|Vol.10 Number 3||
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Vol.10 Number 3 - June/July 2000
EDITORIAL - There is Only Ourselves
There is Only Ourselves
New and Improved Access to the Archives
TIME FOR CHANGE
Measuring Well Being
Enemies of Mother Russia
Tales from Mexico
Timber Grab on Vancouver Island
FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY
Baynes Sound Clean Up
Awash in the Fraser River Plume
Nechako Update--Still No Relief
Local Action Faces Down Telka Coal
FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY
Tire Recycling: When the Rubber Leaves the Road
Burning Rubber at the Pulp Mill
FRIENDS OF CORTES ISLAND
Maps for the Salish Sea (FOCI)
FUN AND GAMES
Time to Play Bullshit Bingo!
Variable Retention on Haida Gwaii
Blue Gold: Who Owns the Water?
POLL - Public Opposition To WTO
World Trade Wars
The Nuts and Bolts of Land Trusts
GM Experiment Rolls On
There is Only Ourselves
"There is no other person who is going to do it. There is only you and me and friends who share in the spirit. This is our planet. There is no one "out there" who is going to put the bad things right. Only ourselves.
Don't delay, then, by blaming other people or sitting at home complaining. Don't let negativity corrode your energy. It will also corrode your dreams.
The way we live now and in the future really is in our hands. We can choose to live with hope and love and inspiration, The huge collective residue of past negativity, fear and pessimism is only alive if it is alive in our hearts. It can be scattered to the winds when we choose to carry hope and vision in its place. There is only ourselves."
* Forward to Earth Future: Stories from a Sustainable World
Earth Future is a series of vignettes, some happy, some sad, about steps in the evolution of an ecologically sound future, presenting the stories of people much like many of the readers of this magazine. From ecoforestry at Port Renfrew to Green Villages in Kenya, from the horror of superbug bacteria to the death of millions in global warming, we see a future we recognize sketched lightly across the page, presented by people living its creation.
The book also has a website at www.earthfuture.com, with links to groups and organizations working to realize the visions and alternative endings, and where readers are invited to participate in creating the visions about "futures we want to inhabit." As author Guy Dauncey says in his forward: "... the biggest enemy is not the global corporations or the banks; it is our willingness to become cynical, instead of being outrageously vibrant in pursuit of our dreams."
*Earth Future: Stories from a Sustainable World by Guy Dauncey, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, 1999; 176 pg, $17.95 Can.
New and Improved Access to the Archives
Search the wide-ranging stories in the Watershed Sentinel, from 1997 to the most recent issue, on the web at http://www.rfu.org. Enter any search word(s), and follow the links to the issue of the Watershed Sentinel which contains the story. Then use your web browser search function (under the Edit menu) to jump from reference to reference.
TIME FOR CHANGE
Measuring Well Being
Whenever disaster strikes, the GDP increases.
A parliamentarian proposes we change the way we count natural resource assets.
by Joe Jordon, MP, Leed-Grenville
When pollution makes people sick, the cost of their medical care is added to the Gross Domestic Product GDP). When stolen property is replaced, security equipment purchased and people tried in courts and put in jail, the GDP goes up. When the Insurance Industry has to repair or replace billions of dollars worth of property because of increasingly violent weather events, the GDP goes up.
These things are added into the GDP where they are mistaken for progress. In each case, we have failed to prevent problems.
Every business accounts for the sale of assets from their inventory. Yet we ignore the destruction and consumption of our natural resource assets, even counting the loss as gain. When we take lumber out of a forest or fish from the sea we only count the gain from selling lumber and fish, we don't record that we have also reduced the stock of trees or fish or any impacts such reductions might cause.
The "Canada Well-Being Measurement Act" aims to establish a measuring system that distinguishes activities which benefit people and ecosystems from activities which result in and from the degradation of our circumstances. It would reflect quality of life and maintain natural resource accounts. These measures would aid us immensely in finding our way safely into the future.
You are invited to join the public discussion about how we measure well-being and to help assure that the "Canada Well-Being Measurement Act" gets passed into law.
Contact us for a Public Participation Kit. The kit provides background information on measuring well-being, materials to help inform others about the issue, and feedback sheets to get your views to us so we can validate the creation of measures which encompass citizens' concerns.
* Contact Measuring Well-Being at: sustain@ web.net or write to : PO Box 374, Merrickville, ON, K0G 1N0
Enemies of Mother Russia
The Russian government has closed the environment agency and handed its work over to the ministry which issues oil and gas licenses. The new president, Vladimir Putin, capped it off by calling environmentalists "foreign spies."
* Calgary Herald, May 2000
Tales from Mexico
Amnesty International has declared a jailed Mexican environmentalist a prisoner of conscience. Rodolfo Montiel's lawyer and his wife have been beaten and several members of his rural ecological association have been killed. In 1988 Montiel organized peasant blockades of logging near his village north of Acapulco. In 1995 Montiel organized more blockades after government officials tried to sell logging rights in the mountains of Guerrero State to Boise Cascade. The company has since withdrawn from Mexico.
* New York Times, April 2000
Vancouver Island Land Use Plan 2000
What does the map tell you?
Enhanced Forestry Zone (24%)
Private Forest Land (18%).
Special Management Zones (8%)
General Management Zone (31%)
Timber Grab on Vancouver Island
Remember CORE? It was supposed to manage Vancouver Island forests
for all values. Well, now you can forget about it. It's toast.
by Paul Senez (with files from Sierra Club of BC)
In the last decade, Vancouver Island has been subjected to an alphabet soup of land use planning exercises.
In the early 1990s, some of them, like the Commission on Resources and Environment (CORE), followed the shared-decision-making model of public participation, while others, like the Vancouver Island Resources Target process (VIRT) were conducted behind closed doors.
Since the end of CORE, public participation in the Vancouver Island Land Use Planning process has been kept to a minimum. This appears to remain an objective of government.
[Readers may recall that Watershed Sentinel has followed the evolution of land use planning on Vancouver Island. See paper copies of Dec/Jan 1993/94; April/May 1994; Feb/March 1995; Oct/Nov 1995; Feb/March 1997 (Not on Internet)-- Ed.]
A new name for the same old game
While the names have changed the objective has always been the same - to rationalize the liquidation of the remaining old-growth forests of Vancouver Island.
The Vancouver Island Land Use Planning table emerged as the NDP government strategy to stop the 'war in the woods' on the Island. Convened by CORE in 1992, the table gathered representatives from 14 sectors, including agriculture, fisheries, youth, tourism, conservation, forest workers, and forest manufacturers. First Nations declined to participate and as far as we know, there has subsequently been no substantial consultation with First Nations.
The objective was to develop a consensus-based land use management plan that would accommodate all values over the long term. They began by articulating a collective vision for the future, making it clear that Vancouver Islanders want to manage the forests and lands in a way that will sustain communities, forests and economies. This was the only statement on which the group reached consensus.
Consensus was not reached on the final outcome of the CORE process. Instead, Stephen Owen, the commissioner, made the final determinations for the amount and location of Protected Areas (13% total, of which only 6.6% of the original extent of old-growth forests was protected) and Special Management Zones (SMZs)--8% of Vancouver Island--which then formed the basis of the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan (VILUP).
The government decided that the fate of the SMZs and remaining Crown land, and private land within Tree Farm Licenses (about 59% of the total land area of Vancouver Island, excluding Clayoquot Sound), would be determined by yet another process--the Vancouver Island Resources Target process (VIRT).
Here, industry and government focused on establishing 'timber targets' for Vancouver Island.
Government and industry largely excluded conservationists and the public from their deliberations about how forestry lands would be managed. Then, two months ago, they quietly released their "higher level" plan for public comment.
The final version of the VILUP and its accompanying Higher Level Plan is not the result of an open and transparent planning process. There was no attempt at consensus.
Rather, it is the product of a small group of logging company employees and Ministry of Forests staff intent on propping up a shrinking industrial dinosaur. It is explicit in its short-term timber bias: a cynical and greedy timber grab masquerading as a land use plan.
Islanders were led to believe more than eight years ago, when the Commission on Resources and Environment commenced work, that change was imminent.
Under new management?
Following CORE, the public expected vastly improved forest management, with tangible signs of a transition from an outdated forest economy based on turning large volumes of valuable trees into cheap commodities, to an economy focused on lower volumes and high-value products.
The reality is a plan that will alleviate the short-term timber supply problems on Vancouver Island. (Since October 1993, the Ministry of Forests has been warning that the current harvest levels cannot be maintained.)
