Cowichan Valley Regional District and two member municipalities partner to co-host second in ‘2007 Showcasing Innovation Series’




‘Partnerships and Collaboration’ is the event theme for celebrating Green Infrastructure

The CAVI-Convening for Action on Vancouver Island Partnership has announced that the Cowichan Valley Regional District, District of North Cowichan, and City of Duncan  will co-host the second event in a series of three events that comprise Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation on Vancouver Island: The 2007 Series. The Cowichan event will be on Friday, September 28. For more information on the series, please click here.

John finnie, creating our future workshop, june 2007Experience shows that intra-region communication among local government practitioners is the exception rather than the rule; also, there is almost no inter-region communication. Hence, lessons learned are not being shared. “Yet practitioners in local government do want to learn from those who are innovating, and they do want to visit projects that are precedent-setting,” adds John Finnie, Chair of the CAVI Leadership Team, “They just need a starting point and a push to get the ball rolling.”

Jon Lefebure, Mayor of the District of North Cowichan, will be Mayor jon lefebure (60pixels), district of north cowichanmaking an opening statement to kick-off the  day. “We are excited to be part of the Showcasing Innovation Series. CAVI is to be commended for its approach. I am looking forward to participating on September 28”, says Mayor Lefebure. He will identify learning outcomes for the day.


Event Registration:

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


Scope of Cowichan Program

According to Kate Miler, Environmental Manager with the Cowichan Valley Regional District, “The Regional District, District of North Cowichan and City of Duncan will showcase the role of partnerships – first, in developing a shared vision of what the ‘valley future’ can look like; and next, in implementing actions that will bring the vision to fruition. The unifying theme is: to make things happen, local governments need to partner and pool resources.”

The Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan provides the over-arching framework for the event. “The Cowichan Plan has been developed through a uniquely inclusive consultation process; and provides the umbrella for aligning community development policies with emerging best practices”, explains Tom Anderson, Manager of Development Services for the Regional District.

Featured projects in the Showcasing Innovation Program will cascade down in scale from the basin….to a neighbourhood and subdivision…. to an industrial park….and to the site/house.


Two Venues Add Interest

According to Peter Nilsen, Assistant Municipal Engineer with the District of North Cowichan, “We have organized the event in two parts. The morning session will be held at the Freshwater Eco-Centre in Duncan. O.U.R. Ecovillage, which is located near Shawnigan Lake, will be the setting for the afternoon session.”

The Freshwater Eco-Centre is an extensive interpretative facility with over 30 displays depicting wild fish conservation, fisheries habitat protection and fisheries management practices. “Given that the Cowichan River is the lifeblood of the Cowichan Valley, it is especially appropriate to host the morning part of the Showcasing Innovation event at the Freshwater Eco-Centre”, notes Kate Miller.

“We selected O.U.R. Ecovillage for the second half of the day so that we can provide participants with an interactive experience. This unique location fits with our theme: blending urban with rural to achieve quality of life, adds Brigid Reynolds, District of North Cowichan Planner, “Participants will be challenged to brainstorm what aspects of the Ecovillage experience can local governments transfer to an urban development setting.”

Ecovillages are full featured settlements in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development and can be successfully continued into the indefinite future.


Showcasing Innovation Builds Capacity

The purpose of the Showcasing Innovation Series is to celebrate… and build on…the on-the-ground successes that are enhancing the ways communities are being developed and water is being managed.John finnie (100pixels)

“Practitioners in local government do want to learn from those who are innovating, and they do want to visit projects that are precedent-setting,” observes John Finnie, “They just need a starting point and a push to get the ball rolling.”

The goal 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, according to Kim Stephens, Program Coordinator for the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia.Kim stephens (120pixels)

The Action Plan is the umbrella for the Showcasing Innovation Series. “It is exciting to see how local governments are responding to the Showcasing Innovation Series. This program enables local governments to tell their stories in a way that no other forum provides”, reports Kim Stephens. He will be the Moderator for the morning session.


Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan: from Awareness to Action

No one wants to run out of water. That is why the Cowichan Basin Water Management Forum has been working to establish a basin-wide Water Management Plan. The plan will ensure that there is enough water – for people and ecosystems – now and in the future. On September 28, Tom Anderson will explain why the vulnerability of supply is a driver for changes in the way water is managed at a watershed scale and used at the site scale.


A Visionary Water Plan

In June 2005, Cowichan Basin residents were asked for their views on water and water issues. Respondents said that the most important issues for the future (in order) were:

  • sufficient household water supply;
  • sufficient water for fish and fishing;
  • managing growth and development; and
  • reducing demand for water.

