REPORT ON: “Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process for Watershed Assessment: Busy Place Creek (Sh-hwuykwselu) Demonstration Application in the Cowichan Valley” (Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC; released 2018)

Note to Reader:

The concept of natural capital and natural assets can be a challenge to integrate effectively into asset management practices. Local governments need “real numbers” to deliver outcomes and support decision making. EAP – Ecological Accounting Process – deals with a basic question: what is a creekshed WORTH, now and in future, to the community and various intervenors?

WORTH is defined as use by the community of a “package of ecological services” made possible by the hydrology. Ecological services are diverse, and provide environmental, social and traditional (core) services to the community via a natural asset – in this case, a creek/riparian area.

Stage 1 tested the concept for leveraging the BC Assessment database to establish a financial value for the “Commons Asset” (the land comprising the stream corridor and riparian zone). Two demonstration applications were undertaken on the east coast of Vancouver Island, one in the Comox Valley (Brooklyn Creek), and the other in the Cowichan Valley (Busy Place Creek).

Busy Place Creek is the subject of this post: Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process for Watershed Assessment: Busy Place Creek (Sh-hwuykwselu) Demonstration Application in the Cowichan Valley.

An aerial view impression of the different land uses in the creekshed

Busy Place Creek EAP Demonstration Application

Busy Place Creek (Coast Salish: Sh-hwuykwselu) is situated south of Duncan, and within the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD). Ecological services are provided to the regional community, local government, Cowichan Tribes and other organizations having an interest in the stream. Busy Place and Sh-hwuykwselu are used interchangeably herein.

Like many small creeksheds, Busy Place Creek (Sh-hwuykwselu) lies in more than one authority with jurisdiction within the watershed. Its upland source and discharge to the Koksilah River are in Cowichan Tribes lands, including the Cowichan-Koksilah estuary, which it nourishes. The mid-reach lies in the CVRD jurisdiction.

“The Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) assessed the current functioning condition of the stream and riparian areas of the creekshed and reviewed the actions of authorities and collaborators to manage and maintain its ecological services,” reports Tim Pringle, Chair, EAP Initiative. He is the principal author and lead researcher for the EAP demonstration applications.

Context for EAP Demonstration Application

“Selection of Sh-hwuykwselu as an ‘EAP Demonstration Application’ was made possible by the willingness of the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) to participate in a program funded by the governments of Canada and British Columbia,” reports Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC.

“In so doing, CVRD acted on behalf of the Partnership for Water Sustainability and the other four regional districts participating in the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative.

“EAP is one of the twin pillars of the ‘Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management’ program. The other pillar is the Water Balance Methodology.

“The insights and understanding gained through this demonstration application will be shared with other local governments participating in the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Educational Initiative.”

Relevance to Water Resources Protection in the CVRD:

An “Area of Focus” for operations (2015-2018) set by CVRD concerns strategy and projects pertinent to protection of water resources. CVRD intends to execute “responsible management and stewardship” in target watersheds. As well, CVRD is working on an Integrated Flood Management Plan which includes the flood plain area where Sh-hwuykwselu debouches from the uplands.

Overview Assessment of Creekshed Condition

“Like many small watersheds on the east coast of Vancouver Island, the Sh-hwuykwselu creekshed (1st order stream) has been modified by more than 150 years of land uses which ignored its hydrology and dependant ecological services. As a result, much of its hydrological capacity has been compromised or lost,” explains Tim Pringle.

“In recent years, multiple parties have undertaken some management (enhancement) as well as local remediation projects. They recognize the need to consider further investment, including maintenance (preventing further degradation).

“A key finding is there is potential to re-establish three former wetland areas – about 2.25 hectares in total – that have been reduced to ephemeral or near ephemeral condition by land clearing and agricultural uses. Ecological benefits that would accrue include increased rainwater interception, retention, and infiltration to interflow as well as ground water supply.”

Interweaving of Indigenous Knowledge & Western Science

“The multi-party effort to ‘maintain and manage’ confirms that the community as a whole believes that it is worthwhile to invest in this small creekshed and the ecological services which it provides. A representative of Cowichan Tribes captured the meaning of worth when he said that ‘Sh-hwuykwselu belongs in our lives’,” continues Tim Pringle.

“In light of the strategic position of Cowichan Tribes lands at the top and bottom of the Sh-hwuykwselu creekshed, the EAP Demonstration Application has revealed that there is now an opportunity to interweave Indigenous knowledge and Western science in building a strong collaboration around hydrology.

“Viewed in a provincial context, an ‘interweaving demonstration application’ would establish a provincially significant precedent,” concludes Tim Pringle.

What Interweaving Means

Interweaving is about creating a new form of knowledge through collaboration by interweaving useful threads from each way of knowing into a more robust way.

Interweaving is not integration, just as equality is not about assimilation and creativity is not empirical. Interweaving is collaborative and incremental rather than a revolutionary process. Collaborators identify packets of knowledge that would benefit from the interweaving process.

To Learn More:

To read the entire report, download a copy of Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process for Watershed Assessment: Busy Place Creek (Sh-hwuykwselu) Demonstration Application in the Cowichan Valley.

Opportunities for restoration of the natural water balance in the Busy Place Creek tributary area