‘Convening for Action on Vancouver Island’ Resonates with Elected Officials at Qualicum Beach Conference
A highlight of the 2007 Annual Conference of the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities (AVICC) was a pre-conference session titled Creating Our Future: Convening for Action on Vancouver Island (CAVI). The presentation struck a responsive chord with some 90 elected officials and senior administrators who attended the session which was held in Qualicum Beach.
According to John Finnie, Chair of the CAVI Leadership Team, “The AVICC conference was our first opportunity to address an assembly of elected officials and inform them about CAVI and what we believe can be accomplished through partnerships to achieve water sustainability on Vancouver Island. If we are to control our destiny and create our future, then we need to challenge our fellow Vancouver Islanders to visualize what they want Vancouver Island to look like in 50 years.”
“We were pleased that the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities provided CAVI with a forum to deliver our message”, added John Finnie. AVICC is the longest established area association under the umbrella of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. The association was established in 1950. It now has a membership of 49 municipalities and regional districts which stretch from the Central Coast Regional District down to the tip of Vancouver Island and include Powell River and the Sunshine Coast. The association deals with issues and concerns that affect large urban areas to small rural communities.
The CAVI pre-conference session was organized in three parts and was delivered by a presentation team comprising Tim Pringle (Executive Director, Real Estate Foundation of BC), Kim Stephens (Program Coordinator, Water Sustainability Action Plan for BC), and Patrick Lucey (Nature’s Revenue Streams).
The three presentations were cascading: Tim Pringle provided the high level picture (from 50,000 feet) to set the green value context for a fundamental shift in thinking; Kim Stephens followed with a low flying view (at 10,000 feet) to show that we are moving from awareness to action through partnerships; and Patrick Lucey concluded with on-the-ground examples to illustrate what can be done when there is a will to be progressive, reward innovation, and invest interest monies saved in stream restoration.
Settlement in Balance with Ecology
An approach to balancing settlement and ecology was first introduced by Tim Pringle at the Mini-Summit on Water for Life and Livelihoods, held in Whistler in May 2006: “How does a community weigh the benefits and liabilities of change driven by demand for land use? What will determine long-term wellbeing for a community or region? In a nutshell, ‘wellbeing’ is about sustainability of what communities allow or prevent happening on the land. Wellbeing is about balancing settlement activity and ecology”
“Residents of growth communities think of themselves as being rural places, but people want urban services”, observed Tim Pringle, “Furthermore, the Province is now promoting resort municipality designations which would allow major developments to be undertaken as local government areas. In short, this means nature is becoming commoditized.”
Pringle captured the attention of his audience when he presented statistical data on the demand for land as measured by the total dollar value for all development permits. He compared the period 2001-2003 to 2004-2006 for each of the sub-regions that comprise Vancouver Island. Then he compared the Island with other regions in the province. Only the Northeast Region has been experiencing a faster growth in demand, and that is due to the oil boom in that region. To download a copy of Tim’s part of the presentation, please click on this link to Green Value: Craze, Crazy or Crafty?
Leadership in Water Sustainability
Kim Stephens informed the audience that the CAVI message is one of hope, not doom and gloom: “For a generation, we have talked about cumulative impacts. But the flip side of a problem is an opportunity. Cumulative benefits are achievable through changes in policies, programs, practices and standards that determine how land is developed. There are a lot of good things happening throughout British Columbia. In many cases, people are simply not aware of the innovation that is taking place. It is essential that we celebrate successes so that we create momentum that is self-fulfilling in creating the future that we want.”
Stephens explained that CAVI is led by a team that represents both the private and government sectors. This regional initiative is supported by the Water Sustainability Committee of the BCWWA, the Green Infrastructure Partnership, the Real Estate Foundation of BC, and two provincial Ministries – namely Environment and Community Services. Stephens stated that CAVI will ultimately comprise an array of program elements that celebrate and advance on-the-ground examples of green infrastructure innovation and ‘designing with nature’.
The genesis for CAVI was the ‘Meeting of the Minds’, a grass-roots initiative that started a communication network to address the issues facing the water and wastewater industry within the Vancouver Island region. Over the next three years, Stephens told his audience, the CAVI mission is to:
- Integrate with other groups
- Bring together local government and the development community
- Encourage introduction of a ‘design with nature’ way-of-thinking in local government decision processes
- Celebrate examples of green infrastructure that achieve ‘design with nature’ outcomes
- Evolve a framework for water-centric planning that is keyed to accepting risk, learning by doing, and rewarding innovation
Stephens concluded his part of the presentation by listing upcoming events, including: a series of three events comprising field tours that is called Celebrating Green Infrastructure: Showcasing Innovation on Vancouver Island; a CAVI Consultation Workshop at the Gaining Ground Summit in June 2007; and a Mayors and Chairs Green Infrastructure Forum later in the year. To download a copy of Kim’s part of the presentation, please click on this link to Leadership in Water Sustainability.
