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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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CLIMATE ADAPTATION: “NYC, Vancouver, Sydney, Auckland, Copenhagen and Amsterdam present differing narratives toward pluvial flooding. Vancouver has embraced an image of environmental friendliness and constructs a narrative of rainfall management full of ‘green’ improvements,” stated Charles Axelsson, PhD candidate, University of Venice (January 2021)


“As a geographer researching urban environments, I really enjoy focusing on where scientific environmental research meets urban policy. In developed cities, decades and centuries of urban growth have led to a jigsaw puzzle of urban infrastructure. Storm drainage systems are ageing, built at different times to different standards, and often follow political boundaries not drainage basins. With climate change stressing these systems, it is all the more urgent to understand how to design with nature to prevent rapid runoff,” stated Charles Axelsson.

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STUDENT INVOLVEMENT AS A FOUNDATIONAL PIECE: “The Partnership’s vision is to nest EAP within a university program for training the next generation of land use professionals. We see this as a key element of mainstreaming EAP,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair, Ecological Accounting Process (January 2021)


Tim Pringle has introduced three concepts for operationalizing maintenance and management of stream corridors and their regulated riparian areas within local government Asset Management Plans: 1) Streams are Natural Commons; 2) A Stream in Settled Areas is a Land Use; and 3) A Stream is an Ecological System that has Worth. “The philosophy, methodology and metrics for EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, recognize the importance of a stream system in the landscape,” stated Tim Pringle.

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FLASHBACK TO 2008 / CREATE LIVEABLE COMMUNITIES: “In the first year of the Living Water Smart rollout, my lead-off presentation in the inaugural Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series traced the evolution of rainwater and stormwater management policies and practices in British Columbia. This provided a frame-of-reference and a common understanding for subsequent seminars,” stated Kim Stephens, series team leader


“In 2008, the Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series was held in both the Comox and Cowichan valleys. This program was the first step in building a regional team approach so that there would be consistent messaging regarding on-the-ground expectations for rainwater management and green infrastructure in BC. By spreading the curriculum over three sessions, this enabled participants to take in new information, reflect on it, blend it with their own experience, test it, and (we hoped) eventually apply it in making decisions,” stated Kim Stephens.

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FLASHBACK TO 2008: “We really have to look at how we develop land. Ultimately this requires leadership and champions on the ground. The message is that the provincial government is rewarding good behaviour,” stated Glen Brown at the 2nd in the Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series on creating liveable communities and protecting stream health


An over-arching goal of Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan is to encourage land and water managers and users to do business differently. “Living Water Smart is a provincial strategy; we must look at it as a shared responsibility. It is not one strategy; the Province has a number of strategies. The Province is looking at raising the bar as far as what we are trying to accomplish with standards and provincial legislation,” stated Glen Brown.

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FLASHBACK TO 2008: “It strikes me that we have created a new social norm; and it is being accepted by the development community as a whole,” stated BC Environment’s Maggie Henigman during a town-hall session when she commented on changes in rainwater management practice at the second in the Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series


“Since 1996 I have been working across Vancouver Island, both reviewing development proposals and monitoring project implementation. In the last couple of years I have been really pleased to see a huge shift take place in the way projects are being done. As I reflect on the current situation, the change in attitude is really gaining momentum. Everywhere I go I am seeing evidence of the new ethic. It is not that everyone is perfect, but the change is really coming,” stated Maggie Henigman.

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GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE IN THE CITY OF NANAIMO: The Inland Kenworth story was incorporated in the curriculum for the 2008 Vancouver Island Learning Lunch Seminar Series because it illustrated how a local government can establish expectations when staff say “this is what we want to achieve”


The Inland Kenworth truck and heavy equipment facility in the City of Nanaimo illustrates what can be accomplished through collaboration when a municipality challenges a development proponent to be innovative. “As a planner, I believe we should start by looking at site constraints and opportunities. And that is where our conversations started with the developer and consultants team,” stated Gary Noble. The City viewed this project as the one that changed the thinking of the consulting community.

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NATURE’S ASSETS SUPPORT CORE LOCAL GOVERNMENT SERVICES: “Emanuel Machado and Tim Pringle are agents of transformation. They independently ventured into uncharted territory to build the financial case for inclusion of ecological systems in local government asset management strategies,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia


“In the Watershed Moments video, Tim Pringle and Emanuel Machado illustrate how to take into account the social, ecological and financial values of ecological assets,” stated Kim Stephens. “They took an abstract concept – nature’s assets support local government services – and they made it tangible so that it is implementable. Their pioneer efforts in leading parallel initiatives have established provincially relevant case study precedents. Replicable precedents are already influencing how local governments view the social, ecological and financial values of streams and riparian corridors.”

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ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY: “The title of the BC Framework is deliberate and important. The ‘function’ and responsibility of Municipal Councils and Regional Boards of Directors is Sustainable Service Delivery. The process to support decision making is Asset Management,” stated Glen Brown, Chair of the Asset Management BC Partnership Committee


“The core document for asset management for BC local governments is ‘Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework’. It provides the basis for the entire asset management process for our local governments to follow. Basically, well-maintained infrastructure/assets are worthless IF they do not provide a service. For any asset management approach to be successful, it must not focus on the infrastructure/asset by itself. That way-of-thinking applies to nature and the environment as well,” stated Glen Brown.

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BRITISH COLUMBIA’S INFRASTRUCTURE GRANT CONDITIONS HAVE MADE THE RULES SERVE THE GOALS: At the inaugural Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series, Weidman foreshadowed that “adapting to climate change and reducing the impact on the environment will be conditions of receiving provincial infrastructure funding” (September 2008)


“We all work with rules. We don’t want to argue about the rules. What we really want to do is change some of the rules to create the greener, more sustainable communities that people would like. The provincial government is using infrastructure funding to encourage a ‘new business as usual’ – one results in the right type of projects – rather than taking a stick approach. The Province is leveraging its grants programs to influence changes on the ground. British Columbia is in transition,” stated Catriona Weidman when she foreshadowed how expectations would become standards for greener communities.

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ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Our unique training program will help local governments take it to the next level,” stated Wally Wells, Executive Director of Asset Management BC, when he announced a FREE training program for local governments and First Nations (September 2020)


While BC’s local governments have made great strides in managing their assets for sustainable service delivery, there’s still a lot to be done. Moving beyond inventories and condition assessments takes time, resources, and planning. “We’ve heard from local governments and First Nations at our conferences and workshops there are still a number of barriers to fully implementing asset management as a way of doing business,” said AM BC Executive Director Wally Wells. “That’s why we’ve developed this program to provide a few different ways to help people advance their asset management practices.”

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