APPLICATION OF EAP, THE ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: “Through the EAP work, the concept of ‘Riparian Deficit’ in the natural commons area highlights the shared responsibility of rural and urban landowners to maintain Bertrand Creek, an important asset in the Township of Langley,” stated Melisa Gunn, Agricultural Planner with the Township of Langley in the Metro Vancouver region

Note to Reader:

What does “managing natural assets” actually mean in the local government setting? In May 2022, Melisa Gunn of the Township of Langley and Tim Pringle of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia addressed this question in a webinar organized and hosted by the Climate Caucus. They shared the story of the Bertrand Creek EAP Project, the final case study in a 6-year program to test, refine and mainstream EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process

Bertrand Creek and its tributaries drain the southeast quarter of the Township of Langley and is a transboundary watershed. The Bertrand system occupies 14% of the municipality’s total land base The main stem originates in a rural area, swings through urban Aldergrove, and flows south through agricultural land into Washington State. There, it discharges into the Nooksack River.

Local Governments Need Real Numbers to Deliver Outcomes

“The Township has developed a strategy that would allow it to compensate rural parcel owners for on-parcel maintenance and management (M&M) and restoration of ecological assets. The metrics for EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, would support a strategy to increase M&M of riparian assets and woodland assets that are essential for the condition of the stream system. It is therefore a natural alignment of two precedent-setting approaches,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair of the EAP initiative, a 6-year program of applied research.

“The community values the Bertrand Creek landscape. The EAP focus on Bertrand occurs in a framework of policy and actions which protect the environment and natural assets. The question is, how can EAP support the case for payment to rural parcel owners in the Township of Langley?”

“In a nutshell, the answer is that EAP yields data and the understanding that would allow the Township to implement the strategy for Payment of Ecosystem Services in a way that is equitable for all residents.”

Road Map for Protecting Stream System Integrity

“In the 1990s, Washington State research correlated land use changes with impacts on stream system condition. Richard Horner, Chris May, and others applied a systems approach. They examined the interaction of all the variables and defined four limiting factors. The Partnership for Water Sustainability describes the four factors as the road map for action to protect and/or restore system integrity,” explained Tim Pringle.

“The top two factors are changes in hydrology and loss of riparian integrity. Water Balance Accounting addresses changes on the land draining to the stream. Ecological Accounting addresses changes within a stream corridor.  In 2015, the Partnership developed the ‘twin pillars’ concept for reconnecting hydrology and stream ecology.”

Why the term Riparian Deficit?

“The Riparian Deficit is the metric for establishing annual budgets for stream system maintenance and management (M&M). The Riparian Deficit is a measure of ‘loss of riparian integrity’ due to land use intrusion into the regulated streamside setback zone. It is an indicator of the effectiveness, or not, of streamside setback regulation,” continued Tim Pringle.

“Riparian deficit is an effective way of encapsulating the underlying uniqueness of the EAP theory, methodology and metrics. It is a breakthrough in thinking that resulted from a shift in understanding that the analytical process for determining ‘worth’ and ‘value’ of a stream system is really about measuring the riparian deficit and expressing it as a social, ecological, and financial value.”

“The concept of a Riparian Deficit is equivalent to the Infrastructure Deficit and provides environmental planners with a point of departure for an inter-departmental conversation about the services that natural and constructed assets each provide. This is game-changing.”

Application of EAP to Bertrand Creek in the Township of Langley

“In 2015, the Bertrand Creek watershed was chosen for its unique qualities. The purpose of ESI, the Ecological Services Initiative, is to pay farmers to enhance areas on their properties. The Township of Langley was looking for a process that used real numbers to understand how to develop fair and equitable payments for the agricultural landowners that was based on real numbers to move forward with the Ecological Services Initiative Project,” stated Melisa Gunn, Agricultural Planner with the Township.

“Currently, Township staff are working on a long-term Ecological Services Initiative program. The EAP analysis will be used to establish the baseline funding for payment to farmers. We are also planning on sharing the EAP results with the Township’s Asset Management Planning team for use in their natural assets inventory. In the future, we can use EAP to expand the program to other watersheds. Overall, the EAP findings support Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery.”

“Through the EAP work, the concept of ‘Riparian Deficit’ in the natural commons area highlights the shared responsibility of rural and urban landowners to maintain Bertrand Creek, an important asset in the Township of Langley.”

Climate Caucus Webinar on YouTube

To experience the flavour of the co-presentation, watch the video posted on YouTube.