What is “Green Infrastructure”? – Looking back to understand the origin, meaning and use of the term in British Columbia
“Two complementary strategies can ‘green’ a community and its infrastructure: first, preserving as much as possible of the natural green infrastructure; and secondly, promoting designs that soften the footprint of development,” wrote Susan Rutherford. “Green infrastructure design is engineering design that takes a ‘design with nature’ approach, to both mitigate the potential impacts of existing and future development and growth and to provide valuable services.”
“The Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia is the keeper of the GIP legacy,” observes Paul Ham, a Past-Chair of the Green Infrastructure Partnership
“I see my years of chairing the Green Infrastructure Partnership as helping to get the ball rolling and ideas disseminated, on green infrastructure, all of which has subsequently been taken up by others to a much greater degree of implementation and success. Our efforts a decade ago moved the state of-the-art of green infrastructure to a more mainstream level,” said Paul Ham.
BROOKLYN CREEK ON VANCOUVER ISLAND: “The asset that we call Brooklyn Creek watershed stands testament to the power of partnerships and the value derived from those relationships,” stated Al Fraser, Town of Comox, in a session on ‘Beacons of Hope’ at the Parksville 2019 Symposium (watch on YouTube)
“My story is both a personal and collective journey in keeping with the partnership theme; and ultimately building and nurturing relationships along the way,” stated Al Fraser, Superintendent of Parks. “When I look at the definition of partnership, and put it into the context of how it applies to the Brooklyn Creek storyline, the word that resonates most with me is participation. The participation that we have seen in Brooklyn Creek, and that continues to grow, is quite staggering. What we see today is truly a natural and remarkable community asset. It is loved and cared for by many.”
MOVING TOWARDS RESTORATIVE LAND DEVELOPMENT: “It is not a sprint. We are in it for the long haul; and we all need to recognize that we are in it for the long haul. I wonder what Ian McHarg would think if he could be with us today, 50 years after he wrote Design with Nature,” stated Bill Derry when he delivered the opening keynote on behalf of Kitsap County’s Chris May, Surface & Stormwater Division Director, at the Parksville 2019 Symposium
The ‘salmon crisis’ in the 1990s was the driver for pioneer research at Washington State University that correlated land use changes with impacts on stream health. The resulting science-based understanding opened the door to the Water Balance approach to rainwater management in BC. “Data are fine, but you must be able to show decision-makers and the public that we are making a difference and being cost-effective with funding,” stated Bill Derry. “You must be able to develop and tell stories. If you can tell stories well, that is how to make the biggest difference.”
ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: “One should view EAP as representing one point along a ‘green infrastructure continuum’. It is the latest evolution in an ongoing process in British Columbia that had its genesis in the late 1980s and early 1990s,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair, when providing historical context for green infrastructure ideas and practices
“EAP embodies what has been learned since 1998,” stated Tim Pringle. “EAP uses the word ‘accounting’ in the sense of taking stock and understanding the worth of ecological services as the community uses them. Holding up this mirror reflects opportunities taken or missed and risks avoided or incurred. It asks the question; how well are we doing? This is a social perspective on the natural commons and the constructed commons. Residents and property owners use and expect to use both of these assets to support quality of life and property enjoyment.”
DEMONSTRATION APPLICATION OF ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: Busy Place Creek (Sh-hwuykwselu) in the Cowichan Valley, completed July 2018
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 Cowichan Valley Regional District jurisdiction (CVRD). “Selection of Sh-hwuykwselu as an ‘EAP Demonstration Application’ was made possible by CVRD willingness to participate in a program funded by the governments of Canada and British Columbia,” stated Kim Stephens.
DEMONSTRATION APPLICATION OF ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: Brooklyn Creek in the Comox Valley, completed August 2018
“Through the multi-year strategy to maintain and enhance the lower catchment of Brooklyn Creek, the Town of Comox and its collaborators have provided a working example of understanding the worth of the creekshed, its hydrology, and ecological systems. This effort confirms the need for similar investment in other catchments of the creekshed,” stated Tim Pringle. “The EAP analyses have described what the Town’s residents and key intervenors think the Brooklyn creekshed is worth. The understanding gained will be shared with other local governments.”
ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: “Looking through the ‘worth lens’ culminated in a fundamental shift in philosophy regarding how to value natural assets in Comox,” stated Marvin Kamenz, the Town’s Municipal Planner, in his presentation at the Parksville 2019 Symposium – watch on YouTube!
At Parksville 2019, Marvin Kamenz elaborated on three building blocks in the evolution of the Town’s incremental process for implementing changes in development practices: lower Brooklyn Corridor, North East Comox, and new areas tributary to the middle Brooklyn Corridor. “The Town of Comox recognizes that ecological services are core municipal services,” stated Marvin Kamenz. “For the middle reach of Brooklyn Creek, we changed the approach to stormwater management in mid-project to focus on the protection and enhancement of the ‘Package of Ecological Services’.”
DOWNLOADABLE RESOURCE: “The essence of why collaboration works is that it increases the impact for everyone – and that’s the social lens for EAP,” explained Tim Pringle, EAP Chair, after the Partnership for Water Sustainability released ‘An Introduction to the Ecological Accounting Process’ at the Parksville 2019 Symposium (April 2019)
“The ecological accounting process (EAP) provides metrics that enable communities to appreciate the worth of natural assets. These resources provide numerous public benefits in the form of ecological services,” stated Tim Pringle. “EAP also calculates the dollar value of the land occupied by the natural commons, thus providing a basis for budgeting maintenance and enhancement expenditures. The natural commons has a corollary – the constructed commons.”
Ecological Accounting Process and Water Balance Methodology – the twin pillars of a whole-system, water balance vision for restorative land development in British Columbia, an approach branded as “Sustainable Watershed Systems, through Asset Management”
“Development of the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) began in 2015. The EAP vision was first unveiled in Beyond the Guidebook 2015. This was the third in a series that builds on Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, released by the provincial government in 2002,” states Kim Stephens. “Beyond the Guidebook 2015 introduced the notion of the ‘twin pillars’ – that is, EAP and the Water Balance Methodology – for asset management strategies that achieve the goal of ‘sustainable watershed systems’.”
YOUTUBE VIDEOS: Worth of Ecological Services – “What are the commons? Those are places in the community that everyone has a right to access, and draw value from. There are two kinds of commons – natural and constructed,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair of the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) Initiative, at the Parksville 2019 Symposium
“EAP offers some insights on the importance of considering the natural commons as systems that residents, property owners and local governments rely on, but understand only to a limited extent,” stated Tim Pringle. “The commons are those resources in the community that are shared by and available to all residents and property owners. From a human settlement point of view, the reality of the commons provides a way to understand the social realities of managing ecological systems. EAP helps communities calculate what ecological services are worth.”
How Ian McHarg Taught Generations to ‘Design With Nature’ – Fifty years ago, a Scottish landscape architect revolutionized how designers and planners think about ecology. His legacy matters now more than ever.
In the introductory chapter, McHarg framed his argument: “Our eyes do not divide us from the world, but they unite us to it…Let us abandon the simplicity of separation and give unity its due. Let us abandon the self-mutilation which has been our way and give expression to the potential harmony of man-nature … Man is that uniquely conscious creature who can perceive and express. He must become the steward of the biosphere. To do this, he must design with nature.”