As it stands, the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan legitimizes a process in which getting the wood out takes precedence over other forest values and forest users.
Under the zoning structure of VILUP, 31% (General Resource Management Zone, or RMZ) of Vancouver Island will continue to be logged under the same standards that have decimated fish stocks, endangered species, and pushed resource dependent communities into economic instability.
A further 24% (Enhanced RMZ) of the Island will be logged under an eroded forest practices code, which will undoubtedly compound the social and environmental consequences of mismanagement.
Combined with the 18% private forest land that does not fall under the Forest Practices Code--and some would say is already managed as "enhanced"--these two zones make up 42% of Vancouver Island.
This Plan ignores scenic values, quality of life, hydrology/water flow issues, salmon and steelhead habitat, as well as First Nations traditional uses. In the Plan, timber targets are met at the expense of all other forest values, including tourism, wildlife, biodiversity, old growth and sustainable communities.
The implied objectives of the Enhanced Forestry Zone are to be achieved through the use of genetically 'improved' stock to be fertilized to increase yields.
With this Plan we are now entering the era of science-fiction forestry--an experiment on a massive scale. There is no discussion of the potential effects of the escape of genetically improved materials into wild forests (by cross-pollination), nor is there any caution regarding the run-off of fertilizers into fish-bearing streams.
|For the record ...
* Sierra Club of BC: www.sierraclub.ca/bc/Campaigns/VancouverIsland/VancouverIsland.html
This is a forest liquidation plan for Vancouver Island. Under this plan the forests will be logged even faster than at present. There is no planning for, consideration of, or respect for future generations.
Short-term timber availability takes precedence over all other values such as: culture, fish and wildlife, biodiversity, tourism, recreation, scenery, and water. There is no recognition that Vancouver Island is already significantly over cut. The current rate of cut is not sustainable, and with this plan there will be an expansion of large-scale industrial forestry. Nor is there any recognition that many of the areas with SMZ designation are void of any significant flora and fauna and should be priority candidates for ecological restoration.
One thing is assured: there is no science at all to this plan. This is plain exploitation and greed. You cannot gut the Forest Practices Code any more thoroughly.
The Higher Level Plan (HLP) is the legal mechanism to make key land use decisions relating to forest practices binding under the Forest Practices Code.
The HLP legally establishes resource management zones and their associated objectives set out in the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan. In most other areas of the province, HLPs raise the bar for management and protection of environmental and social values.
On Vancouver Island, the HLP's primary effect will be to lower forest practices standards, sanction faster liquidation of the Island's remaining forests, and promote conversion to single-tree species plantations.
Enhanced Forestry Zones will "increase the availability of timber" by sanctioning:
General Management Zones will be managed according to the minimums established by the Forest Practices Code.
However, the Code standards either in place or "soon to be implemented" during the early phases of the VILUP process have been significantly watered down and can no longer be considered adequate to protect biodiversity on Vancouver Island. Consequently, GMZs will not receive adequate biodiversity protection.
Special Management Zones (SMZs) are supposed to protect primary non-timber values while allowing logging according to "vanguard ecosystem management."
However, an earlier draft of a Ministry of Environment analysis of current management in SMZs indicates that more than 150 cutblocks have already been approved in just four north island SMZs.
Unless existing cutblocks are specifically addressed in the HLP, these approvals stand and will make a mockery of any attempts at special management on Vancouver Island.
The government refused to release the completed report during the public comment period; highlighting this situation would allow the public to decide if it should be remedied in the HLP.
To put the timber supply impacts of the "special" and "enhanced" zones in perspective, the government commissioned a study to model 5-to-20- year timber supply impacts in two watersheds on the west coast of the island that are representative of the distribution of zones as the island as a whole.
The study said short-term timber availability could increase by 62% over that period.
* Timber Availability and Cost Estimates for the Eliza and Kashutl Landscape Units; prepared by Olivotto Timber for the Vancouver Forest Region, February 1999.
No impact analysis
Given the historical and on-going over cutting on Vancouver Island, this increase can only come at the expense of other values, such as wildlife, culture, and tourism. No such impact analysis for biodiversity or other values has been undertaken.
The supposed intention behind such a timber-biased plan as VILUP and its HLP is to protect resource jobs.
However, an analysis by the Sierra Club of BC indicated that in 1995, direct forestry jobs on Vancouver Island accounted for only 5.3% of the total, compared to 7.3% in 1991.
During that period, 4,000 forestry jobs were lost despite an 8.3% increase in the amount of timber cut, dispelling the myth that increasing the cut leads to more jobs.
As well, the Vancouver Island Summary Land Use Plan noted "historical trends that indicate overall growth in employment in both the goods producing and service industries over the 1981-1996 period, despite absolute declines in forestry and other resource sector employment."
In other words, the island's economy is growing and diversifying despite ongoing downsizing in the forest sector, and many of those burgeoning sectors rely directly or indirectly on the island's significant environmental values and quality of life.
Loss of biodiversity
And while the public's expectations from the planning processes were being eroded, so too was the basic tool that was expected to maintain biodiversity.
The Biodiversity Guidebook (September, 1995) has been substantially altered and reduced by a variety of intergovernmental memos and ministerial directives.
Biodiversity on Vancouver Island can no longer be maintained through landscape objectives set out through the Forest Practices Code. Biodiversity is now defined only in terms of the amount of timber impact allowed.
The Higher Level Plan, in proposing such a large land area dedicated to radical simplification of ecosystems, will fail to protect biodiversity, economic diversity, and community health. In the end, this Plan's primary goal is to protect and maintain the current over cut of Vancouver Island's remaining ancient forests.
Far from resolving land use conflicts, the proposed Vancouver Island Land Use Plan, which places single-use zoning and short-term timber maximization over nearly half of Vancouver Island, is a recipe for further environmental and social conflict.
Has the first volley in a re-ignited 'war in the woods' been fired?
Window of opportunity
After May 8, it will take two to three weeks for the Ministry of Forests to compile and digest the public's comments to the draft Higher Level Plan for Vancouver Island, and another couple of weeks for the document to make its way up the bureaucracy to Ministers Doyle, Miller, and Sawicki for their signature.
* Visit the Sierra Club of BC's website for more information: www.sierraclub.ca/bc/Campaigns/VancouverIsland/VancouverIsland.html
FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY
Baynes Sound Clean-up Continues
It's been a long, hard struggle, and it's far from over ... but efforts to restore
BC's top oyster producing area to health are finally starting to pay off.
by J. Cates
The Rave is passe. The Septic Social is way cooler, at least in the Baynes Sound area of the British Columbia coast.
Septic Socials, at which the main activity is the inspection of neighbourhood septic systems, are just one part of a multifaceted program to clean up the waters of Baynes Sound.
This area, between Denman Island and Vancouver Island, is perhaps the richest shellfish-producing area in BC waters, but over the last few years, harvesting has often been closed due to water pollution, costing the growers money and placing the entire industry in jeopardy.
A crisis point was reached in 1994 with the closure of 23% of the shellfish harvesting area, due to the bacterial contamination associated with fecal waste. Since then, the frequent closures have caused an estimated $1 million drop in the local economy.
The result has been the creation of the Baynes Sound Stewardship Action Group (a subcommittee of the Baynes Sound Round Table), which counts among its members Environment Canada, Department of Fisheries, BC Shellfish Growers Association, Project Watershed, local government, and others. The stewardship program for the sound is, of necessity, multifaceted because there is no single source of pollution that can be corrected. The waters are under attack from diverse directions.
Septic Socials were part of a Septic System Education program between 1996-1999, conducted by the Comox Valley Citizen Action on Recycling and the Environment, and Project Watershed. In addition to public education, 87 septic systems were inspected and/or pumped.
Even more recently, the emphasis has been on pollution from seagoing sources. The installation of pump-out facilities for boaters in Comox Harbour is planned for this summer, and pump-out facilities have been installed at Deep Bay. In addition, a Baynes Sound Boating Guide is providing information on safe boating practices to the local boating community.
A variety of programs have been, and in some cases still are, combined under the Baynes Sound Stewardship Initiative in 1996. In addition to septic surveys and boating pump-outs, the Initiative surveyed the use and disposal of toxics by local businesses, and promoted discounts in advertising rates for "green" businesses.
