The Mactaquac Dam spillway, New Brunswick, on a foggy morning.
NB Power’s preferred Mactaquac Dam decision was handed down near Fredericton this morning. That decision is the late entrant among the options: to prolong the life of the dam as close to its original 100-year life as possible through maintenance and replacement in situ. Discussed today as the cheapest of the four options ($2.9 to $3.6 billion), the project has been given the oddly Soviet title of the Mactaquac Life Achievement Project. A new web experience awaits the curious who visit mactaquac.ca today, including backgrounders such as a paltry two-pager on First Nations engagement, the first output we have seen from that consultation other than this under-the-radar announcement via the NB Media Co-op. Kingsclear First Nation, whose land is a long sliver pointing directly at the dam, is deeply disappointed. Improvement is planned in multi-species fish passage, though not to the satisfaction of WWF, but the problem of inadequate upstream flow will still challenge any fish that survive the trip. No new river crossing for vehicles will be required, as the dam wall will continue to serve as a bridge. Many upriver locals will be pleased at this outcome, though expect frustration to be voiced at the the stress and disruption of the debate given such a status quo result. Let’s watch the budget evolve, and do it all again in a few decades. There is unlikely to be much money available to invest in renewables until then.
Yan Chen, MES 2016
Yan Chen defended her innovative SSHRC- and NSGS-funded MES thesis masterfully on Friday. She gleaned youth landscape values from a year’s worth of Instagram images from a 5-km radius of the actual and proposed headponds, respectively, of the Mactaquac and Site C dams. Being the first defense since a large new class of MES students started in the fall, the room was packed with supporters. Committee member John Parkins skyped in from the University of Alberta, and Faculty of Management colleague Jennifer Grek-Martin examined the thesis, which included wide-ranging discussions on landscape, sense of place, aesthetics, digitalism (our new religion as described by Yuval Harari), and virtual/augmented reality. It was everything you hope a defense can be: Yan spoke strongly in support of her work, and creatively about its potential implications and improvements. I look forward to getting her papers out in the literature, and building on it with a SSHRC Insight Grant that went in on Monday, led by colleague and expert in making Big Data matter, Mike Smit.
Fishermen and migratory birds compete for space along the Minas Basin (photo: Mark Elderkin)
Bird Studies Canada currently has year 1 funding (NS Habitat Conservation Fund) for a three-year project, Space to Roost, understanding human-bird conflict in important roosting sites along the Minas Basin during shorebird migrations in late summer. This funding includes support to hire a Nova Scotia (6-months prior residency) student the summer of 2016. This will be our first year of a 3-year project. We will be conducting human-use audits at 3-4 roost sites to gather baseline information at sites during peak fall migration (July – August) to understand spatial and temporal use of recreational activities (e.g., fishermen, swimmers, dog walkers) and other human-induced threats. The summer student position will require someone with an interest in outreach who’s not shy about approaching people, initiating conversations with individuals at roost sites, and contacting user group representatives. Basically, this first field season will lay the ground work for developing and piloting conservation strategies to reduce human pressures at roost sites in year two. The role would best suit a student entering their last year of a conservation, recreation or environmental studies degree. Someone who is seeking to collect data for a final year Honours thesis would be ideal, and perhaps even someone interested in continuing on to a funded MES on the topic. Please contact me if you are interested.
The short documentary from our October 2015 citizen jury on electrical futures in New Brunswick, led by Tom Beckley at UNB, is now available for viewing online. Another great product from the UNB Media Production team, who also did our Mactaquac Revisited houseboat tour video in 2013. The Energy Transitions team is looking forward to its next meeting at this year’s ISSRM in Houghton, Michigan, where I am co-convening a stream of 5 sessions on energy landscapes and transitions.