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Green Infrastructure

Green communities – ‘today’s expectations are tomorrow’s standards’ is a provincial government mantra in British Columbia. Since the built and natural environments are connected, design with nature to protect watershed function. The Green Communities Initiative provides a policy, regulatory and program framework for enabling local governments to create more compact, more sustainable and greener communities. Lead by example. Showcase innovation. Celebrate successes.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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DESIGN WITH NATURE TO CREATE LIVEABLE COMMUNITIES AND PROTECT STREAM HEALTH: “Replacement of curb-and-gutter with a blue link rain garden is a perfect illustration of integration in action. I said to staff just do it,” stated Ramin Seifi, former General Manager of engineering and planning with Langley Township in the Metro Vancouver region


Langley’s approach to achieving water balance through green Infrastructure evolved as successive neighbourhoods were built over the past two decades. In the beginning, the focus for Green Infrastructure was on what could be achieved within greenways. Langley staff then turned their attention to rain gardens. Building on their history of successes, their next evolution was implementation of “blue links”, which is another name for rain gardens. The blue link is symbolic of the transformational change which has taken root in the Township in the 21st century as designing with nature became the ‘new normal’.

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ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY: “A truly wise person remains teachable their entire lives, always curious and open to hearing new ideas and learning new things,” wrote Bernadette O’Connor, Editor, in the Winter 2024 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter IN BRITISH COLUMBIA:


“The term deep knowledge is generally referring to the effective sharing of knowledge that has been informed by a lot of experience. Thus, a work environment that encourages exploring and adapting to new knowledge as well as sharing senior knowledge and learned experience will generate better problem solvers and decisions. A balanced method to form institutional knowledge will draw benefit from the knowledge and experience of senior staff without discounting the contribution of new ideas, approaches, and information,” wrote Bernadette O’Connor.

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ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY: “Knowledge transfer is a broken process in local government,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability (Winter 2024 issue of Asset Management BC Newsletter)


“Organizational and intergenerational amnesia is real and has a downside. It results in unintended consequences. Superficial understandings do not yield solutions to complex problems. One needs deep knowledge. The ramifications of amnesia are cause for concern in an era when systems of all kinds are being subjected to repeated shocks that test their resiliency. At the same time, councils and boards are grappling with top-down decisions or directives by senior governments. But how effective can they be when knowledge transfer in local government is broken?” asked Kim Stephens.

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ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY: “We get a wide variety of education and skill sets on Councils and Boards often with very different interests. This makes communications complex and challenging,” stated Christina Benty, a former mayor of Golden in southeast British Columbia (Winter 2024 issue of Asset Management BC Newsletter)


“There are two young fish swimming along who happen to meet an older fish. The older fish nods at them and says: ‘Morning boys, how’s the water?’ The two young fish swim on for a bit and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and asks: ‘What the hell is water?’ The story also begs the question, what makes the older fish so much wiser? We must infer that it is his experience. That is, the older fish only knows about water because he’s been either outside the fishbowl or in many different fishbowls,” wrote Christina Benty.

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ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY: “We are looking forward to the challenge, to developing our internal capacity and cross-departmental integration, and to having some fun together along the way,” stated Jacqueline Weston, Asset Management Program Manager with the District of Saanich (Winter 2024 issue of Asset Management BC Newsletter)


“The District of Saanich 2019-2023 Strategic Plan included the development of an asset management strategy. The team now has a Council approved road map for the next five years on our journey towards sustainable service delivery. Implementation of the plan will advance Saanich’s Asset Management practices in each of the four core elements of the Asset Management BC framework (assets, information, finances and people), and will result in completion of Saanich’s first-generation Asset Management Plans by 2027.

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DESIGN WITH NATURE TO CREATE LIVEABLE COMMUNITIES AND PROTECT STREAM HEALTH: “Sharing knowledge across departments and municipalities is a big one for developing and implementing truly integrated plans,” stated Melony Burton, Manager of Infrastructure Planning with the City of Port Coquitlam in Metro Vancouver


“In my work, I continue to apply the ten principles that I developed at Coquitlam when we delivered nine Integrated Watershed Management Plans in just 10 years. Three of the 10 are universally applicable to any area of infrastructure planning: take action, start small, stay practical. Staying true to these has helped me deliver so much. Develop a really good strategy coming out of the gate and stay super focused. Do not go down rabbit holes. You can always circle back later. Rather than just diving in, start with getting the lessons learned from what others have tried first,” stated Melony Burton.

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EAP, THE ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS, IS AN EXPRESSION OF BLUE ECOLOGY: “Streams need a place to be. If we cannot get our heads around that, we are not going to keep our streams,” stated Tim Pringle, a founding director and Past-President of the Partnership for Water Sustainability


“Because nature is a system, you cannot slice and dice it. EAP recognizes this and is a financial tool to give streams the support they need to survive. EAP provides a value picture of a stream system as a land use. How are Blue Ecology and EAP interconnected? Blue Ecology emphasizes the social perspective for protecting watersheds and streams. EAP shows how to achieve that outcome. EAP builds on the ‘big idea’ that use and conservation of land are equal values. Where Blue Ecology and EAP come together is in recognizing the importance of water and ecological assets in those two contexts,” stated Tim Pringle.

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DESIGN WITH NATURE TO CREATE LIVEABLE COMMUNITIES AND PROTECT STREAM HEALTH: “With the exodus of baby-boomers, there are few left in the work force that know the history and drivers behind many plans, policies and regulations,” stated Robert Hicks, a career engineer-planner in local government in the Metro Vancouver region


“The notion of a superficial understanding explains the challenge that I am seeing. There are post-2000 graduate engineers coming out of university who are familiar with green infrastructure ideas and concepts, but they do not know the details behind them: details that they did not have to know at university or in their previous jobs. Sure, they understand rainwater management ideas and concepts at a high level. But without the background and history, can they really appreciate why certain targets and approaches were selected while others were not?” stated Robert Hicks.

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DESIGN WITH NATURE TO CREATE LIVEABLE COMMUNITIES AND PROTECT STREAM HEALTH: “The Bowker Creek Initiative is a network. It is a true community-driven collaboration made up of people with a lot of heart, grit, commitment, and dedication. They are dedicated to achieving the Bowker Blueprint vision,” stated Jody Watson


Jody Watson provided inspirational leadership as chair of the Bowker Creek Initiative (BCI) for 13 years from 2005 through 2018. Without determined champions, nothing gets started and nothing happens. Champions motivate others. “The BCI represents an extensive network that includes three Councils, every department, 11 community associations, and the CRD too. We have spent 20 years of trust-building, of credibility-building. All that is part of collaboration, and that is what makes collaboration work. We had little successes and we had big successes,” stated Jody Watson

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FOCUS ON THE HEALTH OF STREAM CORRIDORS: “There is a need for a new approach to hydrologic design, Jim Dumont advocated in the mid-2000s. So, Fergus Creek became the pilot,” stated Rémi Dubé, former Drainage Planning Manager with the City of Surrey


By the late 2000s, Surrey was poised to move beyond pilot projects to a broader watershed-based objectives approach. And they did as of 2008 when Council passed am enabling bylaw. From that bold leap forward emerged the framework for Surrey’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy. The genesis for the strategy was the green solutions concept in the Fergus Creek plan. The innovation in the Fergus Creek plan flowed from collaboration between Surrey engineering and planning staff and with Jim Dumont, a water resource innovator and thought leader.

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