And in 1997 and 1998, an Agricultural program gave information and aid to rural property owners, with a focus on stream side fencing, revegetation, and manure management. As a result, almost 5,800 metres of new fencing have been placed to restrict the access of livestock to streams, more than 5,000 trees and shrubs were planted in riparian areas, and many manure covers were given to hobby farmers.
For a period of several years, beginning in 1995, volunteers from the Canadian Coast Guard tested the waters and took samples from six areas of Comox Harbour, and over a similar time period, from 1996 to 2000, volunteers monitored the storm drains in urban areas for fecal coliform, pH, temperature, oil, and other pollutants. As a result, municipalities in the area repaired 84 sewage and stormwater connections to keep untreated waste out of Baynes Sound. Those outfalls have since been monitored again to make sure the repairs were effective.
The most recent item in the Initiative is the State of the Sound Program. Beginning this year, Baynes Sound Stewardship activities will be coordinated to develop a Geographic Information System and establish an ongoing process for reporting on the health of the Baynes Sound. Taking into account all the data from water monitoring and the cost-effectiveness of remedies, this is intended to be a tool for making future plans.
Some pollution solutions have incorporated innovative ideas, though as yet they may be only on a small or localized trial basis.
In Union Bay, an experimental "constructed wetland" has been built, to test out the idea of passing waste water through a series of artificial ponds, using gravel and living plants to bring oxygen into the effluent and speed the process of decomposition. For now, it's a small-scale test, but the project organizers are hoping to obtain an 18-hectare site on which to build an approximately two-hectare wetland for sewage treatment.
Properly functioning septic systems are essential to the health of natural bodies of water, and the way to keep a septic system healthy is to treat it gently.
A similar sewage plan is in progress in Cumberland, but it calls for the use of natural wetland to aid in biofiltration. Taking advantage of existing swampland, it would add at least one extra level of treatment between effluent and the Trent River watershed.
The cumulative effects of all these efforts have already produced some positive results. Bill Heath, a shellfish production specialist with the provincial fisheries ministry, and currently chair of the Baynes Sound Round Table, says a turnaround point was reached about two years ago, and since then, the status of some shellfish areas has been up-graded. Some of the gains seem small. Re-classifying a harvest area from "prohibited" to "closed," as has happened, may not seem like much. But it is significant. "Closed" areas can, when the conditions are right, be re-opened.
Heath credits the projects successes to the "level of trust" that has been developed between regulating agencies, shellfish harvesters, and local communities.
Neither pollution problems nor their solutions are exclusive to Baynes Sound. Even earlier, farther south in Puget Sound initiatives were begun to repair the damage from human activity that had become obvious.
The oyster industry there is worth $73 million a year, but it's only kept going because the growers keep moving crops around to avoid polluted areas. Last year, of 106 commercial shellfish areas between Blaine and Willapa Bay, 17 were classified as threatened by pollution--an increase of five since 1996.
In one case in the United States, an oyster grower is suing the city of Bremerton in federal court for violating the Clean Water Act. The grower owns tidelands in Dyes Inlet, where the city has as many as 16 outfalls dumping storm water and sewage. Harvesting has been prohibited since 1969.
The Puget Sound Water Quality Authority, created in the 1980s, led to the Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team, which uses ongoing research to update a Puget Sound Water Quality Management Plan. The loss of wetlands, contamination of shellfish areas, and toxic chemicals have all contributed to overall deterioration, with increased shellfish closures, higher levels of toxic contamination, and threatened species. The biomass of herring that spawn in Puget Sound has decreased markedly since the 1970s.
But some progress has been made, and shellfish harvesting has been permitted in places in the last two years, a decrease in infestation by the salt marsh plant spartina, and mussels in some areas showing decreased levels of PCB contamination.
But, whether in Baynes Sound or the Puget Sound, continued vigilance is required to prevent conditions from going back to bad.
* Feature sponsored by Friends of Cortes Island Watershed Sentinel Development Fund
* Homeowners can obtain a copy of the Septic System Maintenance--Pure & Simple video from their local Public Health Agency.
Awash in the Fraser River Plume
Keep an eye open when you cross the Strait ... that might be the Fraser River Plume you're looking at.
by Paul LeBlond
Islands are defined by the waters that surround them. In our case, it's the Strait of Georgia and the channels that connect it to the ocean, from Puget Sound in the south, to Queen Charlotte Strait in the north, a coastal realm often called the Salish Sea.
The Salish Sea as a whole is an estuary: a semi-enclosed coastal area receiving significant freshwater runoff. This oceanographic definition is somewhat broader than the more familiar geographic concept of an estuary as the area around the mouth of a river.
In all estuaries, the interaction of winds, tides and runoff causes vigorous mixing and upwelling which create an environment rich in marine life. Everything that happens to the waters around our islands can be understood in terms of the estuarine context.
Under the action of the moon and the sun, the waters of the Pacific Ocean slosh back and forth twice a day: this is what we call the tide. As the sea level goes up at the mouth of Juan de Fuca Strait, water floods in towards the inner channels of the Salish Sea, gradually filling them. Later on, the sea level falls in the Pacific, and the coastal sea empties as the tide ebbs. Back and forth, twice a day.
Islands stand in the way of the rising tide, channelling flow to the passages between them. As the tide rises on the southern side of Active Pass, for example, water is pushed through to the Strait of Georgia. Because only a relatively small volume can flow through the pass, the difference in water levels between the ends of the pass continues to increase as the tide rises, and the currents become strong.
The rushing of the water causes waves to steepen and break and strong turbulence to be generated, mixing and homogenizing the waters in the pass. Eventually, the Strait of Georgia fills up, the water levels equilibrate and the current slackens. Then the tide falls and the current reverses. It's clearly no accident that Active Pass is such an interesting and biologically productive area: those tidal currents keep the waters well mixed and distribute nutrients and food through the water column.
Meanwhile, rivers continuously bring to the sea all that rain and snow that falls on our coast. Freshwater is lighter than saltwater and floats on top of it. As it spreads out on the sea, the fresh, muddy water layer, pushed by winds and tides, forms a pattern similar to that of smoke rising from a chimney, swept hither and fro by the winds. Engineers, ever poetic, call that pattern a "plume" (French for feather). French engineers, even more romantic, call it a "panache," meaning a bunch of undulating feathers, like those attached to the helmet of a hero.
The Fraser River spews out more water into the Salish Sea than all the other streams put together.
In summer, during freshet (the peak flow period), the plume fills the central Strait of Georgia and, on ebbing tides, spills out through Active and Porlier Pass. The plume covers the Strait with a thin (a few metres) layer of brackish muddy water, freshest and murkiest near the river, progressively saltier and clearer seawards. Winds and tidal currents push the plume up and down the Strait.
The strong ebbing flow from the Fraser propels the plume (and ships afloat on it, such as Captain Galiano's in 1792) towards Galiano Island, which rises as a barrier across its path. Our mainland-side shore is bathed by plume waters, turbid, brackish, and warm.
The low-density plume, floating as it does above the colder salt water, traps the heat of the sun. The raging tidal currents in Active Pass mix it with a lot of colder salt water, leaving the waters there less turbid and a lot more frigid.
As the tide rises, it backs up the flow out of the Fraser, causing upstream flow as far as the Deas Tunnel and pushing water up in tides all the way to Mission. The freshwater outflow at Steveston pulsates from nothing at flood tide to a strong jet at ebb. The plume is thus formed of a series of lenses of water, contributed by successive ebb tides. The latest lens, very fresh and muddy, spreads over an older lens, already partially mixed with salt water and thus denser and less muddy. The transition between new and old lenses is sometimes very abrupt and can be seen from above as a sharp change in colour over a distance of just a couple of metres. This rapid change in water properties is called a front. Fronts often accumulate flotsam; they are particularly noticeable under calm conditions.
The plume also supports internal waves. Everyone knows what waves do. Water, displaced from its equilibrium, falls back towards it, overshoots and bounces back again, pushes the water next to it, and so on ... a wave is born, which can travel far away from its source, a radiant messenger of the disturbance that created it.
Surface waves travel on the interface between water and air. Internal waves travel on internal density changes, especially along sharp ones as between plume and salt water. The density contrast across from fresh to salt water at the bottom of the plume is about a hundred times smaller than that from air to water at the sea surface. Internal waves are thus a lot more sluggish than surface waves. Rising tides disturb the edge of the plume at strong tidal passages (especially Boundary Passage and Active Pass) and create internal waves which radiate away in broad spreading patterns.
