Monday, March 31, 2008

One day you're the main line, the next you're a forgotten siding

"It’s a lack of care and concern on the part of Canadian National. It is convenient to blame it on the weather, but they take care of Prince Rupert and they have bad weather."-- Merv Russel, former chairman of the Port of Halifax, less than impressed with CN's attitude towards his former responsibility.

Prince Rupert's Fairview container port has certainly caught the attention of the transportation world, as CN's investment in the Northwest part of BC apparently is causing a bit of concern on the opposite side of the country.

And if it's not corporate indifference, it's a declining economic situation in the US marketplace that is starting to ring a few alarm bells in the transportation world. Two separate stories today, both in their way a window into the ebb and flow of trade and transportation in North America.
Tales to make note of locally, that the world of transportation has more than a few peaks and valleys to it, as circumstances far away can impact on the state of affairs anywhere that cargo is hauled to.

The Halifax Chronicle Herald examines the state of affairs at the east coast container terminal, while Business Week looks at the wider issue of an economic downturn in the US and how it is affecting the container transportation world across that country.

Losing traction
Port authority ex-chairman decries decline of business, criticizes CN
By TOM PETERS and AMY SMITH Staff Reporters
Halifax Chronicle Herald
March 28, 2008

The loss of Caterpillar Inc.’s business at the Port of Halifax is "a crying shame," says a former chairman of the Halifax Port Authority.

Merv Russell, who was board chairman in 2001 when Karen Oldfield became the authority’s president and CEO, took both the authority and CN to task on Thursday, charging that there is a lack of focus on building the port’s container business.

Caterpillar, which ships both imports and exports on Atlantic Container Line vessels, has been moving about 25,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) a year through Halifax. That’s about 10 per cent of the total business at the Fairview Cove container terminal, operated by Cerescorp. Caterpillar has been using Halifax and CN to connect with Chicago and its world headquarters in Peoria, Ill.

Now the heavy equipment manufacturer is taking its business to the Port of Virginia because of service issues with CN.

Paul Waite, a senior CN vice-president, said earlier this week that CN had fumbled "where connections were missed because of late trains because of weather conditions."

"It was kind of a confluence of both imports and exports missing connections that caused Caterpillar to do what they did, and this is a temporary thing, in my mind. We have had discussions with both ACL and Cat on this and we will actually be meeting face to face with them over the next week or so."

CN says it has had problems across its entire Canadian network this winter.

Joe Harris, a spokesman for the Virginia Port Authority, said Thursday that Caterpillar has told the port that the move of its shipping business to Virginia is only temporary. But Mr. Harris said the Virginia authority will do whatever it can to make the deal permanent.

Caterpillar spokesman Jim Dugan said the company is not commenting.

Mr. Russell said he has been quiet about the Port of Halifax and its declining cargo figures, but "when I saw that (about Caterpillar’s withdrawal), it really bothered me because I had worked on that account directly with ACL on a number of occasions because it was so vital to them."
"It’s a lack of care and concern on the part of Canadian National. It is convenient to blame it on the weather, but they take care of Prince Rupert and they have bad weather."

CN is a partner in a new container terminal in the British Columbia port.

Mr. Russell charged that Prince Rupert’s business is flourishing while CN continues to pull back from Halifax.

"They divested their interest in Halterm (container terminal in south-end Halifax) and this goes back to the very essence of the privatization of CN," he said. "There were those of us at the time who asked that other railways be permitted to run over the line, and we also asked for guarantees that CN would remain here."

But Halifax got no guarantees from former CN president Paul Tellier, Mr. Russell said.
"He had total disdain for Halifax."

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who has been a vocal supporter of the Atlantic Gateway concept of bringing global trade to North America through Nova Scotia, said the loss of Caterpillar is "very unfortunate, and I understand there has been a conspiracy of circumstances, if I can put it that way, that unfortunately led to the Caterpillar decision."

But Mr. MacKay also believes "there is a good possibility that we can attract that business back."
Mr. Russell was also critical of the port administration, saying "the only announcements coming out of the port authority are about real estate. You don’t hear anything about new clients, you only hear of clients leaving, and I think that’s a danger. It is disappointing where concentration is not on the port but on real estate. They have a great number of (real estate) leases but the two important leases are Ceres and Halterm, and without them you are in a lot of trouble in the port."

Mark MacDonald, chairman of the port authority board, was quick to defend the port authority and its efforts to build Halifax’s cargo business.

"There is absolutely no question that our senior management team and our board are focused on the core business of the port, which is the cargo business," he said Thursday. "There is no doubt in my mind because I see it every day. Karen Oldfield focuses on this on a daily, an hourly and nightly basis, travels constantly, acts as liaison among the stakeholders and works extremely hard at it, as does the rest of the management team and as does the board.

"Every time a container ship comes down Halifax Harbour, it has a direct employment impact of about 3½ person-years of employment, and that to me is a very telling statistic."
Premier Rodney MacDonald also defended the port authority, saying he has confidence in it and in Ms. Oldfield.

"We have a close working relationship with Ms. Oldfield and the board," the premier said Thursday after cabinet.

"They have a strong team there, and they have for many years. There are factors there that are out of their own (control) as well. The (high Canadian) dollar, for one, has had a huge impact on this port."

NDP Leader Darrell Dexter said the port has been having troubles since before Ms. Oldfield arrived in 2001.

"We have been falling on the world shipping tables since I have been in the legislature, since 1998," Mr. Dexter said.

"So those difficulties around cargo coming into the Port of Halifax did not start when she came into that position, but it is one that does raise the question, ‘How do you go about ensuring we are a competitive port when that transfer of cargo from the ships that come into Halifax Harbour is not making it expeditiously enough out of the terminal?’ "

Weak economy slows cargo, idles railcars
Associated Press

CRAIG, Mont.

BNSF Railway Co., the nation's top hauler of container rail freight, is parking miles of railcars in Montana and elsewhere because there isn't enough freight to keep them rolling.

Cars that often carry 40-foot containers of goods shipped from Asia stand like an iron fence between the Missouri River and this Montana burg known for world-class fly fishing. They stretch as far as Sandee Cardinal can see when she stands outside her home on the river's west bank between Helena and Great Falls.

"What is that but a symbol of how America is down in the dumps right now?" Cardinal asked as she gazed at the cars that haven't moved for about three months.

The cars parked are the type that haul cargo from ships on the coast to points inland, mainly imported goods -- an area that's starting to slow down due to the weak economy. Analysts say transportation usually is among the first sectors to show signs of a downturn in the economy and with Americans feeling pinched -- employers eliminated 63,000 jobs last month amid declining consumer confidence -- it could be a while before the idle cars move.

"If you take a look at transportation, both trucking and rail, you will see that things started softening last summer," said Arnold Maltz, associate professor of supply-chain management at Arizona State University. "The reason you are seeing all those cars parked is that the consumer economy translates into slower imports."

Texas-based BNSF Railway, a division of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., has parked upward of 1,000 cars in Montana alone, spokesman Gus Melonas said. More are parked in other parts of the company's 32,000-mile system, which operates in 28 states and two Canadian provinces.

"There's been a downturn in international business and therefore this equipment is not necessary at this point," Melonas said.

The cars standing between Helena and Great Falls constitute 5 percent of the BNSF fleet, Melonas said. He declined to say what percentage of the fleet is parked elsewhere, citing confidentiality issues.

