Comox Strathcona Regional District and City of Courtenay co-host third in Showcasing Innovation Series




‘Connecting to Sustainability’ is the event theme for celebrating Green Infrastructure

The CAVI-Convening for Action on Vancouver Island Partnership has announced that the Comox Strathcona Regional District and City of Courtenay  will co-host the third event in a series of three events that comprise Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation on Vancouver Island: The 2007 Series. The Comox Valley event will be on Friday, October 12. For more information on the series, please click here.


Connecting Practitioners

John finnie, creating our future workshop, june 2007According to John Finnie, CAVI Chair, “There are a lot of good things happening throughout Vancouver Island. Yet practitioners in local government are not necessarily aware when they are being innovative and are not often aware of innovation in other municipalities. Because people are so busy in their own worlds, it takes a third party to connect them. That is the role that CAVI plays.”


A Unique Forum for Local Government

APEGBC - kim stephens -june 2006 (120p)“The Showcasing Innovation Series creates pride and enables local governments to tell their stories in a way that no other forum currently provides,” observes Kim Stephens, Series organizer and event Moderator, and Program Coordinator for the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia.

“CAVI is a regional pilot program that is being implemented under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan,” adds Stephens.


Event Registration:

For program and registration details, please click on this link to download Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation in the Comox Valley.


Showcasing Innovation in the Comox Valley

Kevin lagan, city of courtenay“We  will showcase on-the-ground benefits that result when local governments collaborate to integrate their efforts, and are guided by an holistic way-of-thinking and acting,” reports Kevin Lagan, Courtenay City Engineer, “Case studies will demonstrate how to ‘connect the dots’ to achieve integrated and sustainable outcomes.”

Graeme faris, comox strathcona regional district“Featured projects will range from the Comox Lake Watershed Assessment, the first to be completed pursuant to the Province’s new ‘Comprehensive Drinking Water Source to Tap Assessment Guideline’…to servicing of the Home Depot site and surrounding commercial development area,” adds Graeme Faris, General Manager of Operational Services for the Comox Strathcona Regional District.

“While the emphasis will be on major projects, we will also be showcasing how we are changing the way we do business so that we will do our part to create incremental environmental benefits that accumulate over time,” adds Kevin Lagan, “For example, on April 1st this year, the City changed from regular diesel to B-20 bio-diesel in its vehicle and equipment fleet. This included trucks, fire equipment and grass mowers. Apart from draining and cleaning the underground fuel storage tanks, the conversion has been straightforward and has been a positive move. The City consumes approximately 100,000 litres of diesel each year; this will now be reduced by 20% by using carbon neutral bio-diesel.”


Stops on Field Trip

The field trip portion of Showcasing Innovation in the Comox Valley will include stops at the Veterans Memorial Parkway and the Muir Road Development. It is a 2 kilometre walkabout to visit the sites of interest along the Parkway.

According to Kevin Lagan, “At the Veterans Memorial Parkway, we will showcase an  engineered wetland, stormwater separation on the Findley Creek tributary, and habitat compensation for the Red Legged Frog. When we visit the Muir Road Development, the focus will be on Findley Creek flow augmentation and community detention ponds.”

“We will also visit Comox Lake; and along the way stop at our new chlorination facility where the items of note include a state-of-the-art SCADA communication system, the provisions for future addition of ultraviolet disinfection, the scrubber and the inter-cooperation with BCHydro,” adds Graeme Faris.


Internet Access on the Transit Bus

Transit ridership continues to grow faster in the Comox Valley than anywhere else in British Columbia. As the showcasing tour moves from site to site, there will be a discussion of some of the ways that the region has been encouraging the use of public transit – including a live preview of the on-line internet service that will be available this fall on major bus routes.


Municipal Collaboration – Making it Happen

The Regional District, the City of Courtenay and Town of Comox are making progress on the ground because they communicate and collaborate. Graeme Faris and Kevin Lagan will provide examples to illustrate how efforts are being integrated and resources are being pooled.

According to Kevin Lagan, “We are collaborating to make things happen at the operational level. As Graeme Faris and I see it, local government collaboration is one of the keys to Connecting to Sustainability.”

