Getting Warmer: Globally 2015 Exceeds All Other Years

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


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.

Read more


Children’s Author Makes Donation to Project Watershed

Paul Horgen, author of the children’s book Tales of Kona the Guide Dog and board chair of Comox Valley Project Watershed Society is pleased to present the society with a $500 donation from the proceeds of book sales. This fun and colourful book chronicles the life and times of Paul’s lovely guide dog Kona. Kona narrates the book, telling her story to children, parents, teachers and grandparents.


Photo caption: Paul Horgen presents Project Watershed’s Estuary Coordinator, Jennifer Sutherst with a cheque for $500.00.

“The book was published in early December and marketed locally in the valley. It has done very well, and I am so happy to make this first donation to Project Watershed. I have pledged to contribute a portion of the profits to my two favourite charities, Project Watershed and BC and Alberta Guide Dog Services, and I am hoping that this donation will be the first of many,” says Horgen. This donation has been earmarked for Project Watershed’s “Keeping It Living” art fundraising campaign, which runs from May 12 – 31 at the Pearl Ellis gallery.

Anyone wishing to order the book can do so online at or email A reading of the book will be held at the Comox Library on Monday, March 30. Children will have an opportunity to meet Kona at work and at play.



*Read this article in the Comox Valley Echo at –

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:


  • Artwork image submitted online as JPEG using the form found at 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



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.


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.


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

Comox Valley Project Watershed Society Elects New Board Officers

On June 11th the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society Board of Directors met and elections were held for Board positions. The 2013 Board members with their specific roles on the Project Watershed team are:

  • Paul Horgen – re-elected Chairman of the Board.  Paul has been associated with the Board for 5 years and along with Board Member Dan Bowen makes up the Research –Technical Working Group.  Horgen is a retired Biology Professor from the University of Toronto.  His research was in Microbial genetics and environmental microbiology. He has published over 140 scientific articles and has co-authored 3 books.   He moved to the Comox Valley in 2005, and has served as science coordinator for Elder College. He is also a member of the Vancouver Island CNIB Board of Directors and a member of the CNIB National Research Board.  Horgen also serves on the Area B Lazo North Area Planning Commission.  Horgen is coordinating the team for the Blue Carbon Project in the Estuary.

  • Bill Heidrick – elected Vice-Chair and also coordinates the society’s outreach efforts.  Bill retired after 25 years working in the Forest Industry.  He moved on to serve 8 years in local government, including 4 years as a director of the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District. He was a volunteer warden for the Zeballos River Estuary for many years and instrumental in forming the Zeballos Fish and Wildlife Association.  He participated in CoastalWaterbird Survey (Zeballos River Estuary) for 7 years and continues to be involved in bird counts here in the Valley.  Bill’s outreach efforts involve the establishment of a new stream keeper group and the Shoreline cleanup.  Bill also serves on the Estuary Working Group and represents Project Watershed on the Comox Valley Conservation Strategy Steering Committee.

  • Don Castleden – Chair of the Society’s largest committee, the Estuary Working Group.  Don has been on the Board of Project Watershed since 2000 and is past Chair of the Board.  Don became involved in environmental education in the mid 90’s when he was asked to develop a national First Nations training program in Environmental Impact Assessment after he had previously developed an award winning program for First Nation managers in Community, Economic and Organization.  He  proposed the ‘Heart of the Watershed’ Symposium on the Estuary in 2008, which proved to be a catalyst that has engaged individuals, organizations and local political leaders in a community wide effort to protect and restore this outstanding feature of the Comox Valley.

  • Dan Bowen – born and raised in the Comox Valley, Dan has a passion for protecting the Valley’s flora and fauna from the bottom of the ocean to the top of the mountains.  Dan worked for the Ministry of Transportation as an engineering assistant, overseeing numerous road construction projects on Vancouver Island.  In 2010, Dan started applying his expertise to the aquaculture industry, specifically sustainable hatchery and tenure development and operations.  In 2011, Dan became a director on the board of Project Watershed.  He, along with Paul Horgen, coordinates the Research and Technical Activities of the Society, with Bowen coordinating and managing the Puntledge projects and both coordinating the Estuary and Blue Carbon projects.  Dan also serves on the Estuary Working Group.