In typical internal waves, the plume-salty interface dips down to about twice the plume depth every hundred metres or so in a sharp trough. The long snaking troughs advance at a speed of about one metre per second: a walking pace. In contrast, an ordinary surface wave one hundred metre long between crests (or troughs) would travel, in the deeper parts of the Strait, at a speed of 18 metres per second, or 65 kilometres an hour.
At the dips in the interface, the plume is thicker than elsewhere. From above, the water looks muddier because there is a deeper layer of near-surface muddy water. Coloured lines seen from above correspond to troughs (thick plume) of the internal wave; darker bands in between to crests (thin plume). These are visible from the air or the upper deck of the ferry.
The sea surface is hardly displaced at all by the internal motion, but shorter wind-waves riding above it are distorted by the water displacements associated with the internal wave. Over the dips, converging flows steepen waves, making the surface rougher and less mirror-like. Bands of shiny and darker water reveal internal wave trains.
Keep an eye open when you cross the Strait this summer. You are likely to travel through the Fraser River plume. Look out for fronts, and for the long bands of ruffled or slick water that betray the presence of internal waves.
* Reprinted from Archipelago Spring 2000, Galiano Conservation Association.
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Why a Bulk Buying Club?
* For more information, phone (604)879-2992; fax (250)935-6992
* A joint venture of the Reach for Unbleached! Foundation and Paper Choice
Still No Relief for Nechako
A "marvel of industrialization" placed the Nechako River's life on the line.
by David Lane
In 1950, Alcan Aluminium was given the right to divert the upper Nechako and the Nanika Rivers in north-central BC, to generate power at Kemano for an aluminum smelter at Kitimat. In the atmosphere of the time, the project, especially the re-routing of rivers, was touted as a marvel of industrialization.
Our story so far ...
In 1987, to settle an outstanding court case between Alcan and the federal government, Alcan was granted the right to divert 88% of the upper Nechako for the Kemano Completion Project (KCP), although it surrendered its claim to the Nanika. After years of organizing by First Nations, notably the Cheslatta, fishermen, local residents, farmers, environmentalists, and, eventually, outraged citizens, NDP Premier Mike Harcourt cancelled the KCP. But in 1997, to settle the resulting court case between Alcan and the BC government, Alcan was given a water license for 90% of the Nechako, even though only 50% is needed to generate the power for the Kitimat smelter.
In 1996, the Fraser Basin Council organized the Nechako Watershed Council, which includes Alcan, the Kitimat and Nechako Valley Chambers of Commerce, the Kemano Community Association, the Kitimat Economic Development Commission, and the Northwest Communities Coalition (based in Kitimat) plus municipal government representatives and the Lheidl T'enneh Nation.
Others soon refused to play and formed the Nechako River Alliance, including T. Buck Suzuki Foundation, A River Forever, the Federation of BC Naturalists, Steelhead Society, BC Wildlife Federation, Allied Rivers Commission, Nechako Neyenkut Society, Cheslatta First Nation, and Upper Nechako Property Owners Association. The Carrier Sekani Tribal Council has chosen to work independently to safeguard treaty negotiations and government consultation.
Alcan's Kemano Completion Project (KCP) on the Nechako River was axed in 1995, but what remains is still a very sick river with only 30% of its original water flows. Conservation groups and First Nations have for 20 years been calling for healthier water flows on the Nechako River to protect salmon runs, resident fish and wildlife.
It is necessary to construct a spillway at Kenney Dam to allow more water and colder water back into the Nechako. Amazingly, there currently is no spillway and no water flowing into the upper reach of the Nechako. Instead, water is released in an extremely unnatural fashion from a spillway that empties into the Cheslatta River, causing enormous damage to that system.
Alcan and the province, through a newly formed committee called the Nechako Environmental Enhancement Fund, now favour the idea of a spillway at Kenney Dam.
But environmental groups are predicting that the project could be very much like the "fast-ferry fiasco," an ill-conceived construction project without sufficient analysis. The proposal being examined is a surface water release and spillway that would not be able to release cold water from the bottom of the reservoir or control water temperatures in the upper Nechako. What the millions of sockeye salmon in Nechako tributaries desperately need is more cold water to reduce stress and disease.
There is no indication that the proposal will help salmon in any way. There have been no environmental impact studies nor has there been any environmental assessment of the current state of the ecosystem. It is an exercise in plumbing, not environmental rehabilitation.
In a letter to the province and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Nechako River Alliance, an umbrella group including most of the organizations that helped kill Kemano Completion, raises more than a dozen issues. The Alliance states: " A $94 million facility, which redirects water between the Murray-Cheslatta and upper Nechako systems, with major repercussions for water levels, water flow patterns, temperature regimes, and total gas pressure, and with impacts on fish and wildlife at many different stages of their life cycles, is certainly a project needing a comprehensive environmental impact assessment." The last 30 years of grief for the Nechako River can only reinforce their call for assessment by consultants who are at "arms-length from the interests of Alcan."
* Contact: David Lane, T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation; ph: (604)255-8819; fax: (604)255-3162; firstname.lastname@example.org
Local Action Faces Down Telkwa Coal
The company says low coal prices were its reason to stop development ...
but other factors played a large part in this decision.
by Lisa Sumi
In April, Luscar Coal Ltd. announced it had decided to put a halt to the Telkwa Coal Project in northern BC.
Luscar is Canada's largest coal company and one of the largest coal producers in North America. It mines approximately 40 million tonnes of coal per year, which is shipped to international steel producers and to power companies in Canada and abroad. Luscar is also behind the hotly contested Cheviot mine near Jasper National Park.
For years, the company has been promoting a coal mine in the Bulkley Mountains near Telkwa, but has now put the project on hold.
The company says "international market conditions are not strong enough to justify further investment in the development of this property at this time."
But as usual, there is more to the story.
While low coal prices surely played a role in the decision not to proceed with the Telkwa project, there are other factors that made the project unattractive, which were not acknowledged in the company's press release.
The project has been reincarnated three times, and members of the public have been involved in environmental reviews since 1983.
A local grassroots organization known as the Telkwa Educational Action Coalition of Householders (TEACH) has been instrumental in raising public awareness of the socioeconomic and environmental problems related to the mine, and have fought hard to ensure that community needs would not be compromised should the project proceed.
Some of the many local residents and regional stake holders who deserve credit for their perseverance and countless volunteer hours include Nancy and David Cody, Colleen Carrol, Walt and Peggy Taylor, Jim Sanka, Dave Gillespie, Rosemary Fox, Richard Overstall, Pat Moss and Glenda Ferris.
BC government regulatory and assessment procedures also played a pivotal role in identifying issues that made the Telkwa project unfeasible. In order to minimize risk to the receiving environment, tough requirements for both acid rock drainage (ARD) and metals leaching (ML) characterization and inventory, and waste handling measures were imposed during the assessment. These placed planning and operational demands upon the company.
Thus, in addition to the economic considerations of Luscar's debt, world markets and the price of coal, the considerations of geochemistry (ARD/ML), geology and terrain (permeable, therefore, no guarantee of water covers) and the proximity of and risk to the Telkwa and Bulkley Rivers contributed to the decision to put the project on hold.
Since the coal remains in the ground, there is, of course, the chance that the project may be proposed again at a later date. Consequently, local residents are keeping their files on this one.
* Contact: Environmental Mining Council of BC, 201-607 Yates St. Victoria, BC V8W 2A7; ph: (250)384-2686; fax: (250)384-2620; website: www.emcbc.miningwatch.org
* The EMCBC is a coalition of local, provincial and national conservation organizations working toward environmentally sound mining practices and policies.
FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY
When the Rubber Leaves the Road
Old tires drive us to distraction. We're running as fast as we can just to stay in the same place, and paying processors to "disappear" them.
by J. Cates
To get an idea of how many discarded car and light truck tires are clogging the arteries of the world, just visualize the number of the things we have to deal with in British Columbia alone: about 3.8 million used tires a year.
It means that, with the most recent census figures for BC showing a population of 3,724,500, each person in the province could have a new back yard swing every year, with plenty left over for boat bumpers.
Would that the solution were so easy, or so cheap.
The good news is, the Environment Ministry has been successful in getting rid of about as many old tires as are generated new each year, so it's keeping pace. The bad news is, the public pays private industry to process tires and burn tires, and even pays the freight for delivering the tires to them.
