Green Infrastructure Community-of-Practice is the online home for EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, which is an initiative of the Partnership for Water Sustainability for British Columbia
“Commencing with a launch announcement by the BC Minister of Environment in 2005, this community-of-practice has served an important function as the home for green infrastructure in British Columbia. Originally created to support the work of the Green Infrastructure Partnership, the community-of-practice now has a dual focus in supporting two interconnected initiatives, that is: EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process: and Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery in BC, which is led by Asset Management BC,” stated Mike Tanner, Waterbucket Chair.
HOW WE CHANGE WHAT WE ARE DOING ON THE LANDSCAPE: Synthesis Report on EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, a BC Strategy for Community Investment in Stream Systems (released by the Partnership for Water Sustainability, June 2022)
“In 2016, the Partnership embarked upon a 6-year program of applied research to evolve EAP through a 3-stage building blocks process of testing, refining, and mainstreaming the methodology and metrics for financial valuation of stream systems. The program involved 9 case studies and 13 local governments and yielded 19 “big ideas” or foundational concepts. The program goal was to answer the question, how much should communities budget each year for maintenance and management of stream systems,” stated Tim Pringle.
HISTORY OF GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “The Partnership for Water Sustainability is the keeper of the GIP legacy,” stated Paul Ham, a Past-Chair of the Green Infrastructure Partnership
During the period 2003 through 2010, the Green Infrastructure Partnership played a prominent role in leading change and assisting with implementation of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia, primarily in the Metro Vancouver region. “I see my years of chairing the GIP 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.
FLASHBACK TO 2007: What is “Green Infrastructure”? Looking back to understand the origin, meaning and use of the term in British Columbia
In 2007, the first Beyond the Guidebook guidance document provided a clear distinction between natural and engineered green infrastructure. “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.”
ROAD MAP FOR STREAM SYSTEM INTEGRITY: The enduring legacy of Richard Horner and Chris May is that they applied systems thinking, investigated whole systems in place, identified four limiting factors, and definitively established their order-of-priority
In the 1990s, Puget Sound research correlated land use changes with impacts on stream system condition. “So many studies manipulate a single variable out of context with the whole and its many additional variables. We, on the other hand, investigated whole systems in place, tying together measures of the landscape, stream habitat, and aquatic life. Unless and until land development practices mimic the natural water balance, communities cannot expect to restore the biological communities within streams. Simply put, hydrology hits first and hardest,” stated Richard Horner.
CHALLENGES OF USING A PROFESSIONAL RELIANCE MODEL FOR ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: “The requirement that local governments have an Asset Management Plan addresses the disconnect between land use oversight and direct responsibility for maintenance and management of stream corridor condition,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair of the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) program
“Why do we still see policies and practices that compromise the integrity of stream corridor systems and impose a downstream financial liability upon communities? How do we change that? The 2014 investigation and Striking a Balance report by the BC Ombudsperson identified significant gaps between the process the provincial government had established when the Riparian Areas Protection Regulation was enacted and the level of oversight that was actually in place. Many of the issues remain as pressing as they were in 2014,” stated Tim Pringle.
ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY: “Asset management is not new. What is new are the accounting standards around asset management and the attention being paid to a long-term financial strategy to support it,” wrote Khalie Genereaux, Deputy Director of Finance with the City of Terrace (Winter 2023 issue of Asset Management BC Newsletter)
“The Public Service Accounting Board. PSAB 3150 requires local governments to amortize their tangible capital assets over their expected useful life. Prior to 2009, there were no standards in place for the valuation and deterioration of the local government assets. Consequently, the funding for renewal and replacement has not always been top of mind or top priority. As many of our aging communities are seeing their assets reach the end of their useful lives, the funding portion can no longer be ignored. If it is, we could all see ourselves declaring a local state of emergency,” wrote Khalie Genereaux.