“The three C’s is a cornerstone of making it happen: these are communication, cooperation and cost-sharing,” adds Kevin Lagan, “Whether it is between governments, developers or NGO’s we can all achieve more and be winners if we work together.   There are four local governments in the Comox Valley; to work alone is easy, and to work together takes real commitment and the common goal of sustainability.”


Comox Lake Watershed Assessment – from Awareness to Action

The role of the Comox Strathcona Regional District (CSRD) is to provide a reliable source of safe, high-quality drinking water to homes and businesses within some of its member municipalities and electoral areas. This includes acquiring and maintaining the water supply, treating it to ensure quality, and delivering it-all at a reasonable cost.

Comox lake (200p)The Regional District manages four water supply systems, including the Comox Valley Water System. Water originates in Comox Lake, is taken from the Puntledge River downstream of the lake, and delivered to over 40,000 people. This service population includes some 22,500 residents in the City of Courtenay and another 12,000 or so water users in the Town of Comox.

The supply source, Comox Lake, is a glacier-fed lake used for power generation by BC Hydro, maintenance of fish hatcheries by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, recreation by anglers, boaters and swimmers as well as the supply of potable water to over 40,000 people.

Comox valley water supply

According to Graeme Faris, “Continued urbanization within the valley coupled with competing land uses and recreational interests within the watershed have led to shared concerns and co-operative actions aimed at managing watershed uses to ensure water quality is preserved.”

Comox lake (180p)“Many people are surprised to learn that the Comox Lake source is an unprotected watershed,” observes Graeme Faris, “To address this issue and develop an action plan for the protection of this watershed, the CSRD initiated a Watershed Assessment for Comox Lake in 2006.”

Ron neufeld, comox strathcona regional district“Working with the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the CSRD and other groups that use the watershed were able to propose actions to mitigate high level risks or threats to the current and future quality of the water,” adds Ron Neufeld, CSRD Senior Manager of Operational Services.

The CSRD recently completed a watershed assessment consistent with the provincial drinking water source to tap assessment guidelines. “Our presentation will provide an overview of how the range of interested parties – including numerous governments – have and are working co-operatively towards common watershed protection objectives,” reports Ron Neufeld.


Innovation in the Comox Valley: First Wal-Mart, Then Home Depot

Wal-Mart was the first big box store to come to the City of Courtenay.   The 9.3-hectare site includes additional commercial buildings.   As the site was close to Courtenay wal-mart  (200p)the Millard Creek and the Comox Harbour, there was a critical need to capture rainwater/stormwater, treat it and retain it in the catchment area. 

According to Kevin Lagan, “The Wal-Mart development precipitated the beginning of a major change in how the City administers the zoning/development/approval process, collaborates with other agencies and also manages the rainwater resource.”


First Deep-Well Application for Rainwater Runoff Injection in BC

The Home Depot development went beyond the Wal-Mart experience in terms of how rainwater runoff is captured and retained in the catchment area: Home Depot established a BC precedent when it implemented a deep deep-well system for injecting rainwater runoff and recharging the underlying groundwater aquifer.

Courtenay home depot (200p)The Home Depot site is located on a high point of land at the upstream end of the catchnment for Brooklyn Creek. Any drainage flows entering the creek are conveyed through the City of Courtenay, the Regional District and the Town of Comox prior to ocean discharge.

“Prior to development, the 4-hectare site was 100% forested, and therefore rainfall absorbing. The developed site is only 10% landscaped, with the other 90% now rainfall shedding,” explains Kevin Lagan,  “The dramatic change in site characteristics meant rainwater runoff had to be captured to maintain a before development hydrologic regime, if the project was to avoid downstream impacts.”

“Through negotiations with the developer, government agencies and the use of a variety of innovative on-site rainwater/stormwater measures, we were able to achieve no rainwater runoff leaving the Home Depot property for storms occurring up to once in two years,” reports Kevin Lagan.


A Partnership Solution for Reducing the Potential for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Because the Home Depot is on the highest area of land in the water distribution service zone, the adequacy of water pressure for fireflow protection was another technical constraint that had to be addressed.

In 2003 when Home Depot applied for a development permit, the combination of the City requirement for two back flow valves, the available municipal water pressure under design peak demand conditions and the fireflow requirement for the building created a level-of-service concern. 

Accoridng to Kevin Lagan, “The Home Depot development was the catalyst that assisted the process of installing one diesel generator for boosting water service pressures in the surrounding area.”