Here's how it works:
The government collects a $3 tax (which it calls a "levy") for each tire sold, including passenger tires, light and medium truck tires, and farm tires (there are some exemptions, such as tires sold for less than $30, recapped or used tires, bicycle and wheelchair tires). This money totalled $11.5 million in the 1998/99 year, and is expected to be similar in the coming year. The levy is subject to GST.
Then the government pays most of that money out in subsidies (which it calls "end use credits") to companies that either process the tires for resale, or burn them as fuel. Those firms are "registered participants" in the FIRST (Financial Incentives for Recycling Scrap Tires) Program, and as such, they also receive some protection from competition. (The government expects new applicants to "not jeopardize the stability of existing program participants." Its evaluation form for applicants says, "It is expected that there will be no significant negative impacts on existing competing industries.")
From the revenue collected in 1998/99, $6.17 million was spent on tire collection and recycling (about $4.3 million for end use, $1.5 million for transportation, the remainder for administration and monitoring).
This money, and the money from other levies, goes into general revenues along with the provincial sales tax. From there it goes into the Environment Ministry's Sustainable Environment Fund, a catch-all that also absorbs other levies (e.g.,$5 for batteries), and such items as waste permit fees and the tax on disposable diapers. This money is then supposed to pay for such programs as pesticide management, regulating municipal waste, clean water programs, and the like.
Of the tires collected, roughly 90% are turned into other things and 10% are burned as industrial fuel. The processing companies receive their end-use credit when they sell their product, and, of course, they receive the proceeds of selling that product.
The fuel-burning companies are paid to burn the tires, or they receive the benefit of having cheap and high energy fuel to burn.
Both the processing companies and the fuel users get a transportation credit that pays for having the tires moved to their work sites.
If all of that sounds like a pretty good deal for the tire processors, that doesn't necessarily make it wrong. After all, the top priority is being met: the tires are being dealt with.
The Environment Ministry is convinced the tire processors would not take part in the program without being subsidized, or, as Greg Cheesman, who heads the program for the ministry says, "It's worth it to get those tires out of the landfills and off the road sides."
That approach has an air of desperation about it. It may be true that business won't play without pay. Or maybe the ministry just isn't a very good poker player.
Whichever, the levy is pretty much user-pay, so anyone who objects to paying the $3 can change their lifestyle to include more walking, bicycling, and public transit. Our other options include making tires from longer-lasting, more environmentally friendly materials, and seeking out more efficient, more cost effective ways to re-use them.
There are a number of registered processors in BC, but a small handful accounts for most of these used tires. Western Rubber Products, on Annacis Island, is by far the biggest processor, taking 80% of the old tires.
Only two companies burn large amounts of tires for fuel: Tilbury Cement, in Delta, takes about 5%, as can Pacifica Papers in Port Alberni (the only mill in the province currently using tires for fuel).
It's awkward to calculate the dollar amounts these companies receive. The levy charged on tires is on a per-tire basis, while the credits paid to a company are on a per-weight basis, and the FIRST Program, in another burst of linguistic alchemy, has changed our honest kilogram into an arbitrary weight unit called the PTE--passenger tire equivalent--of 8.2 kg. Next year, there will probably be about 3.7 million PTEs, or 30,500 tonnes. Industrial tires are not part of the program.
(It would be simpler and more fair to have manufacturers or retailers label tires according to weight, apply the green levy accordingly, and then pay the processor by weight, but simplicity, evidently, can be too simple.)
The subsidy paid to a processor varies according to what they produce.
At the high end of the scale would be reducing tires to crumb or powder form, for which the payment would be $1.50/PTE, or $183/tonne. Such usage as blasting mats would earn a credit of $122/tonne, shredding tires to be used as road fill would pay $60/tonne, and some usages receive no credit.
For tires used as fuel, the credit is $110/tonne for processed material, $85/tonne for whole tires.
These figures are only guidelines, since there's a range of processing options. Some processors only do partial processing for further processing by other processors, or for burning.
In 1998/99, under the program, Western Rubber received $3,720,947 for processing, and Tilbury Cement got $349,607 for burning tires for fuel. The Vancouver Island Tire Corp (Target Recycling) received $191,935 to shred tires for fuel, which is bought by Pacifica Papers of Port Alberni, for burning at a permitted rate of up to 40 tonnes a day. The material costs less than the fuel oil or natural gas that might otherwise be used. (See story on p. 15: "Burning Rubber at the Pulp Mill.")
The uses for tire material are many and varied, and include floor mats, cow pads, shingles, broomsticks, blast mats, highway sealant, safety tiles, and truck bed liners.
There's a degree of irony in the fact that the $3 tire tax pays the subsidy for processors to re-use and burn old tires, and for programs, under the Sustainable Environment Fund, to monitor the destruction of noxious substances. Meanwhile, we're not decreasing our dependence on this enormous source of waste. They just keep rolling, and rolling, and rolling.
Should tire re-use become more profitable, more of the money collected could go toward financing other environmental programs, and that's possible in the future. The pay out rates are reviewed each year, and Cheesman says those rates can decrease if the markets for processed tire products improve, allowing the processors to earn more money in sales. But don't hold your breath. Subsidies tend to kill the incentive to go out and hustle up buyers willing to pay more.
But for now, the FIRST Program is better than nothing.
* Information on BC's tire recycling program is available from the Ministry of the Environment, Lands & Parks, Environment & Resource Management, at: (250)356-6132; www.gov.bc.ca/wlap
* Feature sponsored by Friends of Cortes Island Watershed Sentinel Development Fund
Burning Rubber at the Pulp Mill
They say a controlled burn is better ... but who do you believe?
by Delores Broten
Tire fires bring fear to any neighbourhood, but the BC Ministry of Environment has joined many other jurisdictions, especially in the United States, in arguing that the controlled burning of tires and use of the energy is a far cry from the toxic catastrophe of dioxin, smoke, and other pollution from a tire dump fire.
Indeed, to hear the industry side of the story, tire-derived fuel (TDF) is a munificent benefit to the environment.
In BC, our $3 tire tax subsidizes tire derived fuel for Tilbury Cement and the Port Alberni pulp and paper mill owned by Pacifica Papers. Both cement incinerators and power boilers burn at very high temperatures, which should destroy some of the many toxic chemicals in tires, at least on those days when operating conditions are ideal.
The mill saves the equivalent of 9,900 gigajoules of natural gas a month by burning 300 tonnes of shredded tires. The mill pays less for the tires than they would for fuel oil or natural gas, so burning tires saves the mill about $20,000 a month even though they have installed more top-of-the-line control equipment to ensure better air quality.
A permit was issued for the mill to burn TDF before any tests were run on Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH), although running the tests was a condition of the permit.
For particulate, the mill reported slightly lower emissions with the tires burning than when burning hog fuel, but there was no mention of whether or not sludge was being burned at the time of the test.
Although the mill's application makes much of the usefulness of the tires to maintain a good burn during winter, when hog fuel is wet, and weekends, "when hog fuel quality is lower" due to no hog fuel delivery from local sawmills, there was no testing on weekends with lower quality hog fuel.
The flyash and grate ash were tested for a few metals, and the air flow was tested for a couple of parameters after leaving the electrostatic precipitator. The testing indicated that the most serious problem is an increase in metals, especially zinc, in the flyash, which goes to landfill, and the bottom ash, which is used around the mill.
Tony Stock of Target Recycling in Alberni says he and partner Jim Sloan carefully checked out the situation with the mill before getting into the burning rubber game. Stock enumerated a number of conditions the mill met in order to provide a clean burn--a fluidized bed which runs at 1600 degrees C and in a closed chamber, so that organic toxics are gasified. Metals are caught in the electrostatic precipitator.
Vlad Pomajzl of BC Environment adds that the mill has the tightest emission standards on Vancouver Island, and utilizes ozonators in the stack and a carbon monoxide monitor in the combustion chamber, as well as a steady flow input of hog fuel and chips, all of which allow for good control of burning conditions and fewer upsets.
Target supplies the mill with shredded tire of three-quarters inch in diameter, with 80% of the wire removed. Although the mill's permit allows the burning of 40 tonnes a day of shredded tire, Target can only supply about 240 tonnes a month, which will come from the waste from making blasting mats and logging mats, and from the mats themselves after they've been used.
Through assorted complicated business dealings, Target unwillingly inherited a huge and hazardous pile of tires, including many industrial tires, which the Ministry of Environment paid to transport to Alberni from all over the province, for a failed venture manufacturing patio blocks. Stock notes that the business failed not due to inherent problems with the product, but due to lack of market research and lack of marketing.