Using the information received from the public, the Cowichan Basin Water Management Forum prepared a vision and goals for water management. The following vision for water in the Basin received overwhelming public support:

  • The Cowichan Basin community conserves and manages water to ensure reliable supplies for human use, thriving ecosystems, and a healthy economy.

Tom anderson, cvrd - june 2007 (160pixels)The public also showed strong support for the Water Management Plan’s six goals, on which a series of actions are based. “We believe CAVI can help the Cowichan Valley Regional District and its member municipalities add depth to three areas of the Water Management Plan: demand management; protect aquatic ecosystems; and research, education, public outreach. Recognizing the value that CAVI is providing, the Regional Services Committee at its July 2007 meeting accepted the recommendation by staff to partner with CAVI”, reports Tom Anderson.

A visionary element of the Water Management Plan is the concept for a Cowichan Basin Water Advisory Council. The vision is that the Council would replace the present fragmented governance structure. The goal is to establish clear, accountable and responsive water management decision processes and governance structures.

This body is intended to develop solutions to the Basin’s complex water issues by engaging the public, government, and water users in a single forum.

The Council would represent Basin-wide interests, maintain on-going dialogue among stakeholders, and build trust and ownership among the participants and the public. Implementation will require enabling changes to be made by the Province to the regulatory framework for water governance in British Columbia.

For comprehensive information on the Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan, please click here to access the Cowichan Water website.


A Provincial Pilot for ‘Water for Life & Livelihoods’

The Cowichan Plan is a provincial pilot for Water for Life & Livelihoods. According to Kim Stephens, the Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan is of province-wide interest because of the pathway it has trail-blazed. Stephens also notes that the challenges faced in the Cowichan Basin are ‘universal’ challenges because:

  • The Cowichan Basin has plenty of water, BUT most of it falls when demand is low, and flows are low when demand is high.
  • There are increasing and competing demands for water
  • Climate change is altering Basin hydrology.

Stephens reports that use of the phrase ‘water for life and livelihoods’has been borrowed from the United Kingdom in order to focus people on what is at stake over both the short and long terms. The phrase conveys the fundamental principles of sustainability of natural systems in their own right and in relation to the health and well-being of people who benefit from the use of water for basic life needs and economic activity. For more information about ‘water for life and livelihoods’, click on 2007 BCWWA Annual Conference Theme: Working Towards Sustainable Communities.


Alignment with CAVI Program

“The Cowichan Water Plan is already informing CAVI. It was a featured case study at the Creating Our Future Workshop in June 2007”, adds Stephens, “Where and how land is developed determines how water is used and how water runs off the land. Over time, water sustainability can be achieved through implementation of green infrastructure practices that reflect a full and proper understanding on the part of practitioners about the relationship between land and water.”

“Moving ‘green infrastructure’ and ‘water sustainability’ from awareness to action requires equipping local governments and the development community with new tools and the capabilities to use those tools”, concludes Tom Anderson, “It is for this reason that the Cowichan Valley Regional District will be co-sponsoring a Water Balance Model Training Workshop in early 2008 as part of its commitment to CAVI.”


City of Duncan – Vision for a Liveable Small Town

City of duncan - city hall (120 pixels)The City of Duncan has an area of 1 square kilometre and has very little vacant land. As such, infill and redevelopment is the predominant form of land development. Consistent with the direction provided by the Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan, the City of Duncan in June 2007 adopted a new Official Community Plan (OCP) that establishes expectations for implementation of green infrastructure standards in conjunction with redevelopment and densification.


Community Vision

The community vision is to be one of the most liveable small towns in Canada. To provide a mind-map, the following extracts illustrate how the OCP describes what residents would like Duncan to become:

  • The City is green and takes pride in its sustainability practices:Streets are lined with trees, the River sparkles, commercial areas are well-landscaped, permeable surfaces have replaced pavement, community gardens are found throughout, natural areas are protected, clean air and water are vital community attributes, reduction, recycling and reuse are widely employed.

City of duncan - totem poles (250 pixels)

  • The built environment is compact and attractive: The City exemplifies good design and smart well-managed growth. Neighbourhoods are well-maintained with a variety of housing choices, services, and activities for younger people, seniors, and families. Distinct neighbourhood centres are beginning to emerge with a mix of uses, wider and landscaped sidewalks, benches for seating, and good transit access.

According to Cheryl Wirsz, the City’s Director of Corporate Services, “The City approached the OCP review with a social responsibility to accept the density in the region because the City is fully serviced, this will help curb sprawl, and it will enable us to do our part to implement Smart Growth principles in a small town setting.”


Encouraging Innovation

“Adopted earlier this year, the OCP is providing direction and certainty for Council, residents and developers. Council is very forward-looking and wishes to encourage revitalization”, adds Wirsz, She notes that the take-away message on September City of duncan - 2007 ocp cover (180oixels)28 will be that the City is on the threshold of a new era, and the current Council is receptive to innovation that results from a new way of thinking about the form of community development.

