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Letters – for Jan. 20, 2011

A report worth reading

In the Jan. 13 issue of the Co-operator,Doug Faller, policy manager for the Agricultural Producers of Saskatchewan, gives a comprehensive report on his take of the “Interim Report on the Rail Freight Service Review.”

This report is readily found by putting this preceding sentence into your computer search engine. You will have enough reading for an afternoon at least. The report is divided up, roughly, into non-railway stakeholders and then the two railways CN and CP have the opportunity to make their case.

All the various degrees of sins and commission thereof are aired in public and duly reported in this “interim” report. You will note that I haven’t given you any specifics and that is simply because I know that you mostly all have access to a computer, and I think it would be a useful exercise for you to read it in its entirety.

As well, of course, the final report was due by last year-end. I checked with Transport Canada and they don’t have anything yet. This service report is a first step, but a government initiative to launch a costing study would complement this study.

I think that anyone paying freight costs or who feels they have been unfairly treated should be very interested in this report. As only government can make any changes that might make a difference, an upcoming election might be a good time to hold politicians accountable. In the interest of full disclosure, I paid freight to the CPR for 40 years as well as numerous producer cars and now I own a few shares in CN and CP. Malcolm Macdonald

Brandon, Man.

Lake Needs An Enema

Would shutting down the agriculture industry in the province reduce the nutrient loading as suggested by Les McEwan in the Jan. 6 issue of the Manitoba Co-operator?

I agree that we have to make ourselves heard if Lake Winnipeg is to survive. But will government(s) listen, pay attention and react?

It seems the lake is being studied to death. The conclusions today are much the same as they were 10 years ago. There is an overload of nutrients, sediments and contaminants getting into the lake waters. That is the crux of the problem turning the lake green.

However, there is another situation that deserves consideration and attention.

Public hearings will be underway this fall regarding Manitoba Hydro’s application for a permanent regulatory licence to keep Lake Winnipeg as a reservoir. It is expected that these hearings will be well attended, especially by the cottage people and those who were affected by the huge wave, in the south basin during late Oct. last year. But regardless of high or low water levels of the lake, until the health of the lake is re-established, it matters nought. For if the lake dies, no one will want to be, or live anywhere near the putrid and stagnant body of water.

Once this relatively free-flowing fresh water source was dammed in the 1970s (and became a reservoir), the residence time for all the contaminants is now three times longer. So, not only are more nutrients getting into the lake waters, they are remaining there longer.

The lake needs an enema to relieve itself and become clean. In conclusion, the valued wisdom and enlightenment of Professor Eva Pip, and her extensive studies and knowledge of Lake Winnipeg would be of great benefit in this matter. Hopefully she will be called upon to help save the lake for all of us.

Refocus Phosphorus Thinking

I note in Les McEwan’s excellent column Jan. 6 news of the establishment of a research chair for watershed systems research within the soils department at the University of Manitoba’s faculty of agricultural and food sciences. Unfortunately this is a step to lock us into the conventional wisdom of the last 10 years in Manitoba: that farmers are largely responsible for extra phosphorus flowing into our Prairie waterways and therefore creating increased algae growth in our local lakes like Killarney, Pelican, and Rock and also in Lake Winnipeg.

A cliché in regular use is that we need to think outside the box. Fortunately, researchers at the University of Alberta have been doing that lately. They realize that phosphorus has been flowing off the productive soils of the Prairies for the 10,000 years since grasses covered the land after the last Ice Age. They believe what has changed in the last 40 years is the chemistry within lakes across the Prairie region. Their research indicates that 85 to 90 per cent of the phosphorus now in the water column comes from bottom sediment.

Historically, naturally occurring iron reacted with phosphorus to form a precipitate that took phosphorus out of the water column. This also sealed lake bottoms to prevent additional phosphorus in the sediment from moving into the water column.

The Alberta researchers’ thesis is that increasing sulphur in our lakes is reacting with the limited amounts of iron, breaking down the bottom precipitate and releasing all that historic sediment phosphorus. They are examining the possibility of adding iron to lakes to restore the normal balance.

As McEwan points out we have done a whole bunch of good things in agriculture in recent years. This includes injecting hog manure and moving cattle wintering operations away from waterways. But all this will be of very minor significance if the Alberta researchers are correct. If one thinks it through, there may well be less dissolved phosphorus flowing off the land now than from the vast grasslands prior to European settlement.

Let’s refocus our thinking. The objective is saving our lakes, not researching agricultural practices to death.

Wowchuk Continues To Mislead

Rosann Wowchuk, the minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, continues to mislead the public on details related to the Bipole III high-voltage transmission line from northern Manitoba to a converter station east of Winnipeg.

Wowchuk downplays the extra costs that will be incurred by following the west-side route as opposed to running the line down the shorter, more direct route on the east side of Lake Winnipeg. The west-side route will be 480 km longer and require approximately 900 more towers to carry the line. Even the minister agrees the west-side line will be considerably more costly to build and to maintain. However, she doesn’t take into consideration the line losses incurred because of the longer route. Those line losses will be substantial and will continue for the full life of the line. The longer line will also emit more greenhouse gases.

Wowchuk has also talked on several occasions about power sales to Saskatchewan, leading people to believe that you can just draw the power off the Bipole III line. Once again, this is misleading. The Bipole III line will be transporting direct current power (DC) which must be converted into alternating current (AC) before it is usable to the public. Therefore, the line has to go directly to the converter station east of Winnipeg, be converted to AC power and then be transported by other lines back to the markets. Unless Saskatchewan – or for that matter Manitoba – builds two more converter stations on the west side of the province, direct power sales from Bipole III are not possible.

She is also trying to convince the people of Manitoba that the new line is a done deal, that it is too late to change the route. However, construction of Bipole III is not slated to begin until 2013 with completion in 2017. At a time when our provincial debt continues to climb at an alarming rate, when deficit budgets have become routine and hydro rates continue to rise every year, I suggest all Manitobans tell Premier Greg Selinger and his NDP government to stop saddling future generations of Manitobans with more debt. The new Bipole III transmission line should be built on the shorter, cheaper, more reliable route on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.

Preventing GM Contamination Is Key

This letter is in response to the Jan. 6 letter by Bob Bartley. It would be nice if everyone would get their facts straight and do a little research on the subject they are talking about. First of all, GMO and biotechnology are NOT the same. Biotechnology includes GMO but it also includes laboratory work that does not relate specifically to genetically modified organisms.

Secondly, yes biotechnology is used in medicine but to my knowledge it is still ILLEGAL to fiddle with genetics so that you create genetically modified humans. So don’t insinuate that all biotechnology is GMO stuff because it is NOT.

Thirdly, show me the documents that prove that GMO crops are more productive, use less pesticides, and are sustainable. In fact some research shows that GM soya and corn has shown reduced yields and certainly has not been living up to its expectations.

Finally, it is not the idea that GMO crops are being grown that bothers me. If you can figure out a way to prevent contamination of other people’s crops by GMO crops, I’m all for it. But it can’t be done.

I am imagining a scenario in the future when no one will be able to grow their own vegetables without having to talk to their lawyer. If the law says we are to keep off our neighbour’s property without permission, then that should apply to all trespassers.

Anne Bachewich Sandy Lake, Man.

Please forward letters to Manitoba Co-operator, 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, R3H 0H1 or Fax: 204-954-1422 or email: [email protected] (subject: To the editor)

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