Nonetheless, someone got paid massive amounts of the tire tax for this failure. These tires are being shredded and sold to the mill for burning, at, says Stock, a loss to Target of about $20 a tonne. It seems to be the best solution, although not a particularly comfortable one.
One worker at the mill sums up the situation: "The burning of tires in a state-of-the-art fluidized bed boiler is a practice that is definitely preferable to disastrous tire storage pile fires. Most other methods would also be preferable, however, including encasing them in concrete in the CEO's back yard.
"This would have the added benefit of sparing workers any exposure to the increased levels of toxins in the boiler ash that result from tire burning in the boiler."
* With thanks to the MillWatch program of Reach for Unbleached! and the Alberni Environmental Coalition.
FRIENDS OF CORTES ISLAND
Maps for the Salish Sea
Millennium mapping project will start in the Strait
of Georgia, spread to the San Juan Islands.
Fifteen of the major islands in the Strait of Georgia, from Saturna to Cortes, have joined the Millennium Community Mapping Project, Islands in the Salish Sea. A second stage of the project would cover the San Juan Islands.
"Salish Sea" refers to the inland ocean formed by Georgia Strait, Puget Sound, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the name is a symbol of respect for the Salish First Nations people and tribes.
The mapping project, says co-ordinator Judi Stevenson, began as an act of love, because the islands are in peril from over-development. But to Stevenson, this is not just a serious mission, the workshops are fun, with a great energy as different people, from farmers to biologists, join forces.
There is also a transcendent side to the concept. Stevenson sees the islands as still connected to their place in the universe: "These islands are the heart of the Georgia Strait and they are still characterized by their nature. They take their definition from natural forces, not human."
Driven by her love of the islands, Stevenson, Sheila Harrington of the Land Trust Alliance of BC, and naturalist and geographer Briony Penn, have set out to help communities develop a vision and an inspirational map of "who we are now."
The coordinating committee will raise money and give contracts to local community coordinators and artists for the maps. The project is now in the active mapping stage, with workshops on the various islands. Artists' renditions of the maps created will follow, to be completed by November.
By March 2001, a travelling exhibit of 40 of the best maps, one-to-four per island, will be on the road, accompanied by publication of the Atlas of the Salish Sea.
The maps are to express beauty and passion, as well as science and hard facts. Stevenson says the idea is that through the maps, communities will see their commonalities as well as their differences.
Islands tend to be in-turning, but the mapping project has the political potential to expand the circle of people working together.
Stevenson hopes that the visually beautiful maps will also re-evoke a sense of commitment to home and to the seas that link us, leading to better stewardship of the islands in the Salish Sea.
* Delores Broten
* For Information: (250)537-5599
Sponsorship for Cortes
The Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI) are sponsoring Cortes Island in the "Islands in the Salish Sea" millennium mapping project.
Cortes project co-ordinator, Sabina Leader Mense, hosted an open house the first weekend in April to introduce islanders to the project. Ideas for mapping covered the full spectrum, from technical GIS generated maps, to children's top 10 places to listen to frogs sing in spring.
We discussed ideas around a "gathering of the maps," youth apprenticeships, and a community map data base. The most novel idea of the day came from Trude's Konditorei. Knowing that we Cortesians greatly value the privacy of our special places, Trude suggested baking "cake maps" that could be cut up and quickly eaten when the map makers started to get a little nervous!
Local artists attending the open house began the creative process of bringing the technical mapping information to their particular artistic media.
FOCI will run a juried competition to select the artist who will produce the interpretation of our collected mapping efforts, for inclusion in the Salish Sea Atlas.
Community mapping is a powerful process of exploration, discovery, and communication. Cortes enthusiastically joins 14 other island communities in the Strait of Georgia in this shared undertaking to identify, record, and make maps of what we value most in the places we call "home."
* Sabina Leader Mense
* For information about Friends of Cortes Island phone (250)935-0087 or visit the FOCI office at Trude's Cafe in Whaletown, Cortes Island
FUN AND GAMES
Time to Play Bullshit Bingo!
How to play: Check off each block when you hear these words during a meeting, seminar, or phone call. When you get five blocks horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, stand up and shout BULLSHIT!!
OF THE BOX
Testimonials from satisfied players:
"I had only been in the meeting for five minutes when I won"-- Joan W., Kelowna, BC
"My attention span at meetings has improved dramatically." -- John H., Ottawa, Ont.
"What a gas! Meetings will never be the same for me, after my first win." - Mary K., New York City
"The atmosphere was tense in the last process meeting as 14 of us waited for the 5th box." -- Sally G., Winnipeg, Man
"The speaker was stunned as eight of us screamed Bullshit!' for the third time in 2 hours." -- Harry M., Vancouver BC
* Received by anonymous fax and adapted by the Watershed Sentinel with apologies to the original gamesters
Variable Retention on Haida Gwaii
Have there been any real changes in logging methods?
Or are they just finding new euphemisms for clearcutting?
by Erica Thompson
Many people wonder if the BC forest industry is really changing. This commentary from Haida Gwaii suggests there is no evidence logging methods have changed substantially, and the only Veritable Retention is of the Annual Allowable Cut.
They are BIG and they are everywhere. It is variable retention gone wild!
You can see it for yourself; cutblocks creeping up to 200 hectares (ha) in size. They are monstrous, and make up the majority of Weyerhaeuser's 2000-2004 Forest Development Plan.
From Ian Lake on north Graham Island, to Masset Inlet's Kumdis Island or the pristine forests of Security Inlet on Moresby's west coast, the style is big, bigger than we've ever seen.
Variable retention fell on people's ears two years ago as part of MacMillan Bloedel's move away from clearcutting.
This strategy, MB said, applies current ecological thinking to address mainstream public concerns about clearcutting coastal old-growth forests.
This current Forest Development Plan (now showing the logo of American forestry mammoth Weyerhaeuser) is dominated by variable retention zones that overshadow even the largest clearcuts of former logging.
On the west side of Kumdis Island--Kumdis Slough being one of 14 Haida protected areas--there are seven blocks laid out over 619 ha. The largest weighs in at 185 ha, the smallest, a hefty 45.9 ha--still 5.9 ha bigger than the former maximum clearcut area of 40 ha for the coast.
The lands on the north side of Ian Lake house some of the islands' biggest blocks of land. Here, three adjacent blocks cover 106, 114.7, and 177 ha of forest. At Security Inlet, blocks ranging from 99 to 103 ha are charted along Security Creek, with others at Security Right-hand and Boomchain Bay Creeks.
By the end of this planning period there will be 12,573.8 more ha of forest transformed into Weyerhaeuser timber lands. Laid out, it is enough to cover the province of Prince Edward Island two times, with 4,638,460 cubic metres of wood harvested.
Viewing the Forest Development Plan at the Ministry of Forests provides little clarity for the public, should they want to understand what variable retention will look like on the ground.
The stewardship zones so loudly touted in the media-- including old-growth zones with retention minimums of 15%, and timber zones with retention areas of 10% and 5%--are nowhere to be seen.
We are assured by Weyerhaeuser that a primary management objective is the conservation of old-growth values, and about two-thirds of the existing forest will be retained, but the evidence is not visible on the maps at this stage of the planning process, despite the Forest Development Plan being the only opportunity for public to comment on the logging blueprints.
Though the volume of wood removed from an area may be initially reduced via variable retention, the amount of lands impacted by development is increased. These cut-blocks are massive, and the amount of road impressive.
The Allowable Annual Cut (AAC) has remained high, perched above 3.7 million cubic metres a year for MB's (Weyerhaeuser's) TFL #39, since 1989. The AAC for local Block 6 is on record at approximately 1.2 million cubic metres, and has been since 1996. Though the licensee has not cut the full AAC, the undercut is not a reflection of its legislated opportunity.
In the end, with the Ministry of Forests policy of liquidating old-growth, and an AAC that is unsustainable, what do the promises of this new management strategy offer us?
* Spruce Roots, January 2000.
Blue Gold: Who Owns The Water?
by Maude Barlow
Entering the new Millennium, the world is poised to make crucial, perhaps irrevocable, decisions about water. The human race has taken water for granted and massively misjudged the capacity of the earth's water systems to sustain our demands upon it. Contrary to popular belief, the supply of available fresh water is finite and represents less than half of 1 percent of the world's total water stock. As the world population increases, the availability of fresh water per head is decreasing rapidly.