  • Brian Storey – elected Treasurer and is the newest member of the Board of Directors.  Brian is a Chartered Accountant.  He was the Business Manager of The Edmonton Journal for 25 years before he became a self-employed professional accountant in 1996.  From 1996 to 2009, he provided business advice and assistance to a number of enterprises – public, private and not-for-profit.  Since coming to the Comox Valley, Brian has been, and still is, involved with the Rotary Club of Courtenay, and the Comox Valley Elder College.

Assisting the Board are key staff:

    • Caila Holbrook – Estuary Coordinator and Mapping Coordinator. Caila has been with Project Watershed since November 2008. She has a Masters in International Nature Conservation and a BSc in Environmental Science. She has been involved in environmental research, restoration and protection projects all over the world.

    • Kathryn Clouston – Administration and Outreach Coordinator.  Kathryn has been volunteering with stream keeping groups since her retirement from the Air Force in 2007.  While doing this she also spent a few years at North Island College improving her knowledge of biological systems with an Associate of Science in Biology degree.

Caila Holbrook and Kathryn Claustin in recent eelgrass planting in the estuary.

Caila Holbrook and Kathryn Claustin in recent eelgrass planting in the estuary.

The society welcomes new individuals with interest in environmental stewardship and public education and outreach.  Interested parties can contact Paul Horgen at or visit Project Watershed’s website at for more information.

2nd Annual Carol Walk along the Estuary

The tradition of people going around a neighbourhood singing Christmas carols is a very ancient one. However, in the Comox Valley, it’s quite a new tradition. It is a great way to experience the Estuary during the Winter season.


On Tuesday, December 5, 4:00 ­- 6:00 pm, join singers as they walk from 27th Street along the Riverway to the Westerly Hotel. The Hotel will provide a wassail cup to all carollers. Those who wish to stay for dinner will receive a special rate but reserve seats or a table in advance (250 338 2749).


Carollers will gather at the Mansfield Drive parking space near Cliffe Ave at 27 St., Courtenay. They will be led by John van Egmond,; Jim Boase on trumpet. Those who don’t want to walk 10 blocks, could join the minstrels at the Air Park or at the Old House. This year, Rick Husband and Dale Graham, John and Joanne van Egmond and Nicole Fifi will join us for an indoor program of singing at the Westerly.


Dress for the weather and for the Season! Also, consider car pooling so that one vehicle is at each end of the walk. Some shuttle service will be available but you might have to wait. Everyone should have a light and bring some carol sheets. It is not necessary to be a great singer but it is necessary that everyone has a great time, so dress for the weather! (If it is particularly inclement, we will meet in the Westerly lobby at 4 pm)


Following the Riverway, the route will go past several strata complexes, the Whistle Stop Pub and Holiday Inn, past the Information Centre and Air Park, Old House Hotel and under the 17th street bridge to the Westerly Hotel.


This is a free public event for people of all ages who wish to begin the Holiday Season by celebrating traditionally – but with Comox Valley style and ambience. Last year we were joined by 96 people!  In our era, money often is offered for good causes. This event is not a fundraiser per se but Salvation Army Kettle volunteers will be on the carol walk.


Wassail is derived from an old English word meaning “be thou hale”. Sometimes people would go into orchards and sing to the apple trees so they would bear good harvests. Often carollers were invited into homes for a cup of good cheer. Organizers are Project Watershed volunteers. For further information, contact that office: 250-703-2871.

Eelgrass Restoration

Project Watershed would like to thank our volunteers from Superstore, North Island College and around the Valley for their assistance with this important task and especially for doing it at 6:30 in the morning!

