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Difficult to measure damage to rivers

Disasters like the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or the earthquake-caused nuclear leak event in Japan always seem far, far away when they make world-wide headlines.

Disasters like the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or the earthquake-caused nuclear leak event in Japan always seem far, far away when they make world-wide headlines.

But as our present river situation shows, we’re never really that far removed from human-caused environmental issues.

Often, these issues are just a matter of scale.

We’re not saying TransAlta’s massive release of water into Goat Creek and the Spray and Bow Rivers is on par in any way with the aforementioned mega disasters, but there are some similarities.

A man-made mechanical turbine’s failure resulted in the massive release of water into the river system. Huge volumes of water are causing what amounts to a months-long runoff situation, Parks and people who earn their livelihood on the river are concerned with aquatic life being harmed and the problem is growing in scope – as in the water release is slated to continue through the end of August.

What state the creek and rivers will be in when the waters recede is open to speculation. Will a fishery be lost, causing economic damage for fishing guides and tourism, or, for example, will a massive re-stocking and rehabilitation project be necessary to return the bodies of water to their natural state?

Again, scale-wise, this event little resembles the BP spill which caused far reaching damage to fish, wildlife, riparian areas and shorelines on the coasts of the Gulf states and major setbacks for commercial and other fishing operations in the region – not to mention billions spent on cleanup.

But, of course, with the water still pouring through the waterways, nobody can yet say what the end result will be. Fish stocks cannot be repaired in the short term, nor can spawning areas.

We’d still like to hear Alberta Environment and Fisheries and Oceans Canada weigh in further on the situation – beyond a simple declaration that TransAlta is operating within the requirments of its licence.

In the end, questions of re-stocking, river remediation, compensation, etc. remain to be answered; along with the associated costs of such measures.

We’ll be looking into it.

Wildlife and vehicles an ongoing issue

And speaking of human-caused environmental issues, there is the continuing saga of our bears (in particular) in relation to vehicular traffic.

Photographers and rubber neckers alike who discover the whereabouts of bears, then troll the roads looking for keeper photos continues to be a problem.

…we know, we know, everybody wants to get a photo of a bear to take home from their holiday, or get a photo to pay their bills, but these trollers are posing an habituation issue.

Like everybody else, staffers at RMO are thrilled when we see bears, but we feel the constant appearance of vehicles bearing photographers only causes bears to lose their caution around said vehicles; likely with a poor end result.

As well, speeding in the national parks remains an issue. The grizzly population simply cannot absorb the losses, particularly of producing females, caused by them being killed by speeding cars and trucks.

One reader (Vox Populi, page 13) motorcycle touring through Banff and on Highway 93 to Jasper reports average vehicle speeds were in the range of 105 to 125 km/h.

As a very informal speed test, RMO editor Dave Whitfield, on a recent drive from Field, B.C., to Banff, set cruise control at exactly 90 km/h (give or take allowances due to manufacturer error) – and passed only a handful of vintage vehicles which couldn’t manage even 80 km/h.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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