Today, 31 countries are facing water stress and scarcity and over a billion people lack adequate access to clean drinking water. By the year 2025, as much as two-thirds of the world's population will be living in conditions of serious water shortage or absolute water scarcity. Just as we are beginning to face this reality, however, nature is being commodified and governments all over the world are dismantling environmental legislation or allowing industry to police itself. Instead of taking great care with the limited water we have, we are diverting, polluting and depleting it at an astonishing rate.
All through Latin America, China and Asia, massive industrialization is affecting the balance between humans and nature in rural communities. The growth imperative of economic globalization is causing water use to be diverted from agriculture to industry and huge corporate factories are moving up the rivers of the Third World, drinking them dry as they go. Agribusiness growing crops for export is claiming more and more of the water once used by family and peasant farmers for food self sufficiency. The global expansion in mining and manufacturing is increasing the threat of pollution of underground water supplies and contaminating aquifers which provide more than 50 percent of domestic supplies in most Asian countries.
Already, as big industrial wells probe the water, millions of Chinese farmers have found their local wells pumped dry and eighty percent of China's major rivers are so degraded, they no longer support fish. Seventy-five percent of Russia's lake and river water is unsafe to drink. Mexico City is so desperate for water, some say the entire population will have to be relocated within a decade.
While governments have been inexcusably slow in coming to terms with this crisis, some in the private sector have identified water as the last great untapped natural resource to be exploited for profit. Giant transnational water, food, energy and shipping corporations are moving in to take control of the delivery of water services and kick start the trade in "blue gold." Their goal is to render water a private commodity, sold and traded on the open market, and guaranteed to the use of private capital through global trade and investment agreements.
Water is already defined as a tradeable "good" in both NAFTA and the WTO; once the tap is turned on, it cannot be turned off without violating corporate rights established in these agreements. The WTO contains a provision prohibiting the use of export controls for any purpose and NAFTA contains a clause giving corporations the right to sue for lost future profits if any government tries. Already there is a multi-billion dollar NAFTA challenge from a California company because British Columbia banned water exports.
As well, in the services negotiations of the WTO, a new sector called "environmental services" is being negotiated. If the US government is successful in putting this item on the table, the privatization of water services and delivery will be enforced by the WTO. Already, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are imposing water privatization as a condition of loans and debt relief, financing transnational water corporations in preference to efficient, local, low cost public enterprises.
And these water corporations have captured the international political process as well. In March, 2000, almost 5,000 people gathered in The Hague at the second World Water Forum, sponsored by the United Nations and the World Bank. Clearly dominated by a handful of huge food and water corporations and the World Bank, the Forum's pre-designed solution of water privatization and full- cost pricing of water almost swamped the voices of workers, environmentalists and developing country delegates. The Forum was dedicated from the beginning to using the growing world water crisis to promote acceptance of the corporate control of water. The U.N. was silent.
Clearly, this is one of the most pressing crises of our time. There is simply no way to overstate the water crisis of the planet today. Many now predict that the wars of the next century will be over water. No piecemeal solution is going to prevent the collapse of whole societies and ecosystems. A radical rethinking of our values, priorities and political systems is urgent and still possible. This will require a massive repudiation of the values, systems and practices of economic globalization.
Water belongs to the earth and all species. No one has the right to appropriate it or profit from it at someone else's expense. Water is a public trust that must be protected at all levels of government and communities everywhere. If water is privatized, commodified, and traded for profit, it will serve to make a small handful of water transnationals very wealthy while depriving the world's most needy of their daily water for living. It will also place the ecological responsibility for the earth's water systems beyond the reach of governments and beyond the rule of law. The time to act has come.
* Maude Barlow is the National Chairperson of The Council of Canadians and a Director with the International Forum on Globalization.
* The Council of Canadians; #502 - 151 Slater Street, Ottawa On K1P 5H3; ph: (613)233-2773
Public Opposition To WTO
A new public opinion poll shows that very large majorities of the British people oppose some of the key principles of the World Trade Organisation, and the current global economic system.
Key findings of the poll, carried out by MORI, include:
* The Ecologist, May 2000
World Trade Wars
Cutting down the tree of democracy
By Don Malcolm
Early in May a body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a ruling that Canada's drug patent laws are illegal because they don't protect investors for a long enough period of time. Developers of patent medicines seek multi-year protection to prevent generic manufacturers from marketing versions of newly developed popular drugs at a fraction of the brand-name cost to the consumer.
Health care systems, be they public or private, can ill afford the added expense of long term patent protection. A Canadian Press item in the May 6 Vancouver Sun states that spending on drugs is the fastest-growing and second-largest component of health budgets, topping doctors' fees and exceeded only by hospital costs.
The dispute finds the generic pharmaceutical industry and labour, social and health groups pitted against the brand-name drug manufacturers.
Canadian Trade Minister, Pierre Pettigrew, has said the decision will be appealed on the grounds that all of Canada's arguments were not fully considered.
In April, 1998 the Canadian Parliament passed a bill banning the cross-border sale, importation and interprovincial transportation of MMT, a manganese based gasoline additive. As soon as the bill was passed, Ethyl Corporation of Richmond, Virginia, the sole producer of the additive, launched a challenge to the legislation citing the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Those terms define government restrictions to trade as violations of the constitutional rights of corporations. The Chretien government caved in, dropped the ban, and agreed to pay Ethyl $13 million (US) for legal costs and issue a statement that MMT posed no known hazard to health.
Pope & Talbot Inc., a large American forest company, operating three sawmills, two Tree Farm Licenses and two Forest Management Licenses in the Grand Forks area of BC and heavily subsidized by federal and provincial governments, is suing Canada under Chapter 11 of NAFTA. The claim is centred around tariffs that arose under the "Softwoods Lumber Agreement" between the US and Canada in 1996. Initially, in a Notice of Arbitration of March, 1999, the corporation had sought US$500 million in compensation. They have since lowered that amount to US$375 million.
The closed door hearings-closed even to the press- were to have begun May 1.
How did Canada get into these unbelievable situations? Have the politicians we have elected to guard our interests been hood-winked? Have they sold out our interests, or whimsically given them away? Or is Lewis Carroll resurrected and writing policy for our government?
In Canada, the United States and countries around the world, ordinary citizens are in the streets in protest over the various trade deals that have been imposed in recent years. Yet governments, in lock step with corporations, turn a blind eye to public concern and continue the relentless pursuit of their diabolical trade agendas.
One of the centre pieces of NAFTA is the agreements investment chapter, designed to grant special protections to corporations from one NAFTA country that invests in another NAFTA country.
Corporate investors have already begun to use these rules to challenge national and local laws in all three countries, raising concerns in the public interest community.
Licenses and two Forest Management Licenses in the Grand Forks area of BC and heavily subsidized by federal and provincial governments, is suing Canada under Chapter 11 of NAFTA. The claim is centred around tariffs that arose under the "Softwoods Lumber Agreement" between the US and Canada in 1996. Initially, in a Notice of Arbitration of March 1999, the corporation had sought US$500 million in compensation. They have since lowered that amount to US$375 million.
The World Bank is engaged in an all-out campaign to privatize the world's fresh water supplies; to remove water from its sacred niche as a global commons, a human right, and turn it over to the corporations for profit. Ismail Serageldin, World Bank vice-president, has said recently that the wars of the 21st century will be about water. In Bolivia, those wars may have already begun.
For years the World Bank has pressed poor countries like Bolivia to sell off their public enterprises to international investors. Fearful of losing access to World Bank credit, the Bolivian government, in spite of public opposition, has eagerly complied. One by one it sold off the national airline, the train system, and electric utilities. Recently it traded away the public water system in Cochabamba, a city of more than half a million population. In a secretive, one-bidder deal, for less than $20,000 for a system worth millions, a forty year lease was sold to a subsidiary of San Francisco based Bechtel Enterprises. The sale of the water system brought the privatization fight to a boil.
The company immediately announced the doubling and tripling of water rates. For most Bolivians, this meant that water would now cost more than food; for those on minimum wage or unemployed, many of whom earn less than $60 a month, water bills suddenly accounted for nearly half their monthly budgets.
Early this year, the citizens of Cochabamba, young and old alike, organized by unions and social groups, shut down the city with a week-long general strike and hit the streets in protest demanding water rates they could afford and democratic control of the water system.
