Environment File

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St. Albert Transit is seriously looking at getting an electric bus now that a recent trial has shown that doing so could slash their fuel bills by 78 per cent.

Transit officials will present the results of this summer’s electric bus trial to council Tuesday.

St. Albert Transit leased an electric bus from the Edmonton Transit System for $10,000 earlier this summer for a one-month trial that wrapped up Friday. The trial was meant to see how well such buses would work in St. Albert.

Crews used the bus on five different local and commuter routes and compared its energy use to the fuel used by one of its newer diesel buses when run on the same route by the same drivers, says Ken Seville, fleet and assets manager for St. Albert Transit.

“What we found is that the cost savings is about 78 per cent,” he says – the electricity used by the bus cost just 22 per cent of what they spent on diesel for the regular bus on the same route.

Drivers also gave the bus great reviews, says Morgan Smith of Diversified Transportation Ltd. (which supplies St. Albert Transit’s bus drivers).

“It’s actually better than a diesel bus for the most part,” he says, having less noise, smoother acceleration and no diesel fumes. It’s also able to handle all the city’s bus routes and stay on schedule.

“Drivers were telling us daily about their passengers getting on and off the bus (saying) how much they enjoyed the bus.”

Some passengers didn’t like the seats on the bus, but seats weren’t really the point of the trial (as those would be customized for the city if it bought any), says St. Albert Transit director Bob McDonald.

“We had a number of people ask us what run it was on or where it would be so they could try it.”

The results seem positive so far, McDonald says. His department will ask city council to do a second electric bus trial this winter – one that will use a bus equipped with insulation and heaters for Alberta’s winters.

“If that test was a success, then I think we’d be hoping to go out for a request for proposals (for electric buses) next year.”

It will still be up to council to approve the purchase of such buses, which wouldn’t be on the road before 2016 in any case, McDonald says.

“There’s certainly enough evidence to suggest we should pursue this.”

McDonald says his department will also ask the city to apply for provincial GreenTRIP grants to fund electric buses.

A local biologist hopes city and county residents will come to a free talk this fall on how to live with beavers.

The Sturgeon River Research Project is hosting a free workshop on beavers this September in partnership with Sturgeon County.

Laurie Hunt, a biologist with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and researcher with the project, says she runs into a lot of landowners frustrated by beavers as her team works to restore riparian zones along the Sturgeon.

“They can block culverts and flood roads,” she says of beavers, and chop down valuable trees.

“We’ve had some landowners go so far as to say, ‘We don’t want you to re-vegetate the buffer (zone) because you’re just going to attract the beavers.”

In response, Hunt says she’s called in Lorne Fitch of Cows and Fish to give a free talk on how to live with beavers.

“Beavers can be an asset to us, particularly in this time of climate change adaptation,” says Fitch, riparian specialist with Cows and Fish.

Beaver dams can add about 10 per cent more surface water to a watershed and a huge amount of groundwater, helping to maintain flows during dry periods, Fitch says.

“In flood times, think of beaver dams as speed-bumps,” he continues. Beaver dams spread water out over an area about 12 times as wide as the channel they cover, slowing flows and reducing erosion.

The silt caught by those dams then settles to the ground, fertilizing it, Hunt adds. The deep pools created by dams also creates habitat for ducks, fish and amphibians.

Fitch says Cows and Fish surveys suggest that most landowners see the benefits of beavers but don’t like where they set up shop. Removing/exploding a dam or trapping/shooting a beaver generally doesn’t help, as you’ll just create a vacuum that pulls in other beavers.

You can convince beavers to move by creating narrow spots in streams where it’s easier for them to build dams, Fitch says. Wire fences and latex paint laced with sand can deter beavers from chewing your trees. You can also use perforated pipes to shunt water from one side of a dam to another to even out water levels.

Fitch says his talk should be of interest to government officials and any landowner who has to deal with beavers.

The free talk is at the Morinville Rendez-Vous Centre this Sept. 15 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. A second session will also be held that same day in Onoway from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Contact Hunt at 780-378-2856 to register by Sept. 10.

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