Note to Reader:
The Comox Valley on Vancouver Island is facing a long list of challenges as more frequent and intense winter storms and summer droughts overwhelm engineered infrastructure and natural systems (that have been degraded over time by land use activities). It is feast AND famine!
In March 2017, the 22 environmental and ratepayer groups comprising the Comox Valley Conservation Partnership hosted a symposium to explore ‘design with nature’ solutions.The symposium spotlight was on the potentially powerful and cost-effective role that ecosystem services can play in an infrastructure strategy. The audience attracted an audience of 180-plus, and the majority came from outside the Comox Valley.
Sustainable Watershed Systems – What Happens on the Land Does Matter!
Kim Stephens delivered the keynote address on the day of the Symposium. His task was to prime the audience for the workshop sessions that were the main focus of the program. Kim Stephens is the Executive Director, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia. The Partnership is responsible for delivering the Water Sustainability Action Plan.
“Too often we talk about water and land as silos,” stated Kim Stephens in his opening remarks. “But what happens on the land does matter! It is whether and how we respect the land that really affects what happens with water. That is a key message. It is why we are moving forward with Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management.
“My lens is that of local government because that is where the decisions are made about what happens on the land, and those decisions matter!”
To Learn More:
Visit the Symposium homepage on the Vancouver Island Water community-of-interest.
Download What Happens on the Land Does Matter! – Moving Towards “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management” to view the storyline for the keynote address by Kim Stephens. To watch his presentation, click on the image link to a YouTube video.
- To bring together professionals, community leaders and local government to build energy and interest toward an Eco-Asset Management approach to addressing critical community infrastructure issues.
- To build capacity around Eco-Asset Management principals and to provide participants with tool kits to bring back to their respective shops.
- To set the stage for developing the business case for Eco-Asset Management in the Comox Valley.
- To contribute to innovative problem solving and action toward local initiatives. (Watershed Protections Plan, Estuary Restoration etc)
- For the Comox Valley Land Trust and Community Partnership to be a catalyst for subsequent Eco Asset Management processes with symposium participants.
To Learn More:
Download the Agenda and Presenters List for the 2017 Eco-Asset Symposium.
Introducing the New Paradigm –
Watersheds as Infrastructure Assets
“We are saying…look at development differently. To protect watershed health, engineered infrastructure ought to fit into natural systems, rather than the other way around. Think about that. It is a total mindset change in terms of how we look at the landscape. Infrastructure ought to fit into natural systems. Mull it over,” Kim Stephens challenged the audience.
“Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management is the branding for what we are trying to accomplish – which is to change the way people think. We commenced this process in November 2015 with release of Beyond the Guidebook 2015.
“When we said we need to start the mind-shift change, we wondered what would our sound-bite be. When we chose ‘watersheds as infrastructure assets’, we didn’t know how that sound-bite would resonate. The response has exceeded our expectations. At all the presentations that I am getting, people are getting it intuitively. And that is the key – people have to get it intuitively so that they buy-in.”
“Think about when cathedrals were built a thousand years ago. They took 100 years, and sometimes up to 200 years, to build,” stated Kim Stephens.
“So, what it meant was – when people started on those cathedral projects, they knew that they would not be there at the end to see the completed project. But they still committed to doing it. We can learn from them. In the era of the 8-second attention span, it is the opposite end of the spectrum to say that we have to think inter-generationally and be serious about it.
“The foundation for cathedral thinking is very pragmatic. You must have a far-reaching vision. This symposium is about creating a vision for the Comox Valley. And you must have a well-thought out blueprint for action. And then you have to have a shared commitment to long-term implementation.
“In this room,” concluded Kim Stephens, “we won’t see the end of the process. But if we set things in motion, there will be an outcome that achieves that vision.”