Seasonal car storage is common, he said, but the number of cars now idle is exceptional.
Most of the parked cars are designed for intermodal transportation, when containers filled with imported goods are taken off vessels at U.S. ports and then transported by train, truck or both to distribution centers around the country.

For the first two months of 2008, the volume of intermodal rail freight in the United States was down 3.4 percent compared to the same period last year, according to the Association of American Railroads, an industry group based in Washington, D.C. Last year, intermodal traffic was flat as railroads began to feel the effects of slowing retail orders and the dollar's decline.
While shipments of store-ready consumer goods such as clothing have dipped, movement of coal, grain and ore have risen, according to the association. The latter are less sensitive to swings in the economy and help balance out the bottom line.

Excluding intermodal traffic, rail freight rose 1.7 percent for the first two months of 2008 compared to the same period a year earlier. Coal was out in front last month with 576,012 carloads, or an increase of 5.7 percent.

"The railroads have actually performed relatively well when you look at their entire portfolio," said transportation analyst Todd Fowler of KeyBanc Capital Markets in Cleveland.

For 2007, BNSF Railway's parent company, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., reported about $15.4 billion in total freight revenues, compared to about $14.6 billion the previous year. That growth was carried largely by coal and agricultural segments.

The annual revenue generated from hauling domestic freight was down about 1 percent from 2006, while international traffic was up 2 percent. Meanwhile, coal and agricultural revenue each grew about 12 percent.

Union Pacific Railroad spokesman James Barnes said the Nebraska-based company's intermodal business is "just a little down, but that's not unusual for this time of year." The company's total commodity revenue was $15.5 billion in 2007, compared to about $14.9 billion in 2006. The agricultural segment posted an 8 percent increase over 2006.

Another major rail company, CSX Corp. in Florida, said its car storage is not out of the ordinary. The company's total revenue from surface transportation was up 5 percent, from about $9.6 billion to $10 billion in 2007.

One of the nation's leading trucking companies, Schneider National in Green Bay, Wis., says it believes a freight recession began about 20 months ago, well before signs of a downturn closed in on consumers.

"We have been in a freight recession longer than people have been expressing deep concern about the economy," said Bill Matheson, Schneider's president for intermodal transportation.
Trucking companies are in a unique position. They often compete with railroads for long haul contracts, while also carrying rail freight from the nearest railhead to its final destination.
Schneider is not parking trucks, but neither is it buying new ones to the usual extent, Matheson said.

In Long Beach, Calif., home of the nation's busiest port complex with Los Angeles, the movement of goods has been somewhat stagnant. About 7.3 million containers passed through the Port of Long Beach in 2007, the same as in 2006, port spokesman John Pope said.

"That was a big decline from the growth we'd seen in the past decade or so," Pope said. "Typically, there had been double-digit growth from year to year."

In January, Long Beach posted a decrease of about 12 percent in overall volume compared to January 2007. The situation was less extreme last month, with a 2 percent drop in overall volume compared to a year earlier.

While retailers have imported less goods to be hauled by rail or truck nationwide, exports leaving Long Beach rose as the weak dollar strengthened overseas purchases of U.S. goods, Pope said. Rising export volume -- including grain and wheat shipped by rail -- helped balance falling container imports for most of last year.

"It's a barometer of the economy," Pope said. "We're going to see the ebb and flow that mirrors what happens in the rest of the nation."
On the Net:
BNSF Railway:
Association of American Railroads:

Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette, but step, step be sure to take those three metre steps

New smoking regulations came into effect in British Columbia on Monday, changing the way that British Columbia store owners can sell their tobacco products and moving smokers even further away from the provinces drinking establishments.

The Tobacco Control Act bans smoking in all indoor public spaces and workplaces, as well as smoking within three metres of public and workspace doorways, open windows or air intakes. Locally Northern Health will be tasked with the job of enforcing the new provisions of the act, which includes some hefty fines for those businesses that choose to blow smoke in the faces of the law makers.

The new rules expand further from the days of designated smoking rooms, which saw the provinces drinking establishments spend thousands of dollars in renovations and ventilation systems for their pubs and clubs, all gone up in smoke and made redundant with the revisions that took place today.

The Daily News featured the local reaction to the new regulations with a story in Monday's paper.

Smokers told to take it outside as laws change
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Monday, March 31, 2008
Page three

New tobacco regulations went into effect this morning across British Columbia, meaning smoking in indoor public spaces and workplaces in Prince Rupert is now - officially - a thing of the past.
The new regulations under the Tobacco Control Act ban smoking in all indoor public spaces and workplaces, as well as smoking within three metres of public and workspace doorways, open windows or air intakes. Enforcement officers employed by Northern Health will be responsible for the day-to-day enforcement of the new laws, and smokers or businesses who fail to comply with the smoke-free provision may be subject to a fine. Business owners, operators and lessees can now be fined $575 for permitting tobacco use in a prohibited space or permitting tobacco use in a workplace, and smokers can be fined $58 for smoking or holding lit tobacco in a prohibited place.

"These new regulations bring significant and positive change to B.C. and are a great step toward our goals of reducing tobacco use and the effect of second-hand smoke on British Columbians," said Health Minister George Abbott.

"We know that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke and by ensuring that public spaces and work places are smoke-free, we are working to create the healthiest environment for all British Columbians and to reduce the impact of tobacco use on our health system."
One group in Prince Rupert that will be affected directly by the new regulations are restaurant and bar operators and owners, who until now have been allowed to operate designated smoking rooms in their establishments.

"I think it's something that is going to happen and there's no changing that," said Patty Barki, manager of the Ocean View Hotel.

"It was bound to happen, and I think it's going to make it easier for the younger generation to quit. In terms of service staff, it'll be a change because now they will have to take their 15-minute break in order to leave the building and have a cigarette. I think the older generation is seeing it as much more of a problem, but the younger generation realizes and sees it as the large health issue that it is."

Businesses like the Ocean View Hotel will now have some decisions to make around having customers leave the building and remain three metres away from the entrance while they smoke.

Ted Sylvester is an owner of Breaker's Pub, and while he doesn't believe the new regulations will affect the business greatly, what upsets him is the $40,000 they spent to build their smoking room.

"I think it's pretty sad when they made us spend all that money on them, and I imagine some businesses throughout the province spent up to a couple hundred thousand for theirs," said Sylvester. "I wish they would have just made up their mind and done one thing. But in Vancouver-proper it's been like this for years. So there are always a few people who are diehard smokers, but they'll have to go outside like everybody else. The trouble is your smokers are usually your best drinkers, but the good thing is all businesses are in the same boat and they've got nowhere else to go."

The local outcomes of these new regulations remain to be seen, one unknown variable being the ways in which local restaurants and bars will deal with smoking on patios.

There is currently no regulation outlawing it, but since smoking needs to occur three metres from doorways or open windows, it may be difficult for some of the city's businesses to work around that stipulation.

Northwest Transmission Line may yet get some juice

A project that seemed dead less than six months ago is suddenly back on a burner, simmering a bit, while local stakeholders try to determine if there's a case to be made to bring it back to life.

The Northern Transmission Line which would run a transmission line from the Skeena substation near Terrace north to Bob Quinn lake met its first demise when Teck Cominco and Nova Gold pulled out of their Galore Creek Mine project.

