VIDEO: “The Town of Comox is a leader among municipalities in taking care of a ‘creekshed’ and enjoying a package of ecological services provided by it,” stated Tim Pringle when he debriefed Council about the Brooklyn Creek Demonstration Application of the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP)

Note to Reader:

The Town of Comox is a demonstration application for the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP), one of the twin pillars for “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management”. This whole-system, water balance approach connects hydrology and ecology.

The Comox experience shows how application of EAP would make it straightforward for communities to determine “the worth” of ecological services, establish the “dollar value” of the land under those assets, incorporate natural assets in financial plans, and make better land use decisions.

EAP uses the BC Assessment database regarding land value to calculate the financial value of the Commons Asset – that is, the land underlying the stream and adjacent set-back area. Both the record of expenditures for maintenance and management (calculation of worth) and the financial value of the commons asset calculation provide financial information about ecological (natural) assets that can be included in local government financial planning and Asset Management Strategies and Plans.

Choice of language matters. EAP helps stakeholders look at creeksheds and natural assets through a different lens. In particular, maintenance means prevent degradation and management means enhancement of ecological services.

On September 5th 2018, Tim Pringle (EAP Chair) met with Comox Town Council to present the EAP findings for the Broooklyn Creek watershed.

Brooklyn Creek EAP Demonstration Application

“Brooklyn Creek is a small creekshed whose hydrology and ecological services have been altered and degraded by decades of land use impacts,” wrote Tim Pringle in the preface to Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process for Watershed Assessment: Brooklyn Creek Demonstration Application in the Comox Valley.

“Of three local governments with management authority over land use and conservation in the creekshed, only the Town of Comox has acted strategically for more than a decade to maintain (prevent degradation) and manage (enhance) the stream corridor and the available ecological services.

COMOX PENINSULA – View looking north: An aerial impression of the different land uses in the Brooklyn creekshed

EAP Explained

The Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) assesses an entire watershed at the creekshed (order 1 or 2 stream) scale. It focuses on ecological services supported by hydrologic realities.

EAP considers what the watershed was, what it is now, and what the community would like it to be, and uses this “current state” analysis to determine the activities that stakeholders could undertake to improve its ecological services through management(enhancement) and maintenance (prevent degradation).

By choosing an option or mix of options stakeholders (key intervenors) will decide to invest time, expertise and dollars. Their actions form a measure of worth that characterizes the watershed or creekshed.

The report offers three big ideas

“The first big idea is that local government, First Nations, and community, businesses and other stakeholders have divergent views about what the ecological services of the creekshed may be worth,” continued Tim Pringle.

“The Town’s actions through the parks, public works and planning departments in concert with the Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society reflect that these stakeholders understand the worth (value in use) of the package of ecological services provided by the creekshed:

They appreciate the insoluble connection between the condition of entire creekshed hydrology and the extent of ecological services available in their catchment.

“This realization has led to investment of more than $4 million to acquire, maintain and manage lands harbouring ecological systems and aesthetically-connected parks, greenways, trails and other recreational assets.

“The second big idea is that the Water Balance Methodology provides an accurate analysis of the condition of the hydrology.  As the engine that powers ecological services, impaired hydrological functions result in a diminished package of ecological services.

“The third big idea concerns financial value of lands occupied by the stream corridor, riparian areas and wetlands. In the Town of Comox many residential properties abut the stream corridor on each side.  Property owners may not build on the portion of their parcel that is in the set-back area.  The ribbon of setback areas on each side of the stream together with the stream bed area itself comprises a commons asset.”

Reflections on the Demonstration Process

In the first week of September 2018, Tim Pringle presented the Brooklyn Creek report to the Town of Comox Council. While presenting, he spoke to a full public gallery that included representatives of the neighbouring local governments and the Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society.

“Questions posed during the interactive segment confirmed that the community sees the report as an important resource that lends itself to implementation,” reports Tim Pringle.

“The process of the EAP analysis was supported actively by the Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society, three Town operating departments – public works, parks and planning – and several local businesses. These collaborators helped review the EAP report at the draft stage.

“In the view of the Town of Comox and the Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society, the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP)  analysis of the creekshed supports past and future management and maintenance strategy.”

EAP Deliverables

“It is safe to say that there is strong interest in the three deliverables of the EAP,” continues Tim Pringle. “The context of the analysis is the entire creekshed, although the focus is on the lower catchment that lies within the Town of Comox.

“The first deliverable is the functioning condition of the creekshed hydrology determined through a review of historical land use patterns and application of the Water Balance Methodology – how close to natural processes is it?

“The second is worth; what does the community think the creekshed is worth based on investment of volunteer time and labour, cash, and expertise.

“The third is the commons asset. This is the land underlying the stream corridor and the required set-back areas that abut the stream.”

To Learn More:

To download a PDF copy of the complete PowerPoint presentation by Tim Pringle, click on Valuing the Water Balance Services Provided by Nature: The Brooklyn Creek Demonstration Application.

Download a copy of Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process for Watershed Assessment: Brooklyn Creek Demonstration Application in the Comox Valley