Green Infrastructure

Green communities – ‘today’s expectations are tomorrow’s standards’ is a provincial government mantra in British Columbia. Since the built and natural environments are connected, design with nature to protect watershed function. The Green Communities Initiative provides a policy, regulatory and program framework for enabling local governments to create more compact, more sustainable and greener communities. Lead by example. Showcase innovation. Celebrate successes.

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What is “Green Infrastructure”? – Looking back to understand the origin, meaning and use of the term in British Columbia

“Two complementary strategies can ‘green’ a community and its infrastructure: first, preserving as much as possible of the natural green infrastructure; and secondly, promoting designs that soften the footprint of development,” wrote Susan Rutherford. “Green infrastructure design is engineering design that takes a ‘design with nature’ approach, to both mitigate the potential impacts of existing and future development and growth and to provide valuable services.”

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“The Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia is the keeper of the GIP legacy,” observes Paul Ham, a Past-Chair of the Green Infrastructure Partnership

“I see my years of chairing the Green Infrastructure Partnership as helping to get the ball rolling and ideas disseminated, on green infrastructure, all of which has subsequently been taken up by others to a much greater degree of implementation and success. Our efforts a decade ago moved the state of-the-art of green infrastructure to a more mainstream level,” said Paul Ham.

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DOWNLOAD: “The Story of the 2008 Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series” – following release of Living Water Smart, this grass-roots capacity-building program was undertaken in response to the Province’s call to action create greener communities and prepare for climate change

Inter-departmental participation by all member local governments effectively meant closing front counters on three Fridays for most of the day so that planning, engineering, operations and building inspection staff could attend the Learning Lunch seminars. “Throughout the series, our theme and our challenge was to ask participants what will they do better or differently to achieve a shared vision for the Cowichan Valley,” stated David Hewetson, Building Inspector with the City of Duncan. “This is why it was so important to get everyone thinking in terms of the What – So What – Now What mind-map.”

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MUNICIPAL NATURAL ASSET MANAGEMENT IN BC: “We’re aiming to translate enthusiastic interest in our home-grown approach into real-world practice in municipalities and asset management organizations around the world,” says Emanuel Machado, CAO, Town of Gibsons

“We get it. It can feel incredibly daunting to implement a significant change to your established systems – even when there’s clear evidence that change will almost certainly help improve decision-making, reduce asset funding requirements and advance your community’s resilience to climate change over the long-term,” states Emanuel Machado. “That’s why the Town of Gibsons was first inspired to create “Advancing Municipal Natural Asset Management: The Town of Gibsons’ experience in financial planning and reporting” – otherwise known as ‘Advancing MNAM’.”

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CREATE GREENER COMMUNITIES, PREPARE FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: 2007 Vancouver Island Green Infrastructure Leadership Forum set the stage for “Living Water Smart, BC’s Water Plan”, and was the genesis for capacity-building programs that have rippled through time in changing the way local governments view creeksheds

“Look back to look forward. What have we learned? How do we pass that understanding (of what we have learned over the past 10 years) onto successive generations of land use, infrastructure and asset management professionals who do their work in the local government setting? How can we help them make informed choices that benefit from past experience? These are just some of the questions that guide the work of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia,” stated Kim Stephens. In 2010, the responsibilities of BC’s Green Infrastructure Partnership were rolled into the Partnership for Water Sustainability.

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Go green for healthier, happier, richer cities: “Low-carbon measures can help to achieve a range of development priorities,” states Andy Gouldson, lead author of the University of Leeds research project

“As the evidence mounted up, we were struck by the fact that the cities we want – cleaner, healthier, richer – are made possible through climate action,” said lead author of the study Andy Gouldson, a professor at the University of Leeds. “Whether high-quality public transport or segregated cycling lanes, energy-efficient buildings or better waste management, the dollars, lives and hours saved are impressive.”

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Green roofs and walls could boost residential property values by 15%, report Australian researchers

“Currently, Australia has no consistent policy approach to GRGW except for the City of Sydney and the City of Melbourne, which have policies that align with their respective 2030 and 2040 sustainability targets,” stated Sara Wilkinson. “Barriers to adoption here in Australia include installation and maintenance costs, and a lack of awareness, professional guidance and experience when it comes to working on projects involving this kind of green infrastructure.”

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Financing the New Water Infrastructure: “Green and distributed infrastructure options are having their moment, and municipal leaders are taking notice,” wrote Cynthia Koehler, executive director of the WaterNow Alliance

“The challenge for green and distributed water strategies is scale. The power of these systems to provide truly meaningful benefits, and big savings, to cities and towns is in the aggregate. So how do we move from important but scattered success stories to making these options easily available to municipalities facing a range of water issues? Adopting distributed systems at large-scale requires that cities and towns have the option to use municipal bond proceeds to pay for consumer rebates, direct installations and other distributed infrastructure initiatives,” Cynthia Koehler.

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ARTICLE: A pillar of Sustainable Watershed Systems, the Ecological Accounting Process has the potential to transform how communities make decisions about creekshed restoration (an op-ed published in the Vancouver Sun (June 2, 2018)

Hydrology is the engine that powers ecological services. Thus, integration of the Partnership for Water Sustainability’s work within the BC Framework should accelerate implementation of the whole-system, water balance approach at the heart of the Partnership’s ‘Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management’ program. “The Ecological Accounting Process, EAP, establishes what the definable benefits of ecological services derived from creekshed hydrology are, what they may be worth to stakeholders, and how they may be maintained and enhanced,” wrote Tim Pringle.

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Discovering Nature’s Infrastructure Potential on Vancouver Island: “The long-term vision is to transform a decommissioned sawmill site on the Courtenay River into a valuable eco-asset corridor,” stated Project Watershed’s Jennifer Sutherst

“All the salmon stocks that are returning to spawn in the Tsolum River watershed or the Puntledge River watershed have to migrate past the site,” stated Jennifer Sutherst. “We want to take this community eyesore and turn it into an ecological asset. It’s really important to see that we’re going to be able to turn the site back to a natural functioning condition. Then it’s going to support fish and wildlife and be  a community asset. We’re also going to have the opportunity to build in some flood attenuation capacity.”

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Vision for Kus-kus-sum estuary restoration in the Comox Valley: “This is a generational moment to create a legacy. Kus-kus-sum shines a light for many estuary communities in the province,” stated Tim Ennis, Executive Director, Comox Valley Land Trust

“After nearly 75 years, tides may soon flow again over Kus-kus-sum’s shoreline,” wrote Tim Ennis. “This is a generational moment for the Comox Valley to create a legacy based not on conquering nature, but a new era of collaborating to restore our relationships with the land and each other. One of its greatest values is that it’s literally creating common ground where citizens can imagine together with First Nations partners what a healthier, more inclusive and sustainable future looks like.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2008: “Development and watershed protection can be compatible. Early success on the ground has given us increasing confidence that the 50-year vision is within our grasp,” stated Kim Stephens in a presentation to the Urban Development Institute

“Urban land use has been degrading the natural environment for more than 100 years. Sit on that for a while. 100 years, perhaps more. Holy smokes. So what’s all this talk about developers and builders, the ultimate urban land users, protecting watersheds? It’s true. Developers who increase the amount of pervious surfaces on their sites keep rain on-site, delay runoff, and reduce flooding. City planners and engineers love this,” stated Marie Savage.

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