However, local groups in the NOrthwest have formed a coalition to try and bring the electrification of Highway 37 North back on line and are seeking to compile a study to give them an idea as to its feasibility without a major project like Galore to underwrite it.

The Macquarie Bank, an Australian based, international bank which is experienced in studying large infrastructure projects has been tasked to compile the report to deterime if there is a business case for the massive and costly half billion dollar project.

The Daily News featured details of the project in Monday's paper.

Powerful interests still mulling project
Interested parties still hopeful transmission line may become a reality
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Monday, March 31, 2008
Page one

A half a billion-dollar transmission line project in northern B.C. that fizzled out last fall is sparking a new study and new hope for the electrification of Highway 37.

Byng Giraud, vice president of policy and communications for the Mining Association of B.C., said a coalition of interested parties has gathered close to a quarter of a million dollars in order to hire a world leader in infrastructure analysis to study the business case for the Northwest Transmission Line (NTL.)

"We want to have a world-class bank that does this kind of stuff have a serious look at this and say is there a serious opportunity here," said Giraud.

The project, that would see a transmission line run from the Skeena sub-station near Terrace north to Bob Quinn Lake, was killed last November after Teck Cominco and NovaGold shelved their Galore Creek mine. The two companies had committed $150 million toward the $400-million transmission line in order to power their new gold, silver and copper mine.

The NTL has been a dream of Northwest communities, First Nations, the mining and independent power sector for many years as it would open up a whole new region of the Northwest for development and provide power to communities currently living off the grid. Even the state of Alaska has expressed interest; the line could link up companies in the northern state with the North American transmission network. Currently, companies in that state are stranded from the rest of the continent.

Up until this point, the NTL has always been contingent upon specific projects, such as the Galore Creek mine or Red Chris mine, going ahead. Giraud said they want to move away from that kind of thinking.

"What we are trying to do is ... fund a study that assembles an inventory of what the upside opportunity for the line would be, what's the potential and what is the threshold that would make it viable," he said. "That way, we can assess the viability of the line, regardless of distance and regardless of size ... with or without a specific project.

"We want to be able to say there's a lot opportunity here, the threshold is high so let's have a look at it."

With the funding, including a $30,000 grant from the Northern Trust, the coalition has hired Macquarie Bank, a well known international bank with expertise in large infrastructure financing, to assess the business case for the NTL.

They hope to have the study on hand for the Minerals North convention in April, however there are no firm timelines in place because they do not want to limit the analysts' work, said Giraud.
"They aren't going to tell us what we want to hear, they will tell us what we need to hear," he said. "We need this to be done right."

Alaska ferries to use BC Ferries dock until AMHS dock is repaired

While the City of Prince Rupert gets to work on repairs to the Alaska Marine Highway dock (and maybe some PR repairs for their relations with the Alaska Ferry Service), the Alaskan Ferries will be coming ashore via the BC Ferry dock at Fairview Bay.

As we posted last night here on the Podunk, the AMHS only last week received final word that the Rupert dock was no longer safe for use by the Alaska ferries that regularly call on the Fairview terminal, this was perhaps a wee bit of an irritant for our Alaska neighbours. As the tone of their press release suggested that they had made more than one attempt to find out the status of the dock over the last few months.

The impression left by their press release is that they were not seeming to receive the kind of feedback that they were hoping for from the city. A surprising thing, considering how much the city has tried to build the Alaska Ferries into our total tourism package.

The Daily News worked out some background on the story for Monday's paper including an interesting note that the issue was apparently to be introduced to council at last weeks meeting, however due to a lack of available councillors (only three apparently were willing and able to attend last Tuesday's session) the issue got bumped.

We're still a little puzzled here at the Podunkian listening post as to how the council meeting ended up at the cancelled stage, who was ready to get to work and who wasn't and more importantly if that meeting ever was made up. Surely there must be some newsworthy tidbits from last weeks non event, that the local media might be able to fill in some of the blanks on.

It would seem from this story that at least one bit of open city business seemed to slip through some cracks, considering the fact that Prince Rupert is finding out all of the details on the state of the Alaska Ferry Dock and our relations with AMHS through Alaskan sources.

Safety concerns put ferry service in jeopardy
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Monday, March 31, 2008
Pages one and three

In a triumph of cooperation and adaptability, the Alaska ferry will keep sailing, despite a major problem with its dock in Prince Rupert.

The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) found out late last week that its was unable to dock its ferries in Prince Rupert after the city was forced to shut down its mooring facility because of safety concerns.

Roger Wetherell, chief communications officer with Alaska's Department of Transportation, said two sailings were canceled between Ketchikan, Alaska, and Prince Rupert, because of the problem after the city learned that the facility was unsafe.

However, the AMHS was given permission to try to use the B.C. Ferries terminal which is located next to the AMHS terminal and following tests this weekend, the AMHS found it could successfully dock and use the ramp system, so the Alaska ferry will be able to use the facilities while repairs are carried out to its dock.

"The vessel M/V Matanuska is transiting northbound from Washington and is scheduled to arrive in Prince Rupert Sunday at 3 a.m. and at that time, it will attempt to moor at the B.C. Ferries dock because we have received permission from B.C. Ferries to use their mooring facilities," said Wetherell before the successful trial on the weekend.

"The key factor is whether or not if our vessels will fit and the ramps will accommodate our vessels to the shore. We are sending a team of experts down to met the Matanuska when it arrives Sunday morning to analyze the situation and see if we can use the facility safely. If we can, great, we will use that as long as we are able to and if not we will go from there."

He noted the AMHS has been expressing its structural concerns to the City of Prince Rupert and the mayor's office for at least three months.

"We had repeatedly expressed concerns to the city and mayor's office and asked about having those concerns looked into through the means of an engineer's report. We wanted a study done to have the facilities checked for safety purposes."

"If there was any reason these facilities would not support the safety of passengers and crew we wanted to know to what degree," Wetherell said.

"They sent us those findings and they have since indicated to us they have shut down the use of facility. Since then, we have had to strategize and find an alternative means of mooring our vessels in Prince Rupert."

In the meantime, tourism season is just around the corner and the AMHS system has scheduled increased stops in Prince Rupert this summer, going from two stops in the winter to four stops per week starting in May.

"There would be increased ridership in Prince Rupert between May and September. We know that there are confirmed bookings between May and September that include 8,000 passengers and 3,000 vehicles and that, obviously, is in the balance," he said Friday. No one from the city, or the mayor's office was available for comment on Friday. See upcoming editions of the Daily News for more.

The city did have an engineer's survey conducted on the facility, although it was never presented to council. Council was set to receive a small report recommending the city amend its agreement with the AMHS last Monday and allow the AMHS to use the B.C. Ferries dock, but with only three council members in attendance, they didn't have quorum.

Fixing the dock facilities is on the list of this year's projects for the city, although it is unknown whether those plans will need to be expanded since receiving the engineers' report.

The city started the work on the dock in 2006 after the Alaska Marine Highway System noted extensive damage to pilings caused by a winter storm. However, the city was unable to complete the work in 2007 after the budget shortfall when it over-estimated its revenue by $5 million.

Northern Fish farm moratorium well received by farm opponents

"Today's announcement means there's a greater chance we will succeed in protecting wild salmon for future generations," -- Gerald Amos, Friends of Wild Salmon chairperson commenting on the moratorium on fish farms in Northern BC waters.

