June 2013

Manitoba Chamber of Commerce

Issue link: http://publications.winnipegfreepress.com/i/141831

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INTERLAKE A bail of cattails (left) harvested from the Netley-Libau Marsh can be converted for use as fuel. INTERLAKE Photos courtesy of IISD O n the surface, cattails look pretty innocuous — part of the diverse array of plant life comprising any wetlands ecosystem. But left unchecked they can have a negative impact on marshes, loading them down with excess nutrients that ultimately deprive those same ecosystems of oxygen. That's the present situation at Netley-Libau Marsh, where researchers are exploring ways to improve the health of the wetlands and Lake Winnipeg by harvesting cattails as a renewable energy source. The International Institute for Science Development (IISD), in partnership with the University of Manitoba and Ducks Unlimited Canada, has for years been the driving force behind the Netley-Libau Nutrient-Bioenergy Project, which aims to reduce nutrient levels entering Lake Winnipeg by harvesting phosphorous-laden cattails and repurposing them as low-carbon fuel. "Beyond simple heat production and burning, there are much higher values for that material," says Richard Grossman, a research scientist with IISD who began studying the area in 2006 as part of his PhD work. "You can actually produce things like biocarbon, which is a coal supplement — where you slow-roast the biomass material and it creates biocoal." One of the largest freshwater coastal wetlands in Canada, Netley-Libau is comprised of shallow lakes, channels and marsh areas through which the Red River flows on its way to Lake Winnipeg. Excess amounts of phosphorous from the marsh — much of it the result of decomposing hybrids of invasive European cattails and native species — contribute to an increase of blue-green algae blooms that deprive the lake of oxygen. "Cattails can be an invasive species … they form very dense zones, which is one of the primary issues," Grosshans says. "You talk to the old-timers, and they'll tell you ARBORG & DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE how that marsh was once completely different — there was a whole mix of different species there … and that's what the wildlife really likes, especially the ducks." The project has a number of positive spinoffs — chief among them the potential for bioenergy production and the attendant commercial applications. Cattails can be compressed into pellets, cubes or logs, which can then be burned in place of fuel — greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The captured phosphorous can also be recycled into fertilizer, and the entire process generates revenue from carbon credits — a perk that drew early interest from the Manitoba Lotteries Corp. (now the Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corp.) which became a partner on the project. "They were always buying (carbon credits) from foreign sources, and they wanted to buy something local," Grosshans says. "They joined in on the project and are providing us with funding through the purchase of carbon offsets." The research team is also working on ways to turn cattails into ethanol or even methane, and IISD has taken a lead role in exploring larger-scale applications and commercialization. Here in Manitoba, it would be tough for biofuels to compete with hydroelectric power as a primary energy source, but Grosshans says opportunities do exist on smaller farms and Hutterite colonies, and in Alberta and Ontario, where communities are more reliant on coal. The IISD is the world's leading research group on this particular aspect of cattail culling. In addition to support from Manitoba Hydro, Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship and Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries, the project receives logistical help from the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute, which oversaw the actual harvesting of cattails last fall. www.iisd.org/wic ASHERN & DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE ERIKSDALE & DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE FISHER BRANCH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE RIVERTON & DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE TEULON & DISTRICT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE NEW & NOTEWORTHY >> The Gimli Film Festival shoots for the stars with a new slate of independent movies July 24 - 28. The festival set an attendance record last year, drawing 13,500 people, including 9,900 who watched movies projected on an 11-metre outdoor screen on the beach. This year, it's adding a Growing Interlake Film Talent (GIFT) Video contest in partnership with the Interlake Tourism Assoc. Interlake Development Corp. and area municipalities provided funding for the project, which will develop talent and help the tourism association and towns stockpile videos promoting the region. See www.gimlifilm.com. >> Community Futures East Interlake Inc. has launched The Build Interlake Growth (BIG) program to stimulate regional development. The program will contribute up to $5,000 for new projects that create employment or that help make communities more attractive to new residents. See www.eastinterlake.com. MBiz June 2013 33 MBiz June 2013_final.indd Sec1:33 6/21/13 3:26:28 PM

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