An example of innovation is that the City is considering creating incentives for responsible development practices by developing an Incentives for Green Building Policy that exchanges developer investment in green technology for density bonusing, modified development standards or other appropriate mechanisms.

Consistent with the demand management goal in the Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan, the City has accepted the need to implement a universal metering program to achieve water use reduction objectives. The City has also embraced the need to integrate rainwater management and green infrastructure to achieve water sustainability objectives.

A measure of the City’s commitment to CAVI is that Councillor Sharon Jackson will make a closing statement on behalf of Council  on September 28. Her theme will be “what we learned today”.


District of North Cowichan – Blending Urban with Rural

The District of North Cowichan is one of the larger Vancouver Island municipalities, with a sprawling area of 194 square kilometres and a growing population of almost 28,000. The District has three neighbourhood centres, namely: Chemainus, Crofton and Maple Bay. Established in 1873, North Cowichan is also one of British Columbia’s oldest municipalities.


Design with Nature

The District has embraced ‘design with nature’ as a philosophy for achieving integration of rainwater management and green infrastructure. A recent example underscores the desire of Council to fit in with nature.

“A recently approved multi-family development would ordinarily have triggered upgrading of an adjoining roadway, which would have resulted in loss of neighbourhood character. Instead, the decision was made to modify the road standard for the purpose of preserving the look-and-feel of a country road in an urban setting”, explains the District’s Peter Nilsen.

Two projects in North Cowichan will be profiled as part of the Showcasing Innovation Series: the Echo Heights neighbourhood in Chemainus and the Stonegate subdivision.


Echo Heights in Chemainus

The approach to audience involvement will be customized so that it meets the needs of the District of North Cowichan in facilitating a local paradigm-shift. According to Kim Stephens, “This will be an interactive session as the District wishes to tap the expertise and commonsense of participants from other municipalities. Feedback from participants on how to implement green infrastructure will become input to the District’s planning framework for Echo Heights.”

The session will be facilitated by Brigid Reynolds and Peter Nilsen of the District. “This segment will also frame the desired learning outcomes for the Ecovillage segment in the afternoon”, adds Stephens. The focus will be on how transferable is the Ecovillage experience to a small town setting.

Echo Heights is a 52-acre parcel of municipally owned land.  The Municipality proposed to develop it in the early 90’s using a traditional single-family subdivision layout but market conditions postponed this initiative.  In 2005, the Municipality began a planning process to discuss how the parcel could be developed.    The property contains well used walking trails and various environmental features and residents expressed great concern regarding the development of what was considered a valuable community asset.

According to Brigid Reynolds, “The Municipality has been working through a planning process that has included a design charrette, community meetings, an environmental assessment as well as a traffic study to assess the property.  As a result of these initiatives, the proposal is to preserve more than fifty percent of the land to protect wildlife habitat, sensitive ecosystems and walking trails.  The remainder is proposed to be developed using on-site water treatment, geo-thermal heat, rainwater management source control…including green roofs, infiltration galleries, and rain gardens.  While the development is still controversial, municipal staff continue to flesh out the proposal which will be considered by Council in the near future.”

“Riparian buffer zones will be retained.  In addition, carriage houses and other affordable housing options will be included in the development”, adds Reynolds.

As currently envisioned, Echo Heights would have every kind of housing, varying from single family through multi-family. This opens the door to implementing different technologies – for example, green roofs.

“The municipality can do this because it owns the land. The broader goal, however, is to demonstrate to private developers what is possible”, concludes Peter Nilsen.


Stonegate Subdivision

The Stonegate subdivision, the second case study that will be profiled on September 28, illustrates what can be accomplished by a progressive municipality when there is a ‘willing developer’.

According to Peter Nilsen, “Originally a conventional subdivision design was proposed for Peter nilsen, district of north cowichan (160pixels)this piece of land. If this design had gone ahead, it would have resulted in loss of a small wetland because it falls outside the scope of riparian area protection. When the land was sold, however, we explained to the new owner and his consultant what the District would like to see….in terms of applying a green way-of-thinking in order to develop an innovative on-the-ground solution.”

“Now we have a plan that protects the wetland and makes it a feature of the development in conjunction with a walking trail. Stonegate will also be the first subdivision to apply green infrastructure measures for rainwater management”, concludes Nilsen.


Koksilah Industrial Park – Adding Value through Green Design

The Koksilah Industrial Park is located in close proximity to the Koksilah River. Kate Miller will speak to the partnership theme in describing a process that is currently unfolding to restore a drainage connection from the Koksilah Industrial Park to the Koksilah River.

