HOW VANCOUVER IS PROTECTING ITSELF FROM FLOODING: “In the old days, it was ‘scoop the water up and send it down these pipes.’ Now, with climate change, we have to restore these old systems,” said Melina Scholefield, the City of Vancouver’s manager of green infrastructure implementation

Note to Reader:

In a feature article published by Pique Newsmagazine in May 2021, Stefan Labbé sets the context with this opening statement: “Green infrastructure promises to keep the worst of flooding and contaminated rivers at bay. But while it has set ambitious targets, Vancouver is falling behind many other big cities. Could Seattle offer an answer?” Stefan Labbé covers Climate and Environment solutions across British Columbia for Glacier Media. A former digital reporter at the Tri-City News, his work has appeared in the Guardian, the Globe & Mail and PBS Newshour.

How Vancouver is protecting itself from future flooding — with plants

“Vancouver’s narrative over the past two decades has often hinged on densification — how to manage the rise of dull grey towers framed by distant green mountains,” states Stefan Labbé in his opening sentence.

“But with every megaton of carbon dioxide belched into the atmosphere, the risk of rising seas and increasingly heavy rainfall has pushed the region toward letting more of that forest creep back into the city.

“Known as ‘green infrastructure’, the idea is to simulate a natural water cycle wiped out from decades of city building,” explains Stefan Labbé. He then quotes Melina Scholefield, the City of Vancouver’s manager of green infrastructure implementation, as follows:

“In the old days, it was ‘scoop the water up and send it down these pipes.’ Now, with climate change, we have to restore these old systems. That’s the whole paradigm shift.” 

“Scholefield said Vancouver has had its own growing pains. Though it has an over 20-year history installing green infrastructure, until 2018, it was rarely done systematically and did not use geotechnical studies to understand how fast water could penetrate the ground underfoot,” Stefan Labbé notes.

To Learn More:

To read the complete article by Stefan Labbé, download a PDF copy of How Vancouver is protecting itself from future flooding — with plants.

Creating Safe Cities for Salmon

In his article, Stefan Labbé connects the dots to recent research by Andrea McDonald. Her work is featured in Waterbucket eNews (May 2021).

“Rapid urbanization of the Lower Fraser Watershed (LFW) has dramatically altered the natural hydrology of the landscape. The building up of cities in the LFW has resulted in the reduction and degradation of valuable wild Pacific salmon habitat and waterways,” states Andrea McDonald, author of the joint research study by the Pacific Water Research Centre at Simon Fraser University and the Salmon-Safe BC team at the Fraser Basin Council.

To Learn More:

Download a PDF copy of  Living Water Smart in British Columbia: Creating Safe Cities for Salmon.

Flashback to 2006 and the Metro Vancouver Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation Series

“The Celebrating Green Infrastructure Program: Showcasing Innovation Series was launched in May 2006 in the Metro Vancouver region as a provincial pilot. The program goal was to build regional capacity through the sharing of approaches and lessons learned as an outcome of ‘designing with nature’,” states Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability.

“The program was an outcome of the May 2005 Consultation Workshop organized by the BC Green Infrastructure Partnership in collaboration with the Regional Engineers Advisory Committee (REAC). The cities of Vancouver and Surrey, along with the District of North Vancouver, each hosted a day in the series.”

Greening Local Roadways

The City of Vancouver and UBC co-hosted the third in the Celebrating Green Infrastructure pilot program. The unifying theme for their event was “Greening Local Roadways – Integration of Rainwater Management & Transportation Design”.

“Vancouver’s Green Streets Program for streetscape enhancement began in 1994 as a pilot project in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. The success of the project inspired other neighbourhoods to get involved and liven up their streets,” stated David Desrochers in 2006.

David Desrochers is the visionary engineer who provided the driving force for the City of Vancouver’s initiatives in implementing both Country Lanes and Crown Street. “Yes, I am one who pushes the envelope in advocating new ways of building streets and lanes”, admitted Desrochers, “But I could not have made either Crown Street or Country Lanes happen without the strong support and commitment of Don Brynildsen, the City’s Assistant City Engineer.”

To Learn More:

Visit Showcasing Innovation in the City of Vancouver and at the University of British Columbia

Crown Street “walkabout” in 2006 as part of the program for Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation in the City of Vancouver”. The program was organized by the BC Green Infrastructure Partnership.