COMMUNICATION TOOLS FOR VISUALIZATION OF FOUNDATIONAL CONCEPTS: A clear and compelling takeaway message is that communities need annual budgets to tackle the Riparian Deficit along streams
“How concepts are explained is crucial to creating awareness, building understanding, and inspiring action through a commitment to shared responsibility to make things right. In this case, restoring riparian integrity in streamside protection zones. If we know how to do a much better job of protecting ecological features and stream systems in our communities and on our landscape, then why aren’t we doing a better job? Why are streams still degrading? This is the reason the Partnership for Water Sustainability developed a set of six graphics to bring to life foundational concepts. These graphics are communication tools,” stated Kim Stephens.
ASSET MANAGEMENT IS A CONTINUUM OF STEPS (GRAPHIC): Communication tool conceptualizes milestones along the way as a local government progresses on its journey to achieve fully integrated Sustainable Service Delivery for the drainage function
“The ultimate vision for fully integrated Sustainability Service Delivery is that communities would protect, preserve, restore and manage natural assets in the same way that they manage their engineered assets. A watershed, and the ecosystem services that it provides, is a fundamental and integral part of a community’s infrastructure. This is not to suggest that all ecosystem services provide a municipal function. But trees, soil, green spaces and water do contribute a valuable municipal function in maintaining the hydrologic integrity of a healthy watershed system,” stated Glen Brown.
NESTED CONCEPTS (GRAPHIC): How do we change what we are doing on and to the landscape? Everything comes down to one question: What is the number for the line item in a local government annual budget for community investment in maintenance and management of stream systems?
“The idea that nature provides “ecological services” is not intuitively understood by the public, elected representatives and asset managers. Because the concept is abstract, it requires a leap of faith for buy-in at an operational level in local government where numbers matter. This challenge accentuates the need for effective communication tools. The Nested Concepts graphic helps local governments move past the rhetoric and focus their attention on achieving desired outcomes through a sustained and affordable investment in restoration of streamside protection zones,” stated Kim Stephens.
CASCADING CONCEPTS (GRAPHIC): “Visualize a Monday night meeting of a municipal council and reflect on how councils make decisions. Their mindset is all about what happens at the parcel scale. This is the driver for creating an over-arching mind-map to explain the Ecological Accounting Process in terms they understand,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair
“It is amazing that we have been able to produce a methodology that defines what a stream is, can find the value of the stream using impartial BC Assessment data, and add to that a riparian assessment that looks at the 30m zone and a further 200m upland area to evaluate the water balance condition and what is happening to water pathways,” stated Tim Pringle. “How concepts are explained is crucial. What is easily understood and measured gets implemented. The use of cascading concepts as a mind map helps us cut through the rhetoric to provide audiences with meaningful context and content.”
TWIN PILLARS OF STREAM SYSTEM INTEGRITY (GRAPHIC): “There are many factors that influence stream degradation. There is not a single smoking gun. Sure, impervious area is the main culprit. But you can trash a stream just as badly by deforestation of the riparian zone as you can by paving over the headwaters with a mall,” stated Dr. Chris May, a Washington State local government leader
“We figured out that you can do all you want with stormwater runoff to restore the water balance, but you still are not going to restore the aquatic resources to where they need to be unless you actually jump into the streams and riparian areas and do restoration there. So that is what I did. My leadership position as Division Director at Kitsap County allowed me to put science into practice. We learned through experience that you cannot do just stormwater or restoration. You have to do both. Also, working at multiple scales and multiple levels is really key,” stated Chris May.
DEMONSTRATION APPLICATIONS: A 6-year program of applied research between 2016 and 2022 to test, refine and mainstream the methodology and metrics for EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, a “made in BC” strategy for community investment in stream systems and other natural commons
“Thirteen local governments in five sub-regions of the Georgia Basin / Salish Sea Bioregion participated in the EAP program. The sequencing of the 9 case studies proved consequential and sometimes game changing. While the methodology and metrics are universal, each situation is unique. Understanding what each partner needed as an outcome from the project became a critical consideration in the building blocks process. EAP evolved as one big idea led to the next one. The 19 big ideas are transformative in their implications for why and how local governments would implement Sustainable Drainage Service Delivery,” stated Kim Stephens,