Those groups that have been fighting the fight against the creation of fish farms in Northern BC are still celebrating the government announcement of last week which will see fish farm development limited to those waters of the Central and Southern coast.

Realizing however that it's only a first step, all of the stakeholders in the drive to keep the fish farms out of the north are already making their plans to keep the heat on the government for when the moratorium comes up again.

The Daily news featured more feedback on the issue as their front page story in Monday's edition.

'Monumental' day long time in coming say activists who voe to keep up pressure
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Monday, March 31, 2008

Pages one and three

All across the province, conservation groups and politicians have been celebrating the recent government announcement of an immediate moratorium on fish farms on the North Coast
The Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform welcomed Thursday's decision by Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell, acknowledging that it marks a major turning point in recognizing the need to protect marine ecosystems and wild salmon stocks from the impacts of current salmon-farming practices.

"This a monumental day for Northern B.C.'s salmon and the communities that depend on them," said Des Nobels of the T.Buck Suzuki Foundation in Prince Rupert.

"The people of the North, who hold their wild salmon in high esteem, worked hard to make their wishes clear to government. But this announcement is just the first step in addressing the concerns of all British Columbians about the threats posed by the salmon farming industry to the future of our wild salmon."

The Friends of Wild Salmon, which has also led a public outcry against salmon farms since 2005 and brought together various stakeholder groups, said it was also grateful that government listened to northerners who spoke out and signed petitions calling for an end to fish farms.
"Today's announcement means there's a greater chance we will succeed in protecting wild salmon for future generations," said Gerald Amos, Friends of Wild Salmon chairperson.

"While we are relieved that there will be no fish farms in the North, we will continue to support our neighbours in southern B.C. who are struggling to protect wild salmon from the impacts of fish farms."

However, the news of an immediate halt to fish farm expansion north of Klemtu was accompanied by the approval of a new finfish farm in Nootka Sound as well as a replacement licence in Clayquot Sound.

Groups including CARR and FOWS were still highly critical of government for the new licences, complaining that this was the first response to any of the recommendations from Legislature's Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture.

The province had also approved six open-net cage licences since May 2007. These groups and other stakeholders are still awaiting a response another critical SCSA recommendation - the implementation of closed-containment salmon farming.

"If net-cage salmon farming is not appropriate for our northern waters, why is it still permitted in the south?" asked Catherine Stewart of the Living Oceans Society, a CAAR member group.
"We applaud this government for listening to the citizens of the North and granting a reprieve to the wild salmon and waters on the North Coast, it is now imperative that the province acts to move salmon farms in the south and central coasts to closed-containment before the wild pink and chum fall into localized extinctions."

Skeena MLA and Fisheries Critic Robin Austin, who chaired the SCSA, says the announcement represents the first time the province has faced up to the risks fish farms pose to the environment and wild fish stocks.

While he is pleased with this first small step, he echoed the sentiments of conservationists, saying we have yet to hear about the government's plan for the south and central coasts.
"It is unfortunate that the government took this long to act on the concerns raised in the report of the SCSA," said Austin.

"It is only a modest beginning on making our aquaculture industry sustainable. We need to see what the government does when the suspension of finfish aquaculture on the North Coast comes to an end."

We'll be right back after this short comercial message March 30

What no jumps?

Giving road rash a whole new meaning...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

School District divvies up the students

With Seal Cove and Kanata elementary schools now scheduled for closure at the end of this current school year, the School District has redefined the borders for the two remaining east side schools Conrad and Lax Keen.

The school district sent home letters on Friday to advise parents of the new boundaries and to explain the changes about to take place for their children.

The Daily News had full details on the School District developments in Friday's paper.

Eastside students learn where they will go to school
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Friday, March 28, 2008

Pages one and two

Staff at School District 52 have finished their review of school catchment areas for the next school year that was needed because of the closure of Seal Cove and Kanata elementaries.
The changes mean all elementary students on the eastside of town will now live in the catchment area of either Lax Kxeen or Conrad Elementary school.

The district sent letters home today to every student and their families informing them of their new catchment area.

The new boundaries were redrawn after a decision by the Board of Education to consolidate Seal Cove and Kanata Elementary schools at the end of the 2007-08 school year.

Superintendent of Schools Eric Mercer described the exercise as "challenging," particularly given the fact that the two schools now serving the eastside are so close together.

"No matter where your children attend school in our district, they will receive a quality education and have their needs met," said Mercer.

"We understand the Board of Education's decision to consolidate schools was the first step in an emotional and challenging process.

"We've now drawn up the boundaries keeping equity in mind, and we expect to get feedback from the community next week."

Children already registered in an eastside school, but who are changing schools as a result of the newly drawn boundaries, will automatically be registered in their new catchment area school.
All students entering Kindergarten will also need to register as usual.

Following notification of the new catchment areas, families will have until April 11, 2008, to submit any cross-boundary applications, should they wish to attend a school other than the one that serves their neighbourhood.

These requests need to be renewed each year and there is no guarantee of approval from year to year.

Parents or guardians who have already submitted a request but now reside in the new catchment area of the school of their choice do not need to contact the board office, their request will simply be removed.

All other requests will remain active and will be processed accordingly.

The school district is also working on a plan to take care of the bussing needs of children and families now living a further distance from their catchment area school.

Information will be sent home regarding the bussing plan closer to the end of the school year. The next step will be the approval process for cross-boundary requests, and all families should know by the end of April which school their children will attend in September 2008.

In addition, plans are underway to introduce students and parents to their new school communities prior to the autumn in order to ease the transition.

Prince Rupert set to fully fund repairs to Alaska State Ferry dock

An interesting excerpt from an Alaska Marine Highway service advisory from Friday seems to be letting us know (by way of Alaska) that it’s full steam ahead on repairs to the Alaska Ferry Dock at Fairview Bay, here are the important details from Commissioner Leo von Scheben :

"Nothing can ever interfere with the safety of the passengers and crew who trust us to ensure that they safely reach their destinations aboard Alaska’s ferries," von Scheben emphasized.

Late this afternoon, AMHS officials received assurance from Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond stating that his city would fully fund and complete the necessary repairs and upgrades for safe usage by May 26.

“The mayor’s assurance that the facility will be fixed and safely functional is very promising to us, and we hope this cooperation helps us maintain a solid business partnership with Prince Rupert and Mayor Pond,” said von Scheben

The service advisory/press release also has provided some details on the state of the Alaska Ferry dock at Fairview, a deteriorating structure which was deemed as unsafe on Thursday and which saw the cancellation of the Alaska Ferry Taku’s run into the city over the weekend.

The Alaska Ferry Dock has been an ongoing concern for a few months now, and judging by the content of the press release, it’s been a concern that the city was rather slow in providing Alaska with updates on. The press release of Friday seems to at least address that slight irritant in the relationship between the city and the AMHS.

The plan for the short term while the repairs take place (expected to be completed by May 26th) is for the Alaska Ferries to use the BC Ferries dock, providing the structure is compatible with their vessels. Alaska Marine Highway officials were sending an engineer up to Rupert over this weekend past to examine the dock to make sure that it was satisfactory for use with the Alaskan vessels.

The story has made news across America, as the state of the Prince Rupert dock has become filler material for newspapers as far as South Carolina. Here’s how the Fort Mills Times covered the story from its Alaskan sources.
Perhaps if they find the time, the city of Prince Rupert could share the latest developments with its residents through it's website, at least letting us know that there's money to be spent and where we have to spend it...