What is Nature’s Revenue Streams (NRS)?
Patrick Lucey opened his part of the presentation by stating that “Nature has spent millions of year to keep water on the land; mankind has spent the last couple of generations figuring out ways to get water off the land as possible.” He then reviewed three case studies to demonstrate that ‘designing with nature’ has financial rewards:
- Blenkinsop Creek:This creek is the major tributary to Swan Lake, an urban lake surrounded by a nature sanctuary in the middle of the Municipality of Saanich. Blenkinsop Creek has been severely channelized by agriculture and urban development throughout the watershed and is the receiving water for urban storm drainage. Previously, a drainage ditch divided the farmer’s field into two parts. There was no functional habitat in the ditch, water quality was poor due to nutrient loading, and the ditch had three bridge crossings.
“Relocation of the ditch created the opportunity to restore creek habitat, increase the percentage of arable land by 13%, and a 40% reduction in irrigation water”, Patrick Lucey told the audience, “By creating habitat for birds, this also reduced the need for pesticides and resulted in a cost saving with a present value of approximately $0.5 million.” The restoration project was the winner of the 2002 FCM-CH2M Hill Sustainable Communities Award.
- Willowbrook Subdivision: Patrick Lucey told the story of a degraded section of Swan Creek in Saanich to illustrate how one can “look for and find nodules of opportunity in the landscape where the local ecology can be restored without spending taxpayers money”. The project involved construction of a 31-lot subdivision within a floodplain. Previous proposals had failed because they reflected conventional thinking. The community desire for restoration provided the impetus for doing something different and also secured community support for the project as implemented.
“The project approvals from the environmental agencies were secured within 60 days. This compares with a more typical 18 months. Because time is money, the interest saved by the developer paid for the entire cost of corridor restoration”, reported Patrick Lucey. The project established a trail network, restored the stream and wildlife habitat, achieved rainfall capture objectives, created a walkable and livable environment, and forged a relationship with the nearby school. According to Lucey, “the developer now realizes that the houses should have been oriented so that they face the greenway…because the added value would have been in the order of $50,000 per house.”
- University of Victoria: According to Patrick Lucey, “The original intent of the UVic was to develop a conventional stormwater management plan. However, a field trip to inspect projects such as Blenkensop Creekc changed the University’s thinking toward a watershed management plan that would include rainwater/stormwater, and that would look at a re-use strategy. The incentive for UVic was that the building review generated enough cost-savings to pay the consulting fees for the watershed/rainwater plan. A lesson learned from this experience is that success breeds success.” Lucey explained that waste water from the Aquatic Facility is used to flush toilets in the Engineering Building. “A waste product is a financial resource if you approach the problem and solution differently. Also, consider it future proofing against climate change because climate change is all about water”, stated Lucey.
Patrick Lucey finished his presentation by introducing his vision for a Satellite Centre for Sustainable Urban Waters and Watersheds that would be linked to a 10-year research and development program that is being led by Northeastern University in Boston. “This program will focus on innovative technology to deal with three problems: too much water, too little water, and too much pollution. I believe Vancouver Island is the perfect testing ground for new approaches”, concluded Patrick Lucey. To download a copy of his part of the presentation, please click on this link to Designing with Nature: turning “green” into “gold” .
Nature’s Revenue Streams (NRS) is a 3-year public-private pilot project, based in Saanich BC, that will link rainwater infrastructure to the restoration of stream and watershed function. The project will show how urban development can be used as an opportunity to improve watershed and stream health, build/restore aquatic habitat and reduce infrastructure costs for developers and the municipality while also addressing rainwater runoff.
The project is a partnership between the District of Saanich and Aqua-Tex Scientific who has been working in the municipality for over 20 years. Aqua-Tex has developed many proven examples of ecologically functional rainwater infrastructure within the municipality’s Colquitz River watershed. These projects have shown that by using techniques that mimic the ability of natural systems to store water and treat pollutants, developments can be built for less money, with more stable and cost effective drainage systems, while also creating attractive green spaces, restoring water flows, rebuilding habitat and saving significant municipal infrastructure costs. NRS will provide practical, applied solutions for builders and municipalities to implement effective rainwater management techniques that consider the local ecological and economic conditions within a long-term cost-effective strategy to restore natural landscape drainage features.
Posted April 2007