The Pulse: June 30, 2022

The Pulse will be off tomorrow for Canada Day, returning to your inbox on Monday, July 4. Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • 22°C: A mix of sun and cloud. 30% chance of showers in the afternoon with risk of a thunderstorm. High 22. UV index 7 or high. (forecast)
  • 13: As of June 29, there were 13 Albertans in ICU because of COVID-19, the lowest number since October 2020. (details)
  • Yellow/Light Blue/Pink: The High Level Bridge will be lit yellow, light blue, and pink for Father's Day on the Hill, an annual event to raise awareness about men's mental health. (details)

High water on the North Saskatchewan River looking towards the Rossdale power plant

Protecting Edmonton's water supply from climate change uncertainty

By Brett McKay

In much of Alberta, climate change threatens to make water a scarce resource. But for Edmonton's water supply, the main concerns will come from having too much rather than not enough.

Temperatures and precipitation levels in the Edmonton region are expected to rise because of climate change. The North Saskatchewan River is already seeing increased seasonal fluctuations, and the heightened likelihood of major storms and flooding could affect the security of the city's water treatment plants, both of which are located in a flood plain.

EPCOR's Source Water Protection Plan states that a one-in-100-year flood has the potential to cause significant damage to both the Rossdale and E.L. Smith water treatment plants. Less severe storms, like the 1986 flood that turned city streets into canals, can also cause short-term disruptions.

To protect against these unpredictable events, EPCOR is working to install flood barriers to shield the treatment facilities and move critical infrastructure out of the flood plain.

"In terms of potable water supply, or drinking water supply, there is a flood hardening project that we're doing at both the water treatment plants to create barriers around the plants to protect in times of a one-in-500-year flood, plus a contingency for some greater variability from climate change," said Steph Neufeld, a watershed manager with EPCOR.

Some of this work, such as the relocation of infrastructure to less vulnerable locations, is already underway. Findings from consultations on the flood barriers will be presented to city council in 2023, and EPCOR expects to begin construction in 2024.

The security of Edmonton's water treatment plants affects not just city residents, but the many surrounding communities that are supplied from these same reservoirs. Because there are 28,000 square kilometres of the North Saskatchewan upstream of the Rossdale water treatment plant, researching the impacts of climate change on the river involves several stakeholders between Edmonton and the headwater.

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By Kevin Holowack and Mack Male

  • The province reported 115 drug poisoning deaths in April, which is 10.8% lower than April 2021 but 17% higher than April 2020. Edmonton had the highest rate of drug poisoning deaths in Alberta, at 66.2 per 100,000 people, more than double the provincial average, Postmedia reports.
  • The city is reminding residents to be safe on the North Saskatchewan River this summer, explaining that while there was a notable increase in usage in 2021, nearly half of river users stopped for safety checks were not in compliance with boating regulations. Edmonton Fire Rescue Services responded to 138 water rescues in 2020, including animal rescues, and 42 so far in 2022.
  • Search efforts continue for Lila Smith, a 13-year-old-girl who was reported missing on June 24. Smith took the bus to Killarney School in the morning but never arrived to class. "We're sleep-deprived. We're hoping for the best. We're just looking for someone to come forward with information that can be helpful to finding Lila," said family friend Robyn Hanson. Anyone with information about Lila can contact the Edmonton Police Service or Crime Stoppers.
  • Edmonton has been ranked 30th out of 1,105 cities in North America in the latest PeopleForBikes ranking of the best cycling cities. With a rating of 56, Edmonton cracked the top ten of large cities, coming in at #7 behind Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver.
  • The Talus Dome was defaced with spray paint on June 29. Jenna Turner with the Edmonton Arts Council said the organization will contract a cleaner even though two Edmontonians took it upon themselves to clean the paint off, a good deed she discourages for risk of further damage. The 1,000 hand-crafted steel balls were spray-painted before in 2018 and dented in 2015.
  • Edmonton is seeing more skunks this year than previous years. Bill Abercrombie with Animal Damage Control said his company has been finding an average of nine to 10 skunks per litter compared to the usual three or four, which he attributes to last year's heat wave. Dale Ginow, director of the rehabilitation facility WILDNorth, said adding light or sound can make your property less comfortable for skunks but added that having them in the area can help to control pests like wasps and hornets, Global News reports.
  • Alan Koch, coach of FC Edmonton, is navigating the team through its most difficult year to date. The soccer team is currently seeking new ownership as it continues to rebound from a last-place finish at the Canadian Premier League's Island Games competition in 2020, the league reports.
  • Alberta Health Services staff have painted a large Pride flag at a crosswalk outside the Royal Alexandra Hospital. AHS spokesperson Marni Panas told CTV News the mural is a reminder of inclusivity.
  • The province has launched a new survey to help "inform potential changes" to the Municipal Government Act and the Local Authorities Election Act, which could be introduced to the legislature as soon as fall 2022. The survey can be completed online.
  • Raj Sherman, who was head of the Alberta Liberal Party from 2011 to 2015, has become the tenth officially registered candidate in the UCP leadership race.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds seedlings in the Wild + Pine greenhouse

How to grow a climate change solution

By Karen Unland

The founder and CEO of Wild + Pine is building a company to maximize the use of a powerful tool to decrease carbon dioxide and mitigate the effects of climate change: the tree.

"Here in Alberta, we're builders, we're tool-makers, we're innovators — we love looking for how we build that next solution, when ... it's been here all along," Chris Kallal told Faaiza Ramji on Episode 20 of Bloom, Taproot's innovation podcast. "We're pretty good at building refineries. But we're also pretty good at planting trees."

Wild + Pine, which caught the attention of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he was in Edmonton in April, grows the seedlings that will become the engine of that nature-based carbon removal. It also engages in afforestation — that is, reclaiming ground that had been cleared for agriculture or industry — to put those trees to work. But the opportunity to make an even bigger difference is in selling carbon offsets to businesses of all sizes, in a "verified and transparent and measurable way," Kallal said. That's the idea behind the new StoneWoods Forest Carbon Project.

Kallal is a forester by trade, but he recognizes that to achieve Wild + Pine's lofty goals, he's going to have to focus on the growth of more than just the trees.

"The scale of what we're being asked for is simply not achievable by a small business," he said. "So that's kind of my job over the next six to 12 months. How do I position Wild + Pine so that we can grow?"

Listen to the episode to learn more about what Wild + Pine has done and what's next. And you'll hear about some other climate-solutions news, including a new funding program from Alberta Innovates targeting innovation in agri-business and bioindustry.

Bloom is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and everywhere else you get your podcasts.

Photo: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a bundle of seedlings in the Wild + Pine in April 2022. (Supplied)

This story is part of Taproot's participation in Covering Climate Now's joint coverage week, running from June 27 to July 1. Find more #CCNow coverage from around the world.

Old painted signs on the side of the brick Phillips Building, one advertising insurance and another wholesale dry goods

Weekend agenda: July 1-3, 2022

By Karen Unland

This weekend kicks off with Canada Day, of course, but besides those festivities and fireworks, this long weekend offers Pride on film, historical tours of trains and ghost signs, jazz and opera, outdoor eats, and an improv book launch.

Find even more fun things to do in the Arts Roundup.

Photo: The Edmonton & District Historical Society's Historic Festival and Doors Open Edmonton 2022 begins this weekend with events around the region. (Jane's Walk YEG)