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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for May 28th, 2007

Trees v travel: campaigners take on industry over airport expansion

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John Vidal and Dan Milmo
Tuesday May 29, 2007
The Guardian

A public enquiry is going to be held on the expansion of Stansted Airport. This is north east of London and the most recent of London’s major airports. It is one of the cheaper options and is therefore very popular with the budget airlines to Europe.

Campaigners say the government’s 2010 target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% is contradicted by its aviation policy, which is committed to new runways at Heathrow and Stansted if environmental standards are met. “At the heart of this issue is the contradiction between the government’s aviation policy and its climate change policy,” said Brian Ross, of the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign.

This does sound familar doesn’t it. Just like the BC government’s declaration of a new climate change policy and its old highways expansion policy. (Actually, MoTH never changes any of its policies or plans when governments change. It has been operating in the same way for years and sees no reason why it should change now. It is the ministry that builds highways, first and foremost. Anything else is a distraction.)

The airport expansion threatens an old growth forest (even rarer in Britain than here) but the novelty the Guardian grabs onto is the potential appearance of a former minister from Greenland – an Inuit.

Aqqaluk Lynge, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council and a former minister in the government of Greenland, is also expected to make an appearance during the inquiry to argue against the expansion.

And the potential for the melting of the Greenland ice sheet is one of those eventualities that climate change scientists really worry about. Because once that goes, it seems doubtful if the warming can be reversed. 

Written by Stephen Rees

May 28, 2007 at 5:55 pm

We Need More Dikes! Or Do We?

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:: News ::

An interesting examination of alternatives to raising the dykes – or building more of them. As practiced in the Netherlands, where the entire country is in a similar situation to the Lower Mainland

The new strategy has a descriptive name. It’s called “Room for the River.” The name captures the essence of a nine-year, €2.2 billion (C$3.4 billion) program to give the Rhine delta’s residents better protection from future floods while improving the aquatic and riparian environment by, as the name implies, giving the periodic flows of high water more room to spread out over portions of the river’s historic floodplain.

It’s being done several ways:

  • Where it can be done without harming healthy ecosystems, foreshore areas between the river and dikes are being excavated to lower their level and leave more room to hold floodwater.
  • A dozen dikes are being moved further away from the river, again to give the Rhine room to flood; some homes and buildings will be torn down to accommodate the realignment.
  • Land along an upstream reach of the Dutch portion of the river is being set aside as a “last-resort retention area” that will be flooded in extreme high-water emergencies.

And similar strategies are in place elsewhere. Even in the United States

Florida, on its Kissimmee River, and Wisconsin on its Menominee, have implemented similar strategies. After the worst flood ever on the Mississippi, when it breached its levees in some 500 places in 1993, killing 50 people and doing C$18 billion worth of damage, a federal study group recommended giving the Old Man River more room to spread out in future floods …

So have we looked at it?

Making room for rivers to do what comes naturally when their waters run high is neither rocket science nor a novel concept. But remarkably it appears to have been given little if any serious consideration in British Columbia. “I’m not sure how much it’s been looked at,” Steve Litke, the program officer in charge of coordinating flood research and planning at the Fraser Basin Council, confided. “I haven’t seen anything in the last five or 10 years that I’ve been here.”

Why am I not surprised?

Written by Stephen Rees

May 28, 2007 at 9:33 am

Posted in flood watch

Waste: The bad . . . and the good

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Waste: The bad . . . and the good

Christianne Wilhelmson and David Lane, Special to the Sun

Published: Monday, May 28, 2007


Only three of GVRD’s five sewage plants have secondary treatment, none have tertiary. The Lions Gate plant in West Vancouver and Iona plant in Richmond treat sewage at a mere primary level. Primary treatment screens out solids, but leaves behind in the liquid effluent most of the oxygen-depleting organics, heavy metals and bioaccumulative chemicals.Consider this: Every day, Iona dumps the equivalent of 221 Olympic-sized swimming pools of toxic sewage at the mouth of the Fraser River. A growing body of research suggests that this threatens the billion juvenile salmon that migrate annually through these waters. The GVRD acknowledges that primary treatment is inadequate. Its Liquid Waste Management Plan also requires Lions Gate and Iona to be upgraded to secondary.

In other words, everybody agrees: To protect Burrard Inlet and Georgia Strait, the GVRD must upgrade Lions Gate and Iona plants to secondary treatment.

Actually some of us think all five plants need to upgraded to tertiary – like most of the rest of the developed world. Frankly I regard BC’s “thumbing their nose” at the federal government (the article’s words not mine) as shameful. BC is supposed to be a world leader. We invented Greenpeace. We tout ourselves as “The Best Place on Earth”. We strut our stuff on the international stage – and we put on showcases like the Olympics – which, by the way are supposed to lead the world in sustainability. Poisoning our in shore fisheries of course is not seen as part of sustainability in Victoria or Vancouver. That’s why visitors to our beaches will continue to see warnings about the shell fish and locals will warn visitors not to eat farmed salmon. And don’t paddle at Garry Point. Even breathing near Annacis Island is an unpleasant experience.

Odd that governments have deep pockets when dragged before the courts – they will fight this all the way no matter how high the fees run.  I think I would rather my tax dollars went to clean up the muck, rather than defend our “right” to foul our own nest.

On May 31, Sierra Legal and Chapman will be back in court. The big question is: Will the federal government now help to prosecute these polluters — or will it shield the GVRD and the province by shutting down the prosecutions?Christianne Wilhelmson is the Clean Air and Water Co-ordinator with the Georgia Strait Alliance. David Lane is the Executive Director of the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 28, 2007 at 9:11 am