Local Governments in the Cowichan Basin Showcase Green Infrastructure Innovation



Cowichan valley


Second of three events focuses on role of partnerships in moving a vision from concept to reality

The projected growth of Vancouver Island and resulting cumulative impacts are drivers for reassessing where and how land is developed, and water is used. To promote a new way-of-thinking related to infrastructure policies and practices, CAVI-Convening for Action on Vancouver Island has organized Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation on Vancouver Island: The 2007 Series.

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.

Cowichan showcasing event - inside-outside

A Unique Forum for Local Government

The Showcasing Innovation Series comprises three one-day events. Each is structured as presentations in the morning and a tour of project sites in the afternoon.

Kim stephens (100p)“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.

John finnie on the cowichan bus (120p)“CAVI is a regional pilot program that is being implemented under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan,” adds John Finnie, CAVI Chair, “This is allowing us to adapt lessons learned from regional pilots undertaken in Metro Vancouver and in the South Okanagan.”


Showcasing Innovation in the Cowichan Basin

The second event in the series of three was co-hosted by the Cowichan Valley Regional District, District of North Cowichan, and City of Duncan on September 28.  The Cowichan event was titled Partnerships and Collaboration – Moving from Concept to Reality.

John Finnie reports that close to 50 people registered for the Cowichan event. “Our expectations are being exceeded. When we look at who registered, we are struck by the diversity of the audience. There were representatives from four regional districts, ten municipalities, two provincial ministries, a number of private sector organizations, and several non-government organizations,” Finnie explained.

“We had a great mix of people and perspectives. We had elected representatives, senior managers, and on-the-ground practitioners,” he added.. 


Two Venues Add Interest

The day was organized in two parts. The morning session was held at the Freshwater Eco-Centrei n Duncan. The afternoon session was held at O.U.R. Ecovillage near Shawnigan Lake.

Freshwater eco-centre in duncan (200p) “Given that the Cowichan River is the lifeblood of the Cowichan Valley, it was especially appropriate to host the morning session at the Freshwater Eco-Centre which serves an important outreach and educational function”, notes Kate Miller, Environmental Manager with the Cowichan Valley Regional District,.

“We selected O.U.R. Ecovillage for the afternoon session for a walkabout because it is O.U.R. ecovillage near shawnigan lake (200p)an outstanding model of how the combination of passion and partnerships can move a vision from concept to reality,” continues Peter Nilsen, Assistant Municipal Engineer with the District of North Cowichan.

“This unique location enabled us to explore the theme: blending urban withy rural to achieve quality of life,” adds Brigid Reynolds, District of North Cowichan planner.



The Cowichan Program

Three overview presentations provided context for the day. Jon Lefebure, Mayor of the District of North Cowichan and Chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, opened by describing his vision for water sustainability. Zita Botelho, Ministry of Environment, followed with a provincial perspective on partnersships.  John Finnie closed by describing how CAVI originated and where it is heading.

The core program comprised a set of four case study presentations that described current initiatives. The case studies were presented as packages of two. Please click on the links below to access the PowerPoint slideshow for each case study:

  • Case Study 1 –  Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan: from Awareness to Action  –  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. The Water Plan has established a policy direction that will  trickle down to influence how water is used and how it runs off the land.
  • Case Study 2 – City of Duncan – Vision for a Livable Small Town –  Consistent with the direction provided by the Water Plan, the City has adopted a new Official Community Plan that establishes expectations for implementation of green infrastructure standards in conjunction with redevelopment and densification.
  • Case Study 3Koksilah Industrial Park – Adding Value through Design and Partnerships – Multi-stakeholder collaboration and property redevelopment combine to create an opportunity for implementation of a Master Plan for the Koksilah Industrrial Park that will produce ‘green value’ by retrofitting green infrastructure and stream habitat restoration.
  • Case Study 4Blending Urban with Rural in the District of North Cowichan: Innovative Subdivision Design  – This was an interactive session because the District wished to tap the expertise and commonsense of participants. Feedback on Vancouver Island examples that show how to implement green infrastructure effectively will become input to the District’s planning framework for the Echo Heights neighbourhood in Chemainus..

To download a copy of a handout that contains program information for the Showcasing Innovation Series, the Cowichan agenda, and other pertinent information relating to CAVI and the Water Sustainability Action Plan….please click on this link to Cowichan Showcasing Innovation Handout


Setting the Context

A CAVI theme is that it often takes a third party to bring busy people together. This is the CAVI role. According to Kim Stephens, “Experience shows that intra-region communication among local governments tends to be the exception rather than the rule. The CAVI objective is to turn the exception into the rule.”


Regional Perspective

Mayor John Lefebure touched on the need for collaboration in his opening remarks:  “As both the Mayor of North Cowichan and Chair of the Regional District, I am really pleased to see the involvement of both staffs in the Showcasing Innovation Series. This is really good because I need you both working together.”

Mayor jon lefebure, district of north cowichan“Water in the District of North Cowichan is a huge concern,” the Mayor continued, “The Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan is having a certain amount of challenges on the political side.  But the Plan is such an important regional initiative that we simply must follow through….because there are major issues around water supply, and I relate those issues to how land is developed.”