Our intrepid group of volunteers showed up at 6:30 in the morning and enthusiastically went to work carefully harvesting eelgrass from the healthy, natural bed on the south side of the Royston wrecks according to the instructions of the project leader, Cynthia Durance. Once they had collected the stems for transplanting, they then sat down to attach the washers to the plants with twist ties. This is an important step as the currents and tidal action mean that the plants cannot attach without some assistance. That assistance is provided by the washers, as well as by divers carefully inserting the washers into the sediment to ensure that the plant stays attached. The volunteers then bundled the eelgrass to make it easier for the divers to plant despite the current in that area.

Our volunteer divers, Cynthia Durance and Joyce McMenamon, then spent several hours carefully transplanting the eelgrass on the north side of the Royston wrecks. Our efforts were appreciated as when checked on a few days later the plants were full of little crabs enthusiastically feeding. Project Watershed would also like to thank Mountain Equipment Coop and Creekside Commons for providing the funding for this important restoration which provides a multitude of benefits by improving habitat for crabs, shellfish and other organisms, including salmon and herring, as well as sequestering carbon better than most plants on land.

Comox Valley Watersheds Course

Elder College is offering this course (CVEC 6315) coordinated by Betty Donaldson on Thursdays from Oct 4 – Nov 22 from 11:30 – 1:00.

It is not necessary to be a scientist to appreciate local watersheds that shape the Comox Valley: the Courtenay River (K’omoks) Estuary, the Tsolum and Puntledge Rivers, and 3 urban creeks.  Volunteers who help sustain these shorelines and waters will share their enthusiasm for human and natural history, and identify the unique biodiversity features of each area.  Weather permitting we will have one on-site class to view some spawning salmon.

Registration begins on Monday, September 17, 2012 at 9:00 am precisely. You can register by one of the following methods:
• Register at
• In person at the North Island College Registration Office.

A Special Day on the water in the Comox Valley

Hello From the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society, Estuary Working Group,

A special day for Families, Visitors,and Local Residents :

‘Keeping it Living 2012’ is the third year of the campaign raising awareness for the protection & restoration of the Courtenay River (K’omoks) Estuary. Coordinated by Project Watershed Society and the Estuary Working Group, the campaign includes the ‘Blue Forest: Art for the Estuary’ art auction & competition, and ‘Experience the Estuary’ outdoor events.

On Saturday July 28 we invite the community and all of Vancouver Island to ‘Experience the Estuary’ on a finale day of participation & celebration.  Visit the  Keeping it Living Website for more details

A flotilla of human-powered boats are invited to parade from the Courtenay Marina to the K’omoks Band shores in a free, non-competitive event. All will be welcomed ashore by the K’omoks people and the on-shore community, to view the Blue Forest Art silent auction at the Band Hall, dine on salmon, and enjoy the Kumugwe dancers.
Autographed Canada One paddle.  Photo by P Jones.

A  special treat for paddlers:  One of the original paddles used by the Canadian voyageur canoe team during the Diamond Jubilee Flotilla in London on the Thames Estuary is coming to the Comox Valley.  It is decorated and signed by all 10 paddlers. And someone will make a successful bid for ownership on July 28 when the Courtenay River Estuary Flotilla is held.

Come Experience the Estuary and join us in Keeping it Living!   The Band Hall is on Comox Ave.. between Courtenay and Comox along the estuary shore.
The materials you need to view and bring with you for registration to participate in the Flotilla are attached to this post.

To read the Guidelines go to the link below:

Guidelines to paddlers

To fill out the registration and waiver go to the link below:

Flotilla registration and waiver

To learn a bit about our estuary view this 4 min video


An Estuary Walk by Jocie Ingram

Courtenay Estuary Meadow 

Paintbrush, common camas, and pretty shootingstar fill this part of the wetland meadow near the mouth of the Courtenay River. Photo by D. Ingram.

A strong wind had kicked up, and it was spitting rain as I stepped out into the open flats of estuary, through a lush meadow of knee-deep sedges and swathes of yellow, blue and red wildflowers. I walked slowly—I could hardly see my feet beneath the thick vegetation, and there were hidden channels, dips and muddy spots that I could easy stumble into. I didn’t want to venture too far, just far enough to get a feel for this place.