 “The need to design for a scenario that would see the reservoir at a reduced level and no back up pumped supply in a power outage situation, together with the head loss through two check valves, meant that the desired fire demand could not be met,” explains Kevin Lagan, “The timing for a standby diesel generator was not right at that time, however, and so a short term solution to the dilemma was needed.”  

“The solution was that only one check valve together with a spool piece with the same length was installed,” continues Graeme Faris, “This allowed the fireflow requirement to be met.   However, when the Toyota and Mazda dealerships applied Courtenay mazdafor development permits in 2006, the City and Regional District were able through the City Development Permit, to have a diesel generator paid for by the two dealers installed on the Regional District bulk water system.”  

According to Graeme Faris, “The fireflow protection issue was ultimately resolved through a unique partnership with Toyota and Mazda, both of which are situated near Home Depot. The result was an innovative plan for sustaining water supply pressures without relying on BC Hydro.”

“This long-term solution saved the two car dealers both capital and operational costs. Furthermore, the City water system users did not have to provide the funding for the diesel generator. Also, all existing and future developments on the height of land will also benefit from the solution.   With the pressure loss issue resolved, Home Depot can now install the second check valve,” observes  Kevin Lagan.

“In addition to the substantial capital and operating cost saving to each partner, the single pressure boosting facility reduces potential greenhouse gas emissions,” adds Graeme Faris, “The alternative would have been a number of diesel generators, each one having to be tested weekly, and each one contributing greenhouse gases.”

The Home Depot fireflow protection example demonstrates what innovation means in practice. In this case, it is the combination of sound engineering thinking and a multi-party partnership to develop a least-cost solution that is environmentally beneficial.

“After the fact, the Home Depot solution sounds simple enough. But coming up with the simple solution is what required the innovation,” concludes Kevin Lagan, “This plan came together because the Regional District and the City have a track record of collaboration; and a history of looking beyond the individual site to see what makes the most sense in the overall picture.”


Absorbent Soil for Rainwater Management – Lessons Learned

The City of Courtenay was the first BC municipality to adopt a policy requiring developers to provide a minimum soil depth on building sites as a rainwater management tool. The policy was adopted in January 2004 immediately after the City became a founding member of the Inter-Governmental Partnership that developed the Water Balance Model for British Columbia.

Richard boase demo - how wate moves thru soilAccording to Kevin Lagan, “A defining moment for me for was the soil-water demonstration that Richard Boase of North Vancouver District did at the December 2003 training workshop for Water Balance Model partners. The infiltration process sounds complex when you use words to describe it. But when you observe how water moves through a soil profile, it is a powerful learning tool.”

Sandy pridmore, city of courtenayAccording to Sandy Pridmore, Engineering Technologist with the City of Courtenay, “The challenge for the City is in how to ensure that developers and house builders fulfil their obligations to provide and preserve the minimum required depth. This will be the focus of my presentation.”


Event Registration:

For program and registration details, please click on this link to download Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation in the Comox Valley.

What vancouver island could look like (with border)

The Showcasing Series

The Showcasing Innovation Series comprises three one-day events in each of three regional districts, namely:

Each event is co-hosted by the regional district and a member municipality. Each event comprises presentations in the morning and a tour of project sites in the afternoon.


Promote Networking / Build Regional Capacity

2007 showcasing series - kim stephens (slide#6) (120pixels)“Experience shows that the site tour creates those unplanned moments for spontaneous and effective sharing of knowledge and lessons learned,” observes Kim Stephens, “We also find that the presentations in the morning serve to whet the appetite of the audience, and people then seek out the one-on-one opportunities to have a conversation on the bus. It is then that the real learning takes place.”

The goal in showcasing innovation and celebrating successes is to promote networking, build regional capacity, and move ‘from awareness to action’ – through sharing of green infrastructure approaches, tools, experiences and lessons learned as an outcome of designing with nature.

Eric bonham (120p)“Celebrating successes raises the bar and creates a healthy competition that will be self-fulfilling in achieving replication of design with nature outcomes,” adds Eric Bonham, Chair of the Highlands Stewardship Foundation and a founding member of CAVI. Bonham also notes that the Series is an effective way to promote region-wide networking and sharing of lessons learned.


Posted September 2007