REPORT ON: “Millstone River – A Natural Commons in the Regional District of Nanaimo: Operationalizing the Ecological Accounting Process for Financial Valuation of Stream Corridor Systems within an Asset Management Plan” (Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC; released March 2021)

Note to Reader:

Under the umbrella of the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative, the report on the Millstone River is the 5th in a series about demonstration applications for testing, refining and mainstreaming the “Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) – A BC Process for Community Investment in the Natural Commons”.

The EAP program is multi-year (2016-2021) and multi-stage to test (Stage 1), refine (Stage 2) and mainstream (Stage 3) the EAP methodology and metrics. The Millstone River is the first of six Stage 3 applications. 

The Millstone River is the Flagship Project for
EAP Demonstration Applications

“Five years ago, the Partnership for Water Sustainability introduced the vision for EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

“The driver for EAP is degradation of stream channels and streamside protection areas. EAP addresses the elephant in the room which is the unfunded cost (hence liability) to protect, remediate or enhance stream systems in urban and rural landscapes.”

Millstone River Study Area

The Millstone River is a feature of the Nanaimo Lowland Eco-Region. The Millstone is defined as a 4th order stream and is influenced by nine named tributaries and six lakes. The tributaries are classified as 1st order creeksheds. The Millstone itself flows for about 15 km from Brannen Lake to the Nanaimo harbour.

This EAP Demonstration Application was undertaken in collaboration with the Regional District of Nanaimo, City of Nanaimo, and the Island Waters Fly Fishers.

EAP Bridges a Gap and is a Game-Changer

“EAP satisfies a local government need for a financial methodology and metrics for valuation of ecological assets. Most importantly, EAP interweaves the financial, social and ecological perspectives within a single number.”

“This number is defined as the Natural Commons Asset (NCA) value. The end goal is an annual budget for ‘maintenance and management’ (M&M) of stream systems.”

“The Millstone project provided the RDN, the City of Nanaimo and local stewardship group Island Waters Fly Fishers with the opportunity to get a real measure that accounts for the value and worth of the Millstone River stream corridor in asset management planning. They now have the numbers to make the case for M&M of the Millstone.”

“The Millstone River EAP project has provided the RDN with a path forward so that it could account for and operationalize M&M of stream corridor systems across the region. This would be done under the umbrella of its Corporate Asset Management Plan. This would be a BC-first.”


To read the report in its entirety, download a copy of Millstone River – A Natural Commons in the Regional District of Nanaimo: Operationalizing the Ecological Accounting Process for Financial Valuation of Stream Corridor Systems within an Asset Management Plan

A Stream is a Land Use and provides a
“Package of Ecological Services”

The EAP methodology focuses on the historical and current land use practices that have changed landscapes, modified hydrology, and have led to present-day community perceptions of the worth of the stream or creekshed and the ecological services it provides. A whole-system understanding is the starting point for developing meaningful metrics,” stated Tim Pringle.

Three Big Areas

“In the Millstone River report, readers will encounter some uncommon concepts about the use and conservation of land as applied to natural asset management. EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, considers use and conservation of land to be equally important values for prosperous human settlements.”

The First Big Idea: 

“Streams are Natural Commons, systems that provide ecological services (uses) that the community jointly can access and enjoy. The idea of the commons includes social, ecological and financial qualities.”

“Use and conservation of natural commons assets implies a social contract; that these natural assets will be maintained and managed to ensure access to ecological services in the future. The community has similar expectation concerning constructed commons – roads, storm drainage systems, potable water systems.”

The Second Big Idea:

“A stream in settled areas is a Land Use. The setback zone for streamside protection is defined in the Riparian Areas Protection Regulation. The financial value of the setback zone is measured using BC Assessment data. This calculation may be used to assign financial value to riparian areas beyond the stream setback zone that are conserved to enhance the stream’s functioning condition.”

The Third Big Idea:

“A stream is an ecological system that has Worth, described by the investment the community has made to maintain and manage the stream.  The stream, depending on its ecological condition, may influence positively or negatively the financial value of nearby parcels of land.”

Application of EAP Findings

“The EAP analyses provide the City of Nanaimo with specific financial as well as social and ecological measures for its historical investment in the Millstone Greenway over 20 years. Through their ongoing collaboration, the City and RDN will be able to consider future M&M strategies based on the entire Millstone system.”

“The combination of NCA metrics and riparian assessment has provided the two local governments with a starting point for building early support, for long-term and target-based strategies, for systematic M&M investment in restoring riparian woodlands and native vegetation for the full width of the regulated SPEA setback zone. This is huge!”