Finding an old log to sit on, I spent some time there, taking in a view of Goose Spit and studying the plants around me: a spike of arrow-grass by my right foot, and over to the left a tall white bog-orchid with a sweet scent. Further over, there was a mass of paintbrush and camas in bloom, tangled with yellow buttercups.


Paintbrush (Castilleja sp.) – a number of different shades of colour and leaf shapes were noticeable in the plants in the meadow.  Photo by D. Ingram.


The colours of the paintbrush were surprisingly variable—yellow-cream, orange and red, some pale and some intense. The camas is one of the most striking of our wildflowers with twisted buds of an unreal-looking turquoise colour that open into bright purple-blue flowers. En masse, they put on quite a show. Back in May, these same flats were coloured pink from the blooms of shooting stars. There is more to come too—soon there will be purple spring-bank clover, and tall pink spikes of Henderson’s checker mallow, a hollyhock-like plant.

I have to confess that for years I never took much notice of the estuary. Even now, life gets busy and I haven’t been out here or looked at these flowers for quite a while. Like most of us, I drive from Courtenay to Comox along Comox Road and make passing-glances at the estuary without really engaging with it.

It was a different perspective, to sit out here. The sounds of the human world, the traffic and airplanes were constant, but I began to tune them out. I found myself listening to the piercing call of a yellow warbler, and the sound of the wind riffling through the sedges. This small pocket of wildness, really just a remnant, had an element of timelessness. The sights and sounds of today, the camas, paintbrush and buttercup and the warbler’s song were likely much the same a thousand years ago. In a world of constant, bewildering change, this simple fact is reassuring.

Common camas (Camassia quamash)  

The bright yellow stamens of Common camas (Camassia quamash) were brilliant against the rich blue of the tepals. Photo by D. Ingram.


Here, I had a direct link to the past, and I could begin to imagine what the estuary was like when it was wild, and when ancient peoples lived here. Further out on the mudflats, there are thousands of wooden stakes, some over a thousand years old that were used to capture then-plentiful salmon. The plants around me were a source of food and medicine. Camas bulbs were dug up, steamed and eaten every spring. Perhaps I romanticize, but I often wonder what it was like to live so intimately with the land, and to have a deeper connection to/knowledge of the landscape and all of its creatures. Today, briefly out of a modern context, I tried to forge my own connections—or at least acquaint myself with this ancient piece of the estuary that has endured for a millennium or more.

The Courtenay River estuary is highly regarded; it is one of eight class-one estuaries in the province. Though it has been severely altered by humans since the 1860s, the estuary is still a rich place for wildlife, supporting 145 species of birds, 218 species of plants, 29 species of fish and countless intertidal creatures.

Protecting and restoring our estuary is a huge task, and there is much work to be done. Many organizations work tirelessly on behalf of the estuary and the rivers and streams that feed into it. Salmon enhancement, restoring original habitat, invasive plant removal, garbage cleanup, public education, monitoring birds, and land acquisition are just some of the activities and goals of these mostly volunteer-run societies.

The population of the Comox Valley has doubled in the last 20 years, putting increasing pressure on our lands. Sensitive habitats and agriculture fields continue to be usurped for development. Though parts of the estuary are protected, there is still much that is unprotected and threatened. We have to work hard as a community, to look after this beautiful, special place that is a key part of our cultural and natural heritage.

The Keeping it Living ( campaign, launched by Project Watershed, has greatly increased awareness of the Courtenay River estuary. Visit for upcoming public events in the Experience the Estuary series: next up is a beach seine on Saturday June 16 at 9:30 at the Comox Road viewing stand.

There are several places with fine views of the estuary. Take a walk around the Courtenay Airpark, or stop at the viewing stand along Comox Road. Kayaking and canoeing are also great ways to explore the estuary up-close.

Jocie Ingram can be reached at