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



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.”

Author comes for book signing in Cold Lake

Published Tuesday, July 30, 2013 in The Cold Lake Sun


On Saturday August 3rd, new author Shelley Thody will be coming to Cold Lake to do a book signing on her first book, Melancholy Mania and Miracles: My Journey with Bipolar Disorder. She’ll be signing the book at Lots-A Books.

The book is an autobiographical account of Thody’s struggle with bipolar disorder, and since it’s publishing in November it has done very well in her hometown of Lac la Biche where she works as a schoolteacher during the year. However now during the summer months she’s working at promoting the book and getting it into as many hands as possible.

“My inspiration for writing the book, was that I’ve been through a lot, and I want to inspire others and remind them that there may be hope out there even if they’re going through a bad time like I was,” Thody explained.

The process of writing the book itself was a roller coaster ride for Thody, having been forced to relive all the experiences that have culminated into her life so far.

“It was difficult, it was healing, and it was scary,” Thody said. “I had to reiterate everything I’ve done in my life, the good and the bad choices. It was difficult to reiterate the tough times, but that in a way gave me a courage I didn’t have before.”

Before the book came out she told her coworkers at the school about the book, and many were surprised to hear she had bipolar disorder at all.

“But they were all very encouraging, it was pretty amazing,” Thody said.

Thody had success in Lac la Biche, with the book selling well all around town. She made a few appearances at book signings, and even went down to Calgary for a book signing at a Chapters bookstore. Lots-A Books offered the upcoming book signing, and Thody eagerly took it as it’s her summer mission to promote the book.

Even though it’s her goal for the summer to work at marketing the book, she has no plans at the moment to retire from teaching and work as a writer.

“I will be returning to teaching in the fall,” Thody said. “I have been approached to write another book, but at the moment my goal is to get this book into as many hands as possible.

“I believe there’s a stigma around talking about mental illness, and we have to be brave enough to talk about it to help the people who need it. So that’s what I’m hoping to push for with the book.”


Soccer camp scores

Published Tuesday, July 23, 2013 in The Cold Lake Sun


For the fourth year, Cold Lake Minor Soccer has once again hosted a summer camp for kids of all ages to get some practice with the fundamentals. The turnout for the camp was around 100 kids from all over the Lakeland area, and even one from Edmonton who vacations in Cold Lake for the summer.

The camp is run by Challenger Sports, a program that brings coaches from the U.K. to teach kids some new skills and some old ones in different ways.

“We have coaches from all over the place, a bunch are from Scotland and we got one guy from Wales, for example,” Steve Cupit, the technical director for Cold Lake Minor Soccer, said.

Although for many of the kids it may be skills they have learned before, Cupit says bringing in a fresh face to teach it always helps.
“Plus you put someone with a British accent in front of them and the kids tend to take them more seriously,” Cupit joked.

The camps were split up based on age group and skill level, ranging from full-day developmental camps to mini-soccer for kids ages four to six. The younger groups would focus on building individual skills like ball handling and control, while some of the older and more advanced groups would work on more team oriented skills. Every day the groups would focus on a certain skill to develop, such as heading the ball, which would culminate in a game at the end of the day.

One of the other things the camp was doing this year is called the African Cup of Nations, which assigns kids in the camp to different countries in Africa. It becomes those kids job to research their country and design a flag, because on the last day they hold a tournament with each team representing their country.

Lord Beaverbrook High School drama reaches out to the community

Published on Friday, 18 November 2011 in The Calgary Journal

Students put on two plays aimed at families and children

lordbeaverbrookthumbAt Lord Beaverbrook High School the drama teachers and a group of students are hard at work rehearsing for two upcoming plays set to go up in the first week of December.

The two plays, “How to Eat Like a Child,” a play about a group of kids teaching the audience how to act like children, and “A Promise is a Promise,” a play based off the children’s story by Robert Munsch and Michael Kusugak, are aiming to bring in a large draw for the community with a focus on families.

“It’s two shows designed for families and children,” said Owen Chan, the director of “A Promise is a Promise.”

This year Lord Beaverbrook High School’s fine arts department is working hard to try to get the community aware of its program.


We have a department goal, not just drama but all the performing arts, of bringing the community into Lord Beaverbrook more. So it’s more of a community school, and not just the place where ‘those teenagers’ go to school,” said Karen Towsley, ,the director of “How to Eat Like a Child.”

“There are amazing things going on this school, and you never hear about them.”

Community Awareness

Last year, after having built up their program, the fine arts department realized that they weren’t getting as much of a draw from the community as they wanted, or as they were used to when they were teenagers.

“When I went to school, the community was in the school. Everyone went to the football games, everyone went to the plays whether your kid was in the school or not,” said Towsley.

The challenge that the drama teachers have faced however, is how to get the word out there to the community. Aside from putting up posters and getting their students to take brochures door to door, the drama teachers haven’t been able to do much more to advertise their plays. It has been recommended to the teachers that they hold a fundraiser, but when they get home at 8:30 every night it’s hard to find the time.

“We do everything for the show, so to do marketing when it’s not our area of focus is quite difficult,” said Chan.

Working Hard to Impress

Despite this, the excitement for the upcoming shows hasn’t been quelled and the teachers and students remain positive and hopeful for a strong community turn out.

“I think that we do put out really good work and it’s something that I’m proud,” said Emma Patterson, a student in Grade 11 acting in “A Promise is a Promise,” a story about an old Inuit legend.

“People really enjoy our shows so I think that if we get more people in, more people will be more aware of our program and more people will enjoy theatre the way we do,” said Patterson.

Every day after school the students go back and work hard to make the plays the best they can, with the hope that their efforts will pay off with a big audience full of kids and families on opening night.

“I’m looking forward to 400 people, excited to see the work and very satisfied at the end,” said Towsley.

The plays go up Thursday Dec. 1, and go until Friday Dec. 9. Tickets cost $5 for anyone under the age of 12, and general admission tickets are $10 and can be bought in the office at Lord Beaverbrook during school hours, or at the door before the show. Both shows play on a single night, with a twenty minute intermission between them.