Environment File


Local governments will perform some major research on the Sturgeon River this year thanks to a big grant from the province.

The City of St. Albert announced last Friday that the Sturgeon River Watershed Alliance had received a $300,000 Alberta community partnerships grant from Alberta Municipal Affairs.

The alliance is a group of 10 municipalities in the Sturgeon watershed (including St. Albert) that aims to improve the health of the Sturgeon River.

The grant is meant to encourage co-operation between municipalities, said Leah Kongsrude, corporate strategic services director with the City of St. Albert.

The $300,000 will fund four studies needed to complete a watershed management plan for the Sturgeon. The studies will examine water quantity and quality in the river, the state of natural areas, and the influence of gravel extraction.

While the city recently did a state of the watershed report for the Sturgeon, that report flagged several gaps in the research that these studies are meant to fill, she continued.

“There’s a tonne of information out there, but it’s all in different places and different formats.”

These studies will mostly aim to collect existing information so that the alliance can get a grip on issues in the watershed. It will also try to answer questions like the amount of water that’s actually being withdrawn from the river – Alberta Environment issues withdrawal licenses, but often doesn’t track how much water licence-holders actually take and put back.

The hope is to have these studies done by 2019 so that a management plan is ready by 2020, Kongsrude said.

“These things are never fast, and they do take time,” she acknowledged.

The studies will begin later this year.

Fort McMurray evacuees can take in a free talk in Edmonton this week on Alberta’s energy future.

The Walrus Foundation (the charity foundation behind The Walrus magazine) is hosting a public talk Thursday at the Royal Alberta Museum on the new energy economy and how Alberta can reach a sustainable energy future.

The talk is part of a series of national forums organized by the group on issues of public importance. Upcoming talks will cover topics such as art, water, and the Arctic.

The talk will consist of brief speeches from energy experts followed by a meet-and-greet, said panellist David Dodge, former Gazette reporter and producer of the multimedia series Green Energy Futures.

“The green energy revolution is upon us,” he said, and it’s moving faster than many people realize.

Dodge said there are hordes of Alberta entrepreneurs already hard at work in the renewable power sector and considerable public interest in it. The province has also committed to investing some $3.4 billion into renewable power over the next five years in addition to $1 billion for energy efficiency and aims to get 30 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

“You can’t do that much work and not get a really big change,” he said.

“We could very well have a solar, wind, and a series of other industries come out of this.”

Oil industry workers in Fort McMurray have recognized this change and are advocating for job training in renewable energy through the group Iron & Earth, Dodge noted.

“Oil’s down right now and there’s a lot of unemployed guys right now. If we had these other industries going it would certainly help keep folks employed.”

Alberta is an energy province, and Alberta would be much better off if it promoted its renewable power as well as its oil resources, Dodge said.

Also featured at the talk are Ed Whittingham of the Pembina Institute, Linda Coady, the chief sustainability officer of Enbridge, and Desmond Bull, chief of the Louis Bull tribe.

The talk is this Thursday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20, or $12 for students. Fort McMurray evacuees get in free. Visit thewalrus.ca for details.


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