Alaska ferry officials seek alternative for Prince Rupert dock
Fort Mills Times
(Published March 30, 2008)

JUNEAU, Alaska — City officials in Prince Rupert, the only Canadian port of call for Alaska state ferries, closed their dock after an engineer's report concluded it posed an unacceptable safety risk.

Alaska ferry officials hope to use a nearby BC Ferries dock.

The Alaska Department of Transportation is sending a professional engineer and a shore-side maintenance supervisor to determine if Alaska ferries can moor there safely.

The city-owned ferry dock in the British Columbia community had been a cause of concern to Alaska Department of Transportation officials, said assistant commissioner Dennis Hardy,
The agency repeatedly asked Prince Rupert officials for a thorough engineers' report, he said.
Alaska ferry officials on Friday received assurance from Prince Rupert Mayor Herb Pond that his city would pay for and complete repairs for the city dock by May 26.

"The mayor's assurance that the facility will be fixed and safely functional is very promising to us, and we hope this cooperation helps us maintain a solid business partnership with Prince Rupert and Mayor Pond," said Alaska Transportation Commissioner Leo von Scheben in a press release.

Two sailings of the Alaska ferry Taku, north and southbound between Skagway and Prince Rupert, have been canceled.

The Taku was to make all scheduled stops between Skagway and Ketchikan but would not continue south to Prince Rupert.

The Alaska ferry system plan calls for mooring the ferry Matanuska at the BC Ferries dock at 3 a.m. Sunday.

Hardy, who plans to resign May 16, is responsible for the plan to cut ferry service from Bellingham, Wash., through Alaska's Inside Passage to one trip per week instead of two.

He said ferry officials believed overflow traffic during peak months of June and July would elect to travel into Alaska through Prince Rupert.

The Marine Highway intends to focus marketing efforts on Prince Rupert in the near and long term, he said.

Removing the Malaspina from the Bellingham run, where it ran at 60 to 70 percent capacity, will save millions in operating costs, Hardy said.

Information from: KINY-AM,
***Update March 30 7 pm--Alaska Ferries declares their testing a success and advise customers that both the Taku and Matanuska will be using the BC Ferries dock in Prince Rupert until repairs are maid to the Alaska Ferry Dock...

Rupert Grow ops are showing up in the most unusual places

A few more details have filtered out of the discovery of two grow ops in the downtown area in the last week.

The elaborate set up for cultivation was explained in Friday’s Daily News, a system which saw everything from heavy charcoal filters to reduce the odour to 1,000 watt light bulbs with radiating heat shields to provide artificial light for the Rupert growing season.

Aware that there are more than likely other operations in the city, the local RCMP provided some signs for local residents to be aware of, as far as indicating potentially illegal activity. And if concerned about a specific location, residents are asked to contact the RCMP who will follow up with an investigation.

While the full story hasn’t been delivered by the police yet, the recent events have provided the Daily News with some content over the last few days. With the paper featuring stories or pictures of the recent busts all through a good portion of last week.

Police say little about alleged grow ops
The Daily News
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Page three

On Fri., March 21, Prince Rupert RCMP executed two search warrants in the downtown core of Prince Rupert, resulting in the seizure of more than 600 marijuana and other property related to alleged grow-ops.

The first search warrant was executed on Friday morning in the 600 block of Third Avenue West, and the second warrant was executed in the evening in the 800 block of Second Avenue West. Both scenes were attended by police investigators, Forensic Ident specialists, the fire department and BC Hydro.

Because the investigation into both alleged grow operations is ongoing, RCMP are not releasing any information that will compromise the integrity of their investigations. What is known is that the files did not originate as a result of information provided by BC Hydro, and that there was a level of sophistication involved in at least one of the alleged grow operations aimed specifically at masking the odour of marijuana.

The Daily News will have more details of the technology used in these alleged grow operations in tomorrow’s paper.

Police look to unplug grow-ops
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Friday, March 28, 2008
Page Five

A large quantity of equipment was seized from buildings where alleged marijuana grow operations were discovered after Prince Rupert RCMP executed two search warrants last Friday, all of it used to either cultivate or cover up the growth of more than 600 plants, say police.

Officers said large charcoal filters were in place with the specific purpose of masking the potent scent of marijuana that the grow operations would exude without them. The air inside the grow-ops would circulate through the nearly five-foot-tall and extremely heavy filters, eliminating the odour from the air and making it difficult for anyone to detect from outside the premises, said police.

A large number of 1,000-watt lightbulbs were also seized, which are used to provide artificial sunlight to plants. Along with the bulbs were more than 40 circular light hoods, each several feet in diameter and used to reflect the light back down onto plants to give them the maximum amount of light possible. Large fans and carbon dioxide generators were also found in the grow-ops, which police said are used to feed the plants and redistribute air throughout the area where the plants are growing, enabling them to grow larger, faster. Police also took many electrical ballasts out of the buildings. They are typically used to ground the electricity and help power up the 1,000-watt lightbulbs.

Constable Krista Vrolyk, community policing and media relations officer with the Prince Rupert RCMP, is familiar with marijuana grow operations. Before coming to Prince Rupert, she was involved in close to 100 different grow-op cases and has seen much of the same equipment used in the same manner.

"In terms of a large grow operation, this is pretty standard," she said. "Not every grow-op has charcoal filters and the exhaust fans or other air circulation devices. The ones used here are large fans, I've seen everything from an oscillating home fan to large ones like these. The 1,000-watt bulbs are very standard, as well as the ballasts and electrical panels."

Vrolyk said grow-op sophistication varies between each case. She has seen instances when suspects thought moth balls would be enough to mask the odour and she has seen equipment such as the large charcoal filters allegedly used in these two cases.

Vrolyk also said that buildings used for marijuana grow operations have, in some cases, been rigged with traps, ranging from hanging doorway beads covered in fish hooks to explosives being triggered by intruders.

She said Prince Rupert RCMP wants the public to know that in many instances, marijuana grow operations are only discovered as a result of a tip and information that law enforcement receives from citizens, and that knowing how to spot a marijuana grow operation is a useful crime-fighting tool. Some of the telltale signs of a grow-op are when no one appears to live in the residence, people attend the residence sporadically and at odd hours, windows are covered by tightly fitting blinds, curtains or cardboard, lights appear to be on timers, a strange humming sound comes from the basement, a skunk-like odour emanates from the residence, and condensation on windows.

When present in isolation these factors may not indicate a marijuana grow operation, however when several of these factors are found, a marijuana grow operation may be present.
Police remind the public that grow operations pose significant threats to public safety, as they not only represent fire hazards, but they are often associated with violence and organized crime. Vrolyk said police will be vigilant in efforts to investigate and eradicate marijuana grow operations in the community, and urge anyone with information to contact them or Crimestoppers.

Toronto takes its quest for world class status a little too far

"They're pissing all over the damn place, and as you can see, they've littered it up considerably," ---Columbus police lieutenant Kevin Conley recounting his Saturday experiences with Toronto FC fans.

Travelling Toronto soccer fans, have now joined the legions of Italy, Germany and England, as far as soccer and poor public image are concerned.

