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.
FLASHBACK TO 2009: “A provincial policy framework is now in place that enables municipalities to ‘do business differently’ in order to design their communities to live in harmony with water,” stated the Ministry of Environment’s Lynn Kriwoken at a forum co-organized by the BC Green Infrastructure Partnership
“A key message in Living Water Smart is that green development makes sense. New thinking about development leads to new benefits. These include more green spaces, more water and fish in the streams, improved community vitality, reduced demand for water, and reduced expenditure on infrastructure. By living water smart, communities will be more prepared for climate change and their quality of life will be enhanced,” stated Lynn Kriwoken. Her description reflected the theme, “Living Water Smart & Making Green Choices”, for the 2009 forum held in Surrey for Metro Vancouver municipalities.
NEWS FROM ASSET MANAGEMENT BC: Wally Wells hands the baton to David Allen to continue the “sustainable service delivery” mission and build on the foundation that is in place for encouraging fully integrated asset management in British Columbia (July 2022)
“Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework” redefines the context for deciding how infrastructure is planned, financed, implemented, and maintained in British Columbia. It raises questions about how communities would service urbanizing and redeveloping areas in future. The BC Framework points the way to a holistic and integrated approach to asset management. Nature, and the ecosystem services that it provides, are viewed as a fundamental and integral part of a community’s infrastructure system.
ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “We know that having good succession plans in place is paramount to keeping the knowledge moving through the organization as key people leave. This is just one piece of the much greater puzzle,” stated Khalie Genereaux, Deputy Director of Finance with the City of Terrace, in an article written for the Asset Management BC Newsletter (July 2022)
“Small municipalities, such as Terrace, have limited resources to be able to take on something like Asset Management wholeheartedly and with focus. For most of us it is a corner of the desk project that we get to when we have time. We are now trying to change that, bit by bit. Although our level of human capital has not changed, our lens of how to view Asset Management has. The more we learn within the process and the results, it is no longer a matter of getting to it when we have time, but rather making the time to do it. Put simply, we cannot afford NOT to make this a priority,” stated Khalie Genereaux.
ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE DRAINAGE SERVICE DELIVERY: “An elephant in the room is the hollowing out of government capacity at all levels and the reliance on outside service providers,” stated Kim Stephens in an article published in the Summer 2022 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter
“The question is, how does one create a situation where the environmental perspective is on an equal footing with the engineering and accounting perspectives? Only then can there be a balanced and productive conversation about annual budgets for maintenance and management (M&M) of assets, whether those are constructed assets or the natural component of the Drainage Service. The growing cost due to neglect of the Drainage Service, combined with the urgency of the drainage liability issue, is the driver for linking municipal infrastructure asset management and stream health as cause-and-effect,” stated Kim Stephens.
BEYOND THE GUIDEBOOK 2022 / FINANCIAL CASE FOR STREAMS: “Green infrastructure state-of-the-art in the United States is now close to where the BC state-of-the-art was in 2005” – based on an interview with Dr. Zbigniew Grabowski, lead researcher for the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, this is the key takeaway from the first systematic review of the use and definition of the green infrastructure concept in local government plans in the United States
“There are a lot of ‘greening’ and sustainability initiatives, but they are not conceptually unified. They are neither thought about in terms of interdependencies nor systemically. We had this moment of realization about the diversity of plans when it clicked in our minds about analyzing all the plans in terms of three big buckets: something that is very stormwater-focused, something that is very land-focused, and something that is trying to integrate the two. In the process, we started to uncover this grain of systems thinking within green infrastructure planning,” stated Dr. Zbigniew Grabowski.
ARTICLE: “EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, considers the entirety of the stream corridor system—a ‘natural commons’—and seeks to ensure that streams survive in an urban or urbanizing setting, without suffering from degradation of stream channels and streamside riparian setback zones” (Water Canada magazine, May-June 2022)
“I reached out to Kim Stephens of the Partnership for Water Sustainability BC with an invitation to share more about the people, policy, and projects in BC, through penning an article for Water Canada magazine and sharing of relevant information. I am very keen on showcasing real world water projects, and the people whose lives they impact, with our national audience. The Ecological Accounting Process is a topic the Water Canada audience would really benefit from and that is why we featured it in the May-June 2022 issue,” stated Jen Smith, magazine editor.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY OF EAP, THE ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROECESS: “Because local governments need real numbers to deliver outcomes, we landed on a concept which we call the Riparian Deficit,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair (Waterbucket eNews, June 2022)
“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. “Because local governments need real numbers to deliver outcomes, we landed on a concept which we call the Riparian Deficit. This expresses three measures of value in a single number.”
SYNTHESIS REPORT ON ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS, A BC STRATEGY FOR COMMUNITY INVESTMENT IN STREAM SYSTEMS: “The EAP story is about a journey, one that began circa 1990. Three decades later, parallel tracks have converged in the form of EAP. It has been a building blocks process,” stated Kim Stephens when the Partnership for Water Sustainability released a guidance document flowing from a 6-year program of applied research (June 2022)
“Know your history. Understand the context. These are key thoughts, and they provide perspective for the story of EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, as told in the Synthesis Report. EAP provides local governments with the philosophy, methodology and metrics they need to make the financial case for stream systems. Maintenance and management (M&M) of stream systems can now be integrated into a Local Government Finance Strategy for sustainable infrastructure funding. The 6-year program of applied research to test, refine and mainstream EAP provides local government with a path forward to address the Riparian Deficit,” stated Kim Stephens.
LAND DEVELOPMENT AND WATERSHED PROTECTION CAN BE COMPATIBLE: “1997, a presentation on the science of land use change by Kim Stephens and Bill Derry helped an inter-ministry working group realize that we needed more than a setback to protect aquatic habitat. The science shows that communities also need to tackle what is happening on the land that drains to streams,” stated Peter Law, Chair of the former Guidebook Steering Committee, on the 20th anniversary of Guidebook publication (June 2022)
“I found the opportunity to ‘look beyond the stream’ and address poor water quality from drainage runoff in the Waste Management Act. The opportunity resided in the non-point source provision for Liquid Waste Management Plans. The term non-point source pollution was used by my colleagues in the Waste Management Branch to highlight poor quality of runoff from developed and/or developing lands. But this provision was not being applied to the issue of how land is developed. So, I asked my colleagues, why not use this mechanism to connect the dots between changes to the land and impacts on streams,” stated Peter Law.
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
The EAP focus on Bertrand occurs in a framework of policy and actions which protect the environment and natural assets. “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,” stated Melisa Gunn.