According to Kate Miller, “Multi-stakeholder collaboration and property redevelopment combine to create an opportunity for development and implementation of a Master Plan that will produce ‘green value’ by retrofitting green infrastructure and stream habitat restoration.”

Collaborating organizations include the Cowichan Valley Regional District, the Cowichan School District, Fisheries & Oceans Canada, BC Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Transportation, and community groups.


O.U.R. Ecovillage near Shawnigan Lake

Located on an extraordinary 25 acres near Shawnigan Lake, O.U.R. Ecovillage began operations in 1999 with a mandate to create a model demonstration sustainable village community rooted in social, ecological, and economic well being. People from all walks of life and all ages are able to benefit from educational services on redesigned sustainable modes of living, delivered on the location in a healthy, supportive, and operational Ecovillage.

The “O.U.R.” stands for One United Resource.

O.U.R. Ecovillage acts as a bridge between the rural and urban experience.  The Ecovillage offers a protected green space and a healthy, supportmodel demonstration sustainable village community rooted in social, ecological, and economic well being. People from all walks of life and all ages are able to benefit from educational services ive community learning environment for residents and participants in programs and the wider local and global communities.

Following a tour of the Ecovillage on September 28, there will be a roundtable forum. Participants will be asked to reflect on what they have seen and heard, and respond to this question: How transferable is the Ecovillage experience to the small town urban setting at Echo Heights?


The Ecovillage Vision

The vision for O.U.R. Ecovillage emerged through visioning workshops that included community and urban planners, agrologists, Permaculture specialists, educators, gardeners, health professionals, and children, family and friends. The first phase of the project culminated in the purchase of the agricultural property for integrated educational, residential, agricultural, and conservation uses.

Site planning has involved the Cowichan Valley Regional District, the BC Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Highways, the Cowichan Community Land Trust, The Land Conservancy of BC, experts in sustainable development and renewable energy, surveyors and individuals from the wider community.


Canadian Precedent Established

Care is being taken to ensure consistency with local community planning in the Cowichan Valley and the South Vancouver Island region. O.U.R. Ecovillage’s request to the CVRD for a “Rural Residential Comprehensive Development Zone” was approved in the fall of 2002. The rezoning set a precedent in Canada for an innovative model of land-use zoning and for more attention to this type of sustainable land management planning and community development.

The rezoning has enabled O.U.R. Ecovillage to move forward with the onsite work of creating “full featured human settlement” and the infrastructure for a sustainable land management design. The aspect of “educational” usage allowed for within the rezoning sanctions the next phase of development, including an onsite school Topia: The Sustainable Community Learning Institute.


What is Green Infrastructure?

 To help advance a new way-of-thinking about land development, CAVI has developed and is promoting use of the following hierarchy of ‘green’ vocabulary:

  • Green Value means land use strategies will accommodate settlement needs in practical ways while protecting the ecological resources upon which communities depend. At the heart of a Green Valueapproach is the valuation methodology that provides the business case for reconciliation of short-term versus long-term thinking related to risk and profit.
  • Design with Nature is one approach to achieve Green Value, and is supportive of community goals that relate to building social capacity.

Design with nature (320pixels)

  • Green Infrastructure is the on-the-ground application of Design with Nature standards and practices.
  • Water Sustainability is achieved through Green Infrastructure practices that reflect a full and proper understanding of the relationship between land and water.

This cascading vocabulary was unveiled at the Creating Our Future Workshop that was held in conjunction with the Gaining Ground Summit in Victoria in June 2007. The Creating Our Future Workshop was a consultation opportunity for Vancouver Island local governments that are interested in implementing infrastructure practices and regulation that result in green value.


Green Infrastructure Explained

Green infrastructure is associated with the management of water that runs off the land and how water runoff impacts on the sustainability of both terrestrial and aquatic habitat and resources.

Green infrastructure is also associated with how water is used and how water use impacts on the sustainability of water supply.

Kim stephens (60pixels)“Desired outcomes for water sustainability and green infrastructure can be achieved through infrastructure standards that reflect a full and proper understanding of the relationship between land and water”, explains Kim Stephens.

John finnie, cavi chair  (120 pixels)According to CAVI Chair John Finnie, “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 have identified two desired outcomes in Convening for Action. First, we wish to influence Vancouver Island local governments to adopt Design with Nature as the preferred process of approving land development applications. Secondly, we intend to facilitate the move from awareness to action in changing the way that land is developed and water is used on Vancouver Island.”


Event Registration:

For program and registration details for the September 28 event, please click on this link to download Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation in the Cowichan Basin  

What vancouver island could look like (with border)

 Posted August 2007