By 2100, this number is expected to increase anywhere from 0.5 to 1.4 meters above the 1990 level. Increased incidence and severity of coastal storms are also predicted to result from warming oceans and weather anomalies.

Coastal zones such as estuaries, are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise and enhanced storms, facing serious impacts including: (1) inundation and displacement of wetlands and lowlands; (2) increased coastal erosion; (3) increased coastal storm flooding; and (4) salination.

Flooding incidents

The last five years have been amongst the warmest ever recorded on earth.  In the Comox Valley we have had several flooding incidents and a few near disasters. Widespread human development and industrial activity over the last half century, a working saw mill, (log booming, etc.) further compromised the coastal system’s natural integrity, simultaneously augmenting erosion and forfeiting inherent resiliency.

Project Watershed and the Estuary Working Group has been focusing on shorelines and climate adaptation.  “Beginning this year, and for the next several years, we are going to focus on salt marsh shoreline areas,” commented Dan Bowen, technical director.  This, in conjunction with our intertidal and sub-tidal eelgrass restoration, provides shoreline protection (climate adaptation) and removes the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere.  “The basis of this protection is simple,” says Paul Horgen, board chair of Project Watershed.  “The eelgrass and salt marsh vegetation provides a physical barrier against surges.”

2010 warmest year

Including 2013, nine of the 10 warmest years in the 134 year period of record keeping have occurred in the 21st century. Only one year during the 20th century—1998—was warmer than 2013.  And 2010 was the warmest year on record.

What could this mean for the Comox Valley?  A completely logical conclusion would be more frequent incidents of flooding.  In which case we brace ourselves for more frequent events of the type observed in the winter of 2010 and spring of 2012 when residents along the Dyke Road were evacuated by the RCMP (see photo).

Co-operation and collaboration between governments whose jurisdiction includes our estuary seems like a logical part of a solution that should involve planning and uniform standards.  Governments and stewardship groups need to co-operate and work together.

Which candidates running for local governments will put this important issue high on their election platforms?

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Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up

Kathryn Clouston

Trust you all had a relaxing and enjoyable summer and are keen to get out and enjoy some great fall days in our valley’s superb natural environment.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup will be running for a week (Sept 20 to 28) so it will give you a moral reason to be out helping to clean up your local streams and waterways.

If you want to participate in an organized cleanup the CV Nature group will be picking up litter at the Airpark on Sunday, Sept 21st and I have registered the Simms Park area on behalf of Project Watershed to be groomed on Sunday, September 28th (also BC Rivers Day).

Both cleanup parties will be meeting at their respective parking lots and run from 10 AM until noon . Bring gloves and a garbage bag (also family and friends) and wear appropriate footwear. Refreshments will be served during a tally-up of debris at the end.

Hope to see you out there – working to better our natural environment is always a feel-good and very worthwhile activity.

Kathryn CloustonProject Watershed Staff Member

K’omoks Estuary at the Forefront of Blue Carbon Research

Something interesting is happening in our local waters.  Project Watershed, a local environmental stewardship organization, is working on a project to learn more about how salt marsh and eelgrass beds in our local Estuary contribute to the uptake and storage of carbon from the atmosphere, called Blue Carbon.

Better understanding is required to determine the economic value of estuarine habitat restoration in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere and stored.   Any mechanism that reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could help offset human-caused carbon emissions.

In the K’omoks Estuary, both salt marsh and eelgrass beds capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and store it in the underlying sediments.  These estuarine habitats are widely recognized as important habitat for marine creatures and for foreshore resilience.  However, before they can be valued additionally for the carbon they store, fundamental research is required to link the two.  This activity is being pursued by Project Watershed with funding provided by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) – The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) is an intergovernmental organization that supports the cooperative environmental agenda of Canada, Mexico and the United States to green North America’s economy, address climate change by promoting a low-carbon economy, and protect its environment and the health of its citizens.   Project Watershed is one of just three organizations in all of Canada that received funding.

Angela Spooner (graduate Student) and Russell Prentice (PICS summer student intern taking sediment cores

Angela Spooner (graduate student) and Russell Prentice (PICS summer student intern) taking sediment c

The goals of the project are to develop a protocol suitable for other community groups to assess carbon stores and rate of carbon sequestration in estuarine habitats.  In addition, Project Watershed aims to foster greater community involvement and understanding of the environmental and economic benefits of eelgrass and salt marsh restoration.

The fieldwork for this project commenced in May of this year and will continue through the summer of 2015.  Sediment cores will be collected and assessed for the amount of carbon in the different layers beneath the surface.  This information can be used to determine the rate at which carbon is accumulated and stored over time.  Comparisons are being made between sites with eelgrass or salt marsh vegetation and sites void of vegetation to determine if the sediments below vegetated sites store more carbon.

Ultimately, the goal is to place a dollar value on the amount of carbon stored in these estuarine habitats so governments with jurisdiction over the estuary can use these to reduce their carbon tax burden.  Paul Horgen, Project Watershed Board Chair, says, “The result is a 4-way win: a win for the estuarine environment and associated fauna; a win for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; a win for protecting foreshores from storm surges due to climate change; a win to governments required to pay carbon taxes.”

This type of work relies heavily on community involvement.  If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Paul Horgen, Head of the Blue Carbon Team (p.horgen@utoronto.ca) or phone Project Watershed at (250-703-2871).

Project watershed’s Pacific Institute for Climate Studies Internship Report

Russell Prentice

I have had a busy and exciting first month with Project Watershed. In the first couple weeks I assisted with eelgrass bed restoration. My duties included the maintenance and operation of a small boat, preparing eel-grass for planting and shuttling divers to planting sites. I also helped to survey inter-tidal sites that will later be restored using a GPS.

PW_surveyingDanBowen

After that I began to help with the collection of sediments that will be analyzed for their carbon content. I worked off the “Chetleo” from VIU to collect sub-tidal samples and also collected sediment cores in inter-tidal areas.

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I have also been creating field equipment, such as quadrats and a plumb line, that will be used for our field work in the coming weeks.

Russell PrenticeProject Watershed Pacific Institute for Climate Studies Intern

Blue Carbon Pilot Project in Comox Valley Getting Attention

CVRecord-genericfeaturedimageBy  Mandy Larade – Comox Valley Recordposted Apr 9, 2014 at 4:00 PM

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.