Snowbirds’ boats targeted at borders to prevent invasive species from reaching Alberta waterways

Published on Monday, 17 November 2014

Government thinking of mandatory boat stops for next year

bowden billboard thumbnailsThe Alberta government is now targetting boats owned by snowbirds as they come across the border. This new initiative, preventing dangerous aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels from invading our water, is already gearing up for spring of 2015.

This provincial program, dubbed Clean, Drain and Dry, originated from Idaho was put into effect by initiating a media campaign to spread awareness, along with boat inspection stations in certain areas of the province.

The Calgary Journal in May did an exploration of aquatic invasive species and the threats they possess, as well as a look at Alberta’s efforts to prevent the spread. While one of the main species Alberta is threatened by is zebra and quagga mussels, some other species Alberta government has been keeping an eye on are Eurasian watermilfoil, spiny waterflea, and hydrilla among others.

Kate Wilson, Alberta’s Aquatic Invasive Species Program Coordinator, talks about the program and changes for the future.

*some answers have been edited for length and clarity

So why did you choose to adopt the Clean, Drain, Dry program?

The reason we chose this program was because it’s positive, and it tells people what to do in the message. We’ve seen titles in some states with aggressive slogans like, “Don’t Move a Mussel,” and that doesn’t really help people know what to do. One difference is in Alberta, our ads look a little different from others just to help distinguish that it’s new here.

Is this program mainly targeted to be educational?

While I would say it is largely an educational program, we’re more seeking for a behavioural change. The goal is to hope people will start doing this naturally as they travel around with their boats.

Boats and trailers are the most likely vector (source) for many harmful and high profile species. There are other potential sources as well, such as firefighting equipment, pump trucks used in industry, water-based construction equipment, float planes, etc. We have made headway on the firefighting equipment – our crews now use steam trucks to clean equipment such as air tankers when they have left the province.hinton2Kate Wilson, Alberta’s Aquatic Invasive Species Program Coordinator, spoke with the Calgary Journal regarding the dangers invasive species present, and ways to prevent them. 

Photo courtesy of Kate Wilson

How over the summer did you try to push this initiative? 

We implemented Clean, Drain and Dry over a variety of mediums. We placed ads on billboards on the highway, a few electronic ads on billboards in the cities. There were a lot of signs posted at boat launchers, and we had a booth at several boat shows. We also got Michael Short to do a television ad that aired on Sports Network. It aired on four provinces, so we might have overshot that one a little (laughs).

The goal is to have the majority of boat owners and anglers aware of the issue and the specific actions they can take to prevent the spread of all AIS. With the boat inspections out on the highway all summer, it was important to make sure we had a campaign explaining the issue and the solution!

Were there any bodies of water you guys were stationed at, or did you spend more time near the borders?

We had boat inspection stations focusing mainly on highways, trying to see if there were people with boats traveling back and forth. Because we’re more worried about species getting into the province, we stuck to areas close to borders, like Lethbridge and Lloydminster. We didn’t go too far on any back roads, we stuck mainly to existing commercial vehicle roads.

How many people did you guys inspect over the course of the summer?

We stopped about 3,700 people over the summer. Of those we intercepted two cases of aquatic invasive species on boats. That makes for 10 interceptions over the past two years.

When inspecting a boat and you guys do find an invasive species, what is the protocol that follows?

It depends on the situation. All boats that come in dirty or have standing water or plants/critters attached must be clean before they leave. We have equipment on site to decontaminate boats – hot water- high pressure wash units with attachments for different kinds of boats (e.g. inboard, outboard, sailboats, ballast tanks, jet skis, etc.). Most often we have boaters that are compliant with the process, as no one wants to be responsible for an introduction of invasive species! Especially mussels given the tremendous economic and environmental impacts (we estimate an infestation could cost Alberta over $75 million annually). If we have a boater who is not compliant but has come from a high risk area, our Fishery Officers have authority to hold the boat for as long as it takes to clean it, and depending on the situation, ensure that it is completely dry before it is released. Mussels can live up to 30 days out of the water.

So what happens after the summer month’s end?

Well after peak season, which usually ends after Labour Day, we wind down the patrols around the province. There is a focus on what to improve for next year, but we continue to patrol around the borders because of ‘snow birders.’

Often people who drive down to spend the winter months in warmer places down in the states will take their own boats down with them, or buy used boats there and then bring them back here. These are usually the most at-risk boats for invasive species, so we have to catch them as they come back across the border.

What are some of the changes you’d like to make for 2015?

We’d like a bit more authority for boat stops. Currently it’s a voluntary inspection for us to check boats on the highway, but we’d like to make it mandatory. The states are good with mandatory inspections, and we’d like to emulate that.