The followers of Toronto FC, let loose in the streets of Columbus, Ohio over the course of Saturday morning, showed that Toronto is ready to join the ranks of the lager louts of European football fame. Taking to the highways in the thousands, a bus and car caravan rolled into Columbus on Saturday (others with better planning skills arrived on Friday night), early enough for kick off, but unfortunately for the Columbus citizenry and its police too early for their own good.

Fueled by alcohol along the way, the troublesome FC supporters were described as rather obnoxious at times, urinating in proximity to a Columbus church, surrounding police cars and taunting Columbus residents with profanity and gestures. Inside the stadium, flares were repeatedly thrown onto the field giving it the surreal feel of an Italian soccer match, just before the riot batons are set to swing.

While most of the fans were reported to be well behaved and enjoyed the hospitality of the home side hosts, the group that caused the most distress for Columbus have done their share in building up (or is that down?) the reputation of the travelling bunch for the rest of the season. Columbus police called in a few extra hands for the end of the game, to make sure that their unfriendly and most likely now unwanted guests found their way to the buses and onto the interstate.

To be fair, the reports out of Columbus about the game don't paint quite the vision of any roiling insurrection, in fact the 2300 FC fans seemed to provide a bit of a spark for the local fans, who it seems are prone to sit on their hands at FC games.

But for some of the shocked citizens on the outside and the police, the image of the Toronto FC fans is a little bit different than a bunch of folks out for a little fun. For them it's a case of "you can dress the soccer fans of Toronto up, but you may not want to take them anywhere."

If things continue along this vein, they may have to hand back this award, if they win it!

We'll be right back after this short comercial message March 29

Whatever it takes to win!

Competition can bring out the breast in you...

Fish farm opponents celebrate government decision

The Province's announcement on Thursday that no fish farms will be put in place within 150 kilometres of the Skeena river has been celebrated as a step in the right direction by the regions MLA Gary Coons and those that have been opposed to the prospect of the farms in northern waters.

The Thursday announcement by Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell, limits the development of the contentious industry to areas south of Aristazabal Island until further consultation with stake holders and First Nations in the area take place.

The Daily News featured the details of the decision as the front page story in Friday's paper.

By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Friday, March 28, 2008
Pages one and three

There will be no fish farm licences issued in North Coast waters 150 kilometres from the mouth of the Skeena River, announced Agriculture and Lands Minister Pat Bell yesterday.

The province will be suspending the issuance of licences and tenures for finfish aquaculture in tidal waters north of Aristazabal Island while it examines the feasibility of adopting a new approach to aquaculture management in collaboration with First Nations.

"Currently, there are no operating finfish farms on the North Coast and the government is implementing this suspension to allow time to explore new management options for aquaculture practices," said Bell.

"We have huge potential if we work together with the First Nations Leadership Council in dealing with finfish aquaculture.

"These discussions will allow us to work collaboratively to create a comprehensive and forward-reaching provincial aquaculture plan that protects the health of wild salmon."

The announcement comes as good news to North Coast MLA Gary Coons.

Coons was part of the Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture that presented 55 recommendations to the province last May. One of the recommendations from the committee called for a ban on salmon farms north of Cape Caution. Since receiving the report in May, this is the first time the government has acted on any of the committee's recommendations, he said.
"I'm glad to see that this government is finally acknowledging that salmon farms damage the environment and put wild stocks at risk," said Coons. "I hope this means that the Ministry of Agriculture will soon take action to fallow farms on migration routes and move towards ocean-based closed containment."

Coons said he is obviously very happy that the government has chosen to take some action on the report that was delivered nearly a year ago, and says that the announcement is not only a real victory for Special Committee members, but for all those who depend on B.C.'s wild salmon.
But he said it was a shame the decision took as long as it did.

And Coons said the announcement effectively validates the concerns he has heard from commercial and sport fishermen as well as many constituents who rely on the tourism sector.
However, Coons is concerned that the government's proposed salmon farm boundary doesn't protect the recently created Great Bear Rainforest reserve, including Princess Royal Island, one of the region's most highly prized wilderness areas.

"A ban on new farms north of Cape Caution would have done more to protect the province's salmon, and more to address the concerns of the region's First Nations peoples, fishermen and tourism operators," said Coons.

"A half ban is better than no ban, but I know most of my constituents won't be satisfied until all the committee's recommendations have been enacted, including a move to ocean-based closed-containment for all the province's salmon farms, and a ban on expansion of the industry past Cape Caution."

He also said, now that the government has acknowledged the harm fish farms cause, there should be an immediate thrust to save the threatened southern runs.

"I'm very excited that the Skeena has been partially protected, but it is important that we immediately begin fallowing practices near vulnerable runs in the Broughton Archipelago," said Coons.

"Wild salmon are a crucial part of the culture and economy of British Columbians across the province. It's excellent that the government has chosen to take steps to protect Skeena salmon from the pollutants and parasites that have harmed salmon elsewhere, but no region should have to suffer the loss of their vital stocks."

The government says its collaborative approach with First Nations has worked well and allowed it to move forward with historic land-use agreements on the Central and North Coast, where ecosystem-based frameworks are in place to ensure ecological integrity of the land base and improve human well-being in communities.

"This announcement is a positive step towards the sustainability and survival of our coastal ecosystems," said Elmer Derrick of the First Nations Leadership Council Aquaculture Working Group.

"However, we must ensure that the government-to-government solutions to aquaculture ensure that First Nations communities seeking economic opportunities through aquaculture are adequately accommodated and supported to establish other economic ventures and strong coastal communities."

A rocky patch for justice on the westward side of the Rockies

"I have no details. I have never been questioned by the RCMP. I only became aware today that I am part of that investigation," John Les after stepping down as the Solicitor General for the Province of British Columbia on Friday.

It's been a rough couple of days for the justice system in British Columbia this week, there was the refusal of the RCMP to release details into a report into the use of Tasers, a fair portion of which took place in the province. It's a refusal that is apparently being given a second thought by the Mounties, in the light of a bit of protest to their decision.

Mid week came news that a BC Judge had decided that the RCMP had not provided enough proof that a full patch member of the notorious Hells Angels had been acting on behalf of a criminal organization. Acquitting him of charges of drug trafficking.

Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie of B.C. Supreme Court in her decision, suggested that the Crown had prosecuted David Francis Giles, based far too much on speculation and not enough on fact.

The decision sidelined a two year investigation, that cost more than 10 million dollars to conduct, and while it didn't quite declare the Hells Angels to be in the league of the Boy Scouts, it did seem to lift the burden of guilt on them in this instance. While it is described as merely a setback in the pursuit of justice when it comes to organized crime, it's none the less and expensive one both in financial terms and in image.

The decision by Madam Justice MacKenzie has been greeted with chagrin by many British Columbians and has once again caused Canadians to wonder about what the courts are doing on the far side of those Rocky Mountains.

So while the province digested a cone of silence on Tasers and an expensive bit of frustration in prosecuting reputed criminals, the week ended with the province's top cop John Les stepping down from his position. This after it became public that he had been under investigation for nine months now, over a controversial land deal back when he was mayor of Chilliwack.

The CBC reported on Friday that a special prosecutor Robin McFee had been appointed on June 28, 2007, to oversee the RCMP investigation involving Les and an undisclosed number of former municipal officials in the Fraser Valley community. Les said that he was unaware of the investigation until the CBC advised him of it on Friday.