In elaborating on the implications of the current water situation, the Mayor introduced his vision for a path forward in these terms: “I believe and hope we can use the limitations of the water resource to plan our future better. As an elected representative, I find myself continually in a state of contradiction. As local government, we have been responsible for growth. That’s been our business. Looking back, we never anticipated that one day we might actually conclude that there are limitations.”

Building on the theme of limitations and planning for the future, Mayor Lefebure noted there is an engine of development. “We have to think about how to operate  that engine Mayor jon lefebure, distirct of north cowichandifferently,” he stated, “We must focus on preserving what we have that provides our qualtiy of life. As a group, politicians tend to be conservative. This means we tend not to be as forward looking as perhaps we should be. Moving foward from today, I would like the political leadership of Vancouver Island to be more proactive.  I am therefore pleased and excited that CAVI is partnering with the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities to co-host a Green Infrastructure Leadership Forum on December 3.”


Provincial Perspective

Zita Botelho, Manager of Water Strategic Initiatives and a member of the Innovation and Planning Team in the Water Stewardship Division of the Ministry of Environment, built on the partnerships and collaboration theme in providing a provincial perspective.

Zita bothelho, ministry of environmentAccording to Zita Botelho, “CAVI exemplifies the partnerships and innovation that are required in BC to meet all the water challenges that we face province-wide. The Ministry of Environment funds  the work of the BCWWA Sustainability Committee, one of the CAVI founding partners, because the committee provides a forum for the Ministry of Environment to engage with a variety of partners. This leads to leveraging of efforts through programs such as the Showcasing Innovation Series.”

To download a copy of Zita Botelho’s PowerPoint presentation, please click on this link to Water Leadership – making it upstream through Innovation and Partnership . To read a story that elaborates on what she said, click here.


CAVI Perspective

John Finnie, CAVI Chair, is General Manager of Environmental Services for the Regional District of Nanaimo. In his overview remarks, he provided the next level of detail in highlighting how the CAVI Partnership is translating a shared vision into action that is resulting in an expanding and inclusive partnership.

John finnie, cavi chair  (180p)“CAVI had its roots in the Meeting of the Minds initiative which Eric Bonham spearheaded and got off the ground through his passion and energy,” explained John Finnie, “Originally envisioned as a forum for water and wastewater practitioners to network, Meeting of the Minds has morphed into something bigger as CAVI.”

“We believe a key to the success of CAVI is that we are talking to people, not preaching at them,” stated Finnie, “Our approach is to inform and educate. We do this by creating situations for  people to have conversations. Like today.”

“The CAVI role is to provide venues which create opportunities to start conversations that will ultimately lead to action,” concluded Finnie, “We are encouraging people to move from conversations to dialogue, and to learn from the experience of each other.”

To download John Finnie’s PowerPoint presentation, please click on this link to Creating Our Future: Convening for Action on Vancouver Island.

2007 showcasing gi innovation series


Case Study 1 – Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan

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. Tom Anderson explained  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.

To download of copy of his PowerPoint presentation, please click on this link to Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan: from Awareness to Action. For an earlier story on this initiative, please click here.


Case Study 2 – City of Duncan Official Community Plan

The City of Duncan community vision is to be one of the most liveable small towns in Canada. The City of Duncan approached the updating of its Official Community Plan 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. 

Sue Hallet, the primary author of the Official Community Plan, filled in for Cheryl Wirsz of the CIty and exlained the thinking behind plan development. To download a copy of their PowerPoint presentation, please click on this link to City of Duncan – Vision for a Livable Small Town. For an earlier story on this initiative, click here.


Case Study 3 – Master Plan for Koksilah Industrial Park

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

To download a copy of her PowerPoint presentation, please click on this link to Koksilah Industrial Park – Adding Value through Design and Partnerships


Case Study 4 – Development Plan for Echo Heights Neighbourhood

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. For an earlier story on this process, please click here.

To download a copy of the PowerPoint presentation by Brigid Reynolds and Peter Nilsen that provided context for a breakout group session, please click on this link to Blending Urban with Rural in the District of North Cowichan: Innovative Subdivision Design. 

This was  an interactive session because  the District wished to tap the expertise and commonsense of participants from other municipalities. After an introduction by Brigid and Peter, breakout groups provided mini-forums for obtaining feedback from participants on the currently proposed development concept plan. The ideas generated in the breakout session will become input to the District’s planning framework for Echo Heights. This exercise may lead to possible refinements to the Concept Plan.

Cowichan - breakout groups

Cowichan - reporting out


An Afternoon at O.U.R. Ecovillage

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, supportive community learning environment for residents and participants in programs and the wider local and global communities.

Brandy Gallagher explained how O.U.R. Ecovillage was started and how over $1 million in grant monies have been invested to create a demonstration project that has attracted international attention.

 Cowichan - an afternoon at our ecovillage (1of 2)

Cowichan - an afternoon at our ecovillage (2 of 2)

 Posted September 2007