After weeks of organized protests and government promises made and broken, Bolivia's President, Hugo Banzer, declared a state of emergency, ordered the arrest and imprisonment of organizers he had called in for negotiations, and sent soldiers into the street which resulted in the killing of a 17 year old boy and injuries to hundreds of citizens.
In Cochabamba the protests produced a victory of sorts. Amid accusations and counter-accusations between Bechtel and the Banzer government, the Bechtel subsidiary gave up its lease and turned its attention to trying to collect $12 million on an exit clause. The water system has been returned to the public sector along with the massive debt that the impoverished citizens will bear.
At the command of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Bolivian government is about to change the national labour laws, weakening the right to organize unions and other worker protection.
In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, corporations and their lackeys in government, the IMF and the World Bank are still hyping the recent trade agreements as a benefit to all the world's people. They are not. They are an attempt to bring about global corporate control and a foreclosure on democracy and sovereignty. We must persuade our governments to abrogate the trade agreements.
The Nuts and Bolts of Land Trusts
Non-profit conservancies can work with land holders to protect critical areas.
by Sheila Harrington
Land trusts are non-profit, often charitable, conservancies that work with land holders to protect areas that are critical to the health and survival of threatened animals, plants, and wetlands, as well as areas of cultural or historical significance.
As human settlement and development continue to spread, we are losing forever birds, animals, plants and natural areas at an alarming rate.
To ensure their survival and ours, we must protect the delicate fabric of nature that supports our lives. Throughout North America, there is a growing commitment to preserve the sensitive areas that maintain the integrity of the natural world.
Coming from a long line of do-it-yourselfers, I was delighted to become involved in this fastest-growing sector of the environmental community.
Why have 40 new Land Trusts been formed in the last 10 years? Well, it's a way for communities and individuals to do something themselves, without encountering a lot of red tape. And it requires that do-it-yourself spirit that long ago tired of being caught in the quagmire of "public process."
Not that public process isn't necessary sometimes, it's just that protecting key areas of habitat usually means working quickly, and it often involves lands that have been put into private hands: the valley bottoms and wetlands that contain the most biodiversity, those boundaries where creatures and humans meet.
Land Trusts work in three ways: through Stewardship Programs, or Holding Conservation Covenants, or by outright acquisition.
Firstly, the voluntary nature of Land Owner Contact Programs (LOCP) enables the Land Trust or Conservancy to select specific areas that contain key habitat or threatened species. An educational program is developed to help land holders identify the native species, and replant or protect them in tandem with their human land use, and often, receive public recognition for doing so with a Stewardship Plaque. Often this program leads to the second method of protection, the Conservation Covenant.
Usually, links between private protected lands and protected Crown lands are made in order to increase wildlife corridors, watershed integrity, or to fit within a larger bioregional strategy.
Conservation Covenants became a functional legal tool available to non-government organizations in British Columbia in 1995. Similar tools have been available in the US and elsewhere in Canada, and are called Conservation Easements.
These Conservation covenants or easements are legal agreements made between a current land owner and a designated land trust organization; they are registered on title to the land, and will remain in effect after the land is sold or transferred, binding future owners of the land to the terms of the covenant
Often, two land trusts will share the legal responsibility of protecting, monitoring, and defending the covenant. An annual site visit and report are often made, creating an ongoing record of the land's condition.
The third method Land Trusts use to preserve land is outright purchase.
This happens when lands considered significant to a community are threatened, as in the recent acquisition by The Land Conservancy (TLC) of BC of Mathews Point on Active Pass, Galiano Island.
This 66-acre area includes spectacular bluffs, oak meadows, rare dry-zone vegetation, essential eagle and migrating bird habitat, a large portion of natural forest, and a quarter-mile-long sandy beach along Active Pass.
Working with the local community, and with the local Capital Regional District, TLC managed to raise the required $150,000 needed to match the Regional District's funds. Now this area can link with other important areas protected by other Conservation groups on Galiano Island, including the Galiano Island Conservancy, Islands Trust Fund, The Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Garry Oak Meadow Preservation Society, and the Galiano Club.
Land trusts preserve or enhance habitat, species, and stream side areas within existing farms, ranches, or forests. Often these land uses require extensive areas that are difficult for a single landowner to buy, manage, or maintain.
Consequently, Land Trusts can help preserve sustainable food and forest lands by working in partnership with the landowners to protect habitat values, while restricting development or practices that would damage the natural or cultural features of the land.
This could involve specifying future subdivision, working with groups such as Silva Forest Foundation to create a Forest Management Plan, or designating certain areas for protection, while allowing other rights to accessory buildings or the growing of certain crops.
In some cases, such as with the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust, a farmer can be given a financial incentive for growing winter cover crops or retaining wildlife areas.
It strikes a chord deep within me-- working with people who are actively preserving sensitive areas, and some that are being used in conjunction with our human needs.
The Land Trust Alliance of British Columbia was formed in 1997. We provide education, research, resources, and support services, which strengthen the objectives of land trusts, conservancies, and other agencies, organizations, and individuals dedicated to preserving and enhancing the quality of our natural and cultural heritage.
Working with Land Trusts, we still have time to preserve and enhance this heritage for the benefit of our children and all other creatures.
* To learn more, contact the Land Trust Alliance of British Columbia, #204 - 338 Lower Ganges Road, Salt Spring Island, BC V8K 2V3; phone: (250)538-0112; fax: (250)538-0172; email@example.com; www.island.net/~ltabc/
GM Experiment Rolls On
Volunteer canola resistant to three herbicides has been found in a field in northern Alberta. Alberta Agriculture canola specialist Phil Thomas was quoted as saying, "We knew it was going to happen. It was only a matter of when." A series of chemical and DNA tests confirm the weeds in Tony Huether's field near Sexsmith are resistant to Roundup, Liberty and Pursuit chemicals. A government scientist suggested a little 2,4-Dto kill the plants.
* Western Producer, February 2000
The British Bee Farmers Association is advising its members their hives should be at least six miles from any trial sites of GM crops, following tests on honey bought from stores near GM sites. The tests, sponsored by Friends of the Earth, found traces of genetically modified pollen in two of the samples. Governments said that there was no danger of GM material spreading into the environment, but it is now abundantly clear that they were wrong.
Meanwhile, farmers in Britain, France, Germany and Sweden are calling for compensation as they face the damage of tearing out their crops after it was discovered that Canadian seed was contaminated with GM material. Wind, pollen, and even processing genetically engineered crops in the same equipment can spread the material to other crops and the environment.
The admissions have fuelled European anger, with thousands of environmentalists facing police in Genoa, and mounting protests in Germany.
At the same time, companies and governments are telling the people to "live with it" and accept at least 1% contamination as a normal standard.
* BBC May 2000
In March forest activists launched a major international campaign against genetically engineered trees.
Monsanto, ForBio, International Paper, Fletcher Challenge Forests, GenFor, Canada Interlink, Silvagen, the Chilean Development Agency, Shell and Toyota have all initiated GR tree research.
"We are at a crossroads. The threat of a future where all life, trees, animals, food, and even humans are engineered to maximize the profit of a few transnational corporations is upon us now," said Orin Langelle of ACERCA and the Native Forest Network.
"Terminator trees, genetically engineered never to flower, could ensure a silent spring in the forests of the future. Such trees will grow faster than "All evil customs relating to forests and warrens, foresters, warreners, sheriffs and their servants, or river-banks and their wardens, are at once to be investigated in every county by twelve sworn knights of the county, and within forty days of their enquiry, the evil customs are to be abolished completely and irrevocably."
The Magna Carta - the Charter of 1225
before, but will be devoid of the bees, butterflies, birds and squirrels which depend on pollen, seed and nectar."
*Native Forest Network, POB 57, Burlington, VT 05402 USA; ph: (802)863-0571; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.nativeforest.org
In a detailed report released in May, the Sunshine Project, a new international non-profit dedicated to exposing abuses of biotechnology, calls on the UN Biodiversity Convention to halt the USA's dangerous experiments with fungi designed to kill narcotic crops.
Intended to kill opium poppy, coca, and cannabis plants, there is imminent danger that a highly infectious fungus will be deliberately released in Andean and Amazonian centres of diversity. The US-backed fungi have already been used experimentally on opium poppy and cannabis in the US and in Central Asia. Thirty years after the heavy use of toxic herbicides (Agent Orange) in the Vietnam War, the USA is planning the use of a basically-untested biological agent ("Agent Green") in the Drug War.
* The Sunshine Project's report on Agent Green is available at www.sunshine-project.org
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