The Premier issued his own take to the press on Saturday advising that he was not aware that his Solicitor General had been placed under investigation until 5:30 on Friday afternoon. He did however support Les' position that he must withdraw from his position until the investigation runs its course.

It makes for an interesting scenario as pointed out by the Vancouver Sun's Vaughn Palmer, "of Les overseeing the police for almost a full year while he was under investigation by the police."

Clearly the issue should have been brought out into the open in June of 2007, at which time the Solicitor General could have resigned his office until the investigation was complete.

While he has done the right thing by stepping down once the issue was made public, the proper thing would have been to have this brought out into the open when it began, avoiding any semblance of potential political interference.

Les is confident that his name will be cleared and at that time he will be free of course to return to his duties. Perhaps his first duty if and when he is reinstated, will be to provide less fuzzy guidelines for the special prosecutor on these high profile cases. Especially when it comes to investigating high political office holders and making sure that the goal of transparency is the main operating procedure in place.

In a week which saw the justice system take a few hits, having its top law administrator step down hasn't exactly been the kind of reassuring move that is required for an increasingly cynical public.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Podunkian Music Club

The Buggles--Video Killed The Radio Star

It has the distinction of being the very first video shown on the then incubating pop culture device known as MTV.

A format for music promotion that would revolutionize the music industry forever and create yet another layer of creativity when it came to putting lyrics to paper and music to tape.

MTV in its early days provided non stop music videos, all be it of a rather small rotation, the art form had yet to be the all encompassing thing that it is today.

And there at the very start of music revolution was a rather unconventional new wave band from England, formed in 1977 and suddenly thrust into the pop culture spotlight when their Video Killed the Radio Star from their Age of Plastic album became the clarion call of the new music revolution in 1979.

The album didn't actually come into existence until after the song became the monster hit of the late seventies, the band adding enough songs to their repertoire while touring in support of the single. It was one of those rare cases where a single spurred on an album, such was the slap together success of the band at the time.

The Buggles recording archives actually consist of two albums, though the overwhelming nature of their MTV hit seemed to render them to a cult status of one hit wonders. It was an interesting ride for the British trio of Trevor Horn, Bruce Woolley and Geoff Downes, who seemed more comfortable in the studio than as an on stage act.

The subsequent album and singles never seemed to generate the same excitement or airplay that the original song did, and by 1981 the band had gone on to other projects, mainly merging with the Art Rock colossus Yes.

Now known mainly as a trivia question, the rumblings of a reunion occasionally pop up, but little of substance ever seemed to come of them.

Of course when you carry the baggage that Video killed the radio star does, following up on one of pop's iconic slogans is probably a hard road to follow.

Artist--The Buggles
Recording--Age of Plastic

Coalition advises that coal bed methane production will offer few benefits to the region

Prince Rupert City council received the 411 this week, on a proposed coal bed methane development by Shell Oil in the Klappan watershed.
As the Skeena Watershed Conservation coalition provided an in depth presentation on how the development could adversely affect the local environment.

The coalition's website provides a much fuller presentation of the issue, including a photo gallery and calendar of upcoming events.
The issue has become newsworthy in the lower mainland media, with items found in The Tyee and the Georgia Straight as well as the mainstream Vancouver media.

The Daily News provided a full examination of the Coalitions presentation in Thursday’s paper.

Activist calls on council to fight gas projects
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Pages one and two

If Shell Canada proceeds with coal bed methane development in the Klappan, the company would need to develop thousands of wells that would pump up salty water full of heavy metals to the surface of a wilderness area that encompasses the birthplace of the province's greatest salmon bearing rivers, a critic is warning.

Speaking about plans for coal bed methane development at this week's city council meeting, Shannon McPhail executive director of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition told Prince Rupert city council that following a four-year long quest for answers about possible coal bed methane development in the Klappan, the information doesn't paint a pretty picture.

"We know there is good development and bad development. We aren't anti-mining or anti-oil and gas ... but we believe developments must pose minimum risk and maximum opportunities for the communities and with coal bed methane, the opposite is true," she said.
There is little economic benefit, very poor social benefit and it is the company that walks away with the money in their pocket.”

The Klappan is an area located 180 km north of Hazelton and includes the source of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine rivers – all major salmon-bearing streams that support commercial and sport fishermen as well as being important for food provision and culturally for numerous First Nations.

Four years ago, the province of B. C. granted Shell 800,000 acres of tenure in which it is has exclusive rights to explore the potential of coal bed methane. In some areas, this tenure sits less than 135 metres away from the headwaters of the Skeena.

Coal bed methane is natural gas that is trapped in coal seams but unlike natural gas, companies can’t just install a well to extract it, it requires specialized extraction.

In order to get at the gas, companies need to ease pressure that is trapping the gas in the coal seam. This pressure usually exists in the form of large underground lakes known as aquifers.
“More than 80 per cent of coal seams do contain water and the majority of those contain toxic water,” she said.

“They need to drill a lot of wells, said McPhail, “Shell estimates they would need to drill anywhere between 1,500 and 10,000 wells.”

Each well would require two pipelines, one to capture gas and the other to pump out water. Around each well, the company would have to clear an area ranging in scale from the size for a baseball field to a football field in order to maneuver heavy drilling equipment.

For every four to 10 wells, they would also a compressor station, which would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week and be slightly less noisy than a jet engine, she claimed.

“All this would take place in a pristine wilderness area. It would be all new development,” said McPhail.

During the life of a well, it would never stop pumping out water.

“Once you drill the holes, it pretty much becomes a large plumbing project,” said McPhail.
Each well will produce between 10,000 and 20,000 gallons of water per day. Most companies have to remove three and half Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of water before they even begin commercially producing methane. This water usually contains two to three times the amount of salt that vegetation can tolerate, as well as heavy metals.

Last year, the provincial government announced that water would have to be re-injected into deep wells, up until then water was allowed to be disposed of in rivers and streams.

“This announcement has not yet been legislated and since the announcement the province has allowed StormCat Energy in the Fernie area to surface-discharge into the Elk River. We asked why that was allowed to happen despite the promise and we were told that the company was in the exploration phase during the announcement and it was unfair to alter the rules once the company already had tenure. The problem is that all 11 coal bed methane projects were in the exploration phase during that announcement.”

In the meantime, methane migrates and not all the gas comes up the well bore, some escapes in the air while in Alberta some methane released from coal seams has been found to migrate into other nearby water supplies.

“In the Sacred Headwaters, there is an estimated 8.1 trillion cubic feet and Shell would capture about 1.6 trillion. The rest would be vented in to the air,” she said.
She added that this is not comforting since it is 21 to 24 times more harmful than carbon dioxide emissions.

As for the impact on salmon, McPhail noted that coal bed methane has never been developed in a salmon-bearing region, but that it has been done in fish-bearing environments, some of which, she said, are no longer fish-bearing.

In Fernie, prior to surface water disposal, Encana conducted tests with trout fry and treated water. If 60 per cent of the fish survive over a 96-hour period, it is considered safe for surface disposal, she said. In all the trials, 100 per cent of the trout fry died, she told council.

“There are no cumulative or long-term impacts that were studied so we don’t know how it affects metabolic rate, reproduction of genetics. It’s kind of like saying, if smoking didn’t kill 540 per cent of the people in 96 hours, it must be safe,” she said.