We’re also hoping to expand our presence throughout the province, try to cover more vectors besides boats. We also have another campaign that we’re starting called ‘Don’t Let it Loose,’ which will focus on the exotic fish trade coming in and out of the province.

For more information on aquatic invasive species and Clean, Drain and Dry, click here.

 

Snow removal on residential streets in the north concerning residents

Published on Monday, 03 November 2014 in The Calgary Journal

Hilly communities prove to create hazardous conditions

SnowRemovalTHUMBWith the winter months approaching, Calgarians are starting to get ready for hazardous driving conditions but not everyone has faith in the city’s snow removal efforts.

Petroula Christakis lives in Hawkwood, a hilltop community west of Nosehill Park in the city’s northwest. She cited that every winter city buses getting stuck is a regular occurrence and that getting to work in the morning can be a frustrating endeavor.

“The snow removal is always really bad in this area,” she said.

As evidenced by the snowfall on Sept. 8, parts of Calgary can fall into disarray when there is snow on the road in the winter months.

Residents in communities like Hawkwood and Edgemont sometimes see the worst of it, with snow staying on the roads sometimes until the spring months.

The City of Calgary has a seven-day plan in the instance of a snow event.

Once the snow has settled, the first two days are spent plowing major highways that see over 20,000 cars a day and then secondary roads that see anywhere between 5,000 to 19,000 cars a day.

Residential areas are scheduled to be plowed from the third to sixth day. However, the plows will only knock snow ruts down to 12 centimetres, enough snow to warrant a winter warning in some cities.

Jessica Bell, the communications advisor for the roads department in Calgary, explained that it is rare to see actual snow removal in residential areas. Instead the snow crews “flat blade” the snow to try and make it easier for people to drive on.SnowRemovalPetroula Christakis is one resident of Hawkwood who has concerns about the city’s snow removal efforts in her area.

Photo by Jeff Medhurst

“At this time roads does not have any plans to change our snow removal policy, or lack thereof, in residential communities,” Bell said.

“The reason for this being that during a typical Calgary winter our planned response to snowfall is adequate.”

Bell said the city’s budget for snow and ice control is $34.6 million annually. Cities like Toronto and Montreal have snow removal budgets between $80 million and $100 million.

“At roads we have a measured, planned response to snowfalls,” Bell said. “We will continue to provide the best service we can according to our council approved snow and ice control policy.”

But, that response isn’t enough for a lot of people in northwest communities where flat bedding might not be adequate safety for a lot of drivers.

Another resident of Hawkwood, Kelly Dallison, has found that while she still has to be careful, the risk of sliding down a snowy hill isn’t as likely as it used to be.

“I have found that it has gotten better over the years,” Dallison said.

Communities like Hawkwood and Edgemont are built into hills. This creates extra slippery conditions especially when the snow gets patted down.

Hawkwood resident Christakis added that when the city spreads salt and sand on city roads, it melts the snow and ice, but then that water freezes overnight creating sheets of ice two to three inches thick on roads.

Dallison agreed with Christakis’ sentiment and said that it is the ice to watch out for, and in such cases she will use the snow as traction.

Greg Hartzler, the communications liaison for Councillor Joe Magliocca of Ward 2 in Calgary, defended the city’s snow removal policy. He said he hears little complaint from constituents.

“Actually the main complaint we receive is that walking pathways don’t see enough plowing,” Hartzler said.
AMA Insurance Communications Coordinator Alexandra Sochowski said that while insurance quotes are determined in case-to-case scenarios, she has found that most people in hilly communities will end up waiting to drive until the area is at least sanded.

“Most drivers in the areas mentioned are aware of the potential problems on snowy days,” Sochowski said. “However there are always exceptions.”

New MD of Bonnyville building opens

Published Monday, August 26, 2013 in The Cold Lake Sun

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After two years of construction, the MD of Bonnyville new offices officially opened the new offices on Monday August 19. While the council had moved into the building last spring, they hadn’t officially opened the new building until the ribbon cutting ceremony took place.
Now the entire staff can fit in the new building, which is four times the size of the original, and they have even more staff than before.

Ed Rondeau, the council’s reeve, says the new space will give them the chance to do more and will better equip them to deal with issues as they arise.

“The new space will give us a chance to do things like mapping with GPS, so we can better plan for development,” Rondeau said as an example of what the new building will be capable of compared to the old one.

Having the entire MD council in house in a big plus, said Rondeau, making communication among the staff easier. The building also was constructed to better accommodate the citizens of the MD, with a friendlier approach to welcoming them to the building.

“We placed the main greeting counter at the front as opposed to the old building,” Rondeau said. “So now when people walk in they can ask the questions they need to ask at the front.”