As for benefits, she said studies have shown there are few for the communities in the region where coal bed methane takes place. A study in B. C. showed that based on all 11 projects under development, less than one per cent of employment came from local communities. And unlike mining, there is no profit sharing, no environmental assessment and rehabilitation planning done for restoration following the project’s termination, she said.

Seventy three percent of the revenue goes to the company, the province earns royalties and zero per cent go to landowners, First Nations and communities.

And as a final comfort, she noted the industry is regulated by the B. C. Oil and Gas Commission, which is 100 per cent funded by industry.

“It’s kind of like the fox watching the hen house,” she said.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Giving the barn a new coat of paint and calling it an artist's retreat

The CBC is all about regeneration and re branding this week. Yesterday they announced that after some seventy years of beautiful music together (well OK a few folks have come and gone over the years) the CBC Radio orchestra is to be no more.

The Vancouver based radio orchestra, normally heard on CBC 2, consisted of 35 free lance musicians who have been told by CBC execs that they will play their last note together in September. A move that didn't really come as much of a surprise to anyone who has watched the shift of demographics that the CBC is trying to chase down these days.

While they were humming that's the day the music died at the CBC, they were busy resuscitating their Country Canada channel. The digital offering that mainly offers up reruns of CBC's past prime time programming (many of which the CBC cancelled at one time or another) , seems to have found that the moniker "Country Canada" wasn't exactly pulling in the urban folks, so they've moved off the farm and into the city so to speak.

From the Metropolitan Opera, through the era of the Tudors and on to a new indie music series, it seems that Bold is going to an artistic and dramatic channel of sorts, an interesting shift from where it once came from, steeped in the lifestyle of rural Canada.

Of particular interest is their promise to provide "Live and Uncut" coverage of the Ford Women's curling championships. A rather "bold" promise we think, as usually live and uncut has connotations of much profanity and maybe even a little nudity.... gasp..... this ain't your Gramma's channel anymore..

Now we seriously doubt if the curling lasses are going to be tossing their clothes aside as they sweep their way down the rinks, but just the inadvertent teasing the prospect should bring a few eyeballs onto the new channel. Just imagine the possibilities of "art film curling", a sure fire winner we would think.

Of course even suggesting the same for the men's tournament and well the days of the old Country Canada audience cumes, will seem like the numbers of Hockey Night in Canada...

And baby makes three...

Ah yes, all over Vancouver today, royalty checks for Paul Anka are flowing across the border.

The most anticipated baby watch for Vancouver since news of a highly touted draft pick came out of Bethlehem is finally over, as Vancouver radio station CKNW offered up the details of the latest addition to the Luongo family on Friday morning's 8:15 sports cast.

Gabriella Luongo entered the world on Thursday or maybe it was Friday morning time flies eh, (uh just don't mention that to Gina there Roberto, words of experience speaking here) , a healthy little gal for Roberto and Gina, 7 lbs six ounce; Mommy is reported as fine, Daddy well who knows when it comes to Dads eh.

The plans to get Papa Luongo to the hospital in time were as guarded as those of the Canadian Army at Juno beach, with an airlift capacity and ground forces in place to make sure Papa made it to the baby front in time.

Now with operation Baby Gabriella at its successful conclusion, the real test begins, can the Canucks bring home their troops in time for tonight’s match up with the Wild in Minnesota.

With the jet fueled and the rental cars in place it’s hoped that Roberto will be in his familiar place between the pipes for tonight’s vital match with the Wild.

Interestingly enough the blessed event happened when the Canucks were in the most suitable geographical location should a back up have been required, Minneapolis/St. Paul as it is, just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Canucks farm club in Winnipeg.

However, the need to call up the farm hand for Roberto apparently won’t be required, the coded messages from Canucks HQ is that Luongo is on his way to play.

This will come as a great relief to Canuck fans that seemed to be getting a little antsy at the prospect of Bobby Lou having taken a family day (or two) to be with his wife at the most important moment in the life of a family. The need to chill out for Vancouver fans is rather obvious at the best of times, but none more than in the last week or so. Folks, its only hockey!

As for Papa, he no doubt is ready to distribute those ever popular cigars (though being in Minnesota we’re sure they won’t be Cubans now aren’t we!), in celebration of the family event. Though we wonder how effective a sleep deprived papa is going to be, playing a team that could put you to sleep by the time the anthem is complete.

For the Canuck’s the news is indeed welcome, with one more distraction now taken care of.
However, there’s no truth to the rumour that Dave Nonis offered Gabriela a walk on contract and plans to use her on the Canuck blue line later tonight…

We'll be right back after this short comercial message March 27

Mike finally put his plumbing diploma to good work...

Though we wonder if Mike was ever found alive...

Counting down the hours until Earth Hour

Will you be in the dark on Saturday night? If so you’ll be part of a world wide movement to show your concern about climate change.

Earth Hour is planned from 8 to 9 pm on Saturday, as Prince Rupert joins cities and towns across the globe in drawing awareness to the issue of climate change.

The city’s Green Advisory Task force will be hosting a two hour block party on Saturday as part of the Earth hour celebrations, including a music festival in front of city hall from 7:30 to 9:30 pm.

In the spirit of Earth Hour and its goal of energy awareness of that the 8-9 portion of the show will be an acoustical set… bring you own tambourine and spoon set…

The Daily News featured the plans for the weekend celebration as their front page story in Thursday’s paper.

Growing world event will be celebrated in Rueprt with several activities

By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pages one and two

Prince Rupert will be in the dark this Saturday evening as business, governments and individuals flick the switch to show how much they care about climate change.

Earth Hour, a WWF event that occurs globally, takes place from 8 to 9 p.m. on Sat., March 29.
In celebration, the city of Prince Rupert's Green Advisory Task Force and Communities in Bloom committees are co-hosting a block party and music festival on Third Avenue in front of city hall from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

"Our event starts at 7:30 p.m. downtown. At 8 p.m., we are asking everybody to turn off all of the power they can find in their house except maybe their freezers for one hour until 9 p.m. We have a block party downtown from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. and we are going to have music and face-painting. The Prince Rupert Green Advisory Task Force is going to use this as the first part of their consultation process on what Prince Rupert can do about Greenhouse gas reduction," said Coun. Joy Thorkelson.

“We will have unplugged music. I think it is going to be a lot of fun. We will have a countdown at 8 p. m. in front of city hall and then the party will be on its way. At 9 p. m., we can turn our lights back on because it is really just an awareness-raising campaign. B. C. Hydro will be able to tell us how much power we saved by turning our lights and power off.”

Anyone participating in Earth Hour is asked to sign up at the World Wildlife Federation website so the organization can keep track of the number of participants on a global scale.

Of all the countries participating in Earth Hour on March 29 at 8 p. m., Canada is leading the global effort on both the number of individuals who have signed up for the event and the number of cities participating. To date, almost 30,000 Canadians have registered their participation for Earth Hour and more than 60 cities from coast to coast have also pledged to turn off the lights on March 29.

In addition, on Sat., March 29, there will be a green energy and alternatives fair taking place at Northwest Community College in the multipurpose room from 1 to 5 p.m. Held in conjunction with Earth Hour, the fair will include displays by the WWF, Prince Rupert Environmental Society, The North Coast Water Quality and Biotoxin Society, Prince Rupert Green Advisory Task Force and others.

It will focus on the small changes people can make in their lives to fight climate change and save energy. For more information, or to be part of the event, call Gina Clark at 627-4331.