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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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.”

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“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.

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DOCKSIDE GREEN, WORLD’S GREENEST NEIGHBOURHOOD: “Do we have the intelligence and will to impel change? Can convention be busted open again to develop sustainably? This book encourages sustainable change agents to make fundamental, systemic change. Please go implement. Now,” urges Kim Fowler, author of Dockside Green, the story of the world’s most sustainable development

“At Dockside Green, a ‘sandbox’ development concept was created instead of a ‘straitjacket’ conventional approach. This was achieved by setting the basic requirements for site redevelopment while still providing flexibility to promote innovation and competition in the land sale process. Traditional zoning was deemed to be a ‘straitjacket’ containing far too detailed and prescriptive land use and design. It would have destroyed competition and innovation,” stated Kim Fowler.

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DEMONSTRATION APPLICATION OF ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: Millstone River in the Regional District of Nanaimo, completed in March 2021

“The EAP methodology reflects the understanding that landowners adjacent to the stream corridor and setback zone and the broader community share responsibility for and benefit from the condition of the stream as well as the financial and ecological value of the land it occupies. The report suggests a general framework for local governments to consider in using the lens of ecological accounting within Corporate Asset Management Plans,” stated Julie Pisani.

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REPORT ON: “Millstone River – A Natural Commons in the Regional District of Nanaimo: Operationalizing the Ecological Accounting Process for Financial Valuation of Stream Corridor Systems within an Asset Management Plan” (Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC; released March 2021)

“The Millstone project provided the RDN, the City of Nanaimo and local stewardship group Island Waters Fly Fishers with the opportunity to get a real measure that accounts for the value and worth of the Millstone River stream corridor in asset management planning. They now have the numbers to make the case for M&M (maintenance and management) of the Millstone. The Millstone River EAP project has provided the RDN with a path forward so that it could account for and operationalize M&M of stream corridor systems across the region,” stated Kim Stephens.

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ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY: “It is ironic that we began breathing life, meaning and more serious resources into the long-term management of our physical assets as soon as they began reaching ‘end-of-life’,” stated Diane Kalen-Sukra, former Chief Administrative Officer of Salmo, in an article published in the Winter 2021 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter

“We had the same late awakening with natural assets – overlooking them until our physical infrastructure was exposed as vulnerable to climate change and tight budgets highlighted the cost effectiveness and resilience of natural assets like aquifers and wetlands. These natural gifts we had unconsciously relied upon are now being evaluated and ascribed a dollar value. Perhaps once this work is done, we will realize again, that we are all heavily invested,” stated Diane Kalen-Sukra.

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INTER-GENERATIONAL COLLABORATION: “In a representative democracy, politicians can only lead where people are prepared to follow,” stated Joan Sawicki, a former Speaker of the BC Legislative Assembly and Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks during the period 1991 through 2001

“Voters often send mixed messages. While it is perfectly legitimate to hold politicians’ “feet to the fire”, there is some justification to do the reverse as well! It is sometimes too convenient to blame politicians for the short term thinking hole that we are in. If we truly want our governments to shift from short-term to longer term thinking, as voters we must then be prepared to support – and re-elect – those politicians who bring in such policies and legislation, even if those initiatives negatively impact us personally today ” stated Joan Sawicki.

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APPLICATION OF BC’S FRAMEWORK FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY: “There are many considerations in a local government’s budget every year. The questions asked should revolve around service and risk. Are you asking the right questions?” – Wally Wells, Executive Director, Asset Management BC

“Asset Management BC has a program initiative underway to operationalize asset management. We have selected a cohort of seven local governments and First Nations communities in different regions. These are demonstration applications and cover a range of situations along the Asset Management Continuum. The understanding gained from this process will inform evolution and application of the BC Framework. We have asked each participating government to identify a barrier to sustainable service delivery. We are working our way through a process with each one to overcome that specific barrier,” stated Wally Wells.

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BC’S GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE PARTNERSHIP: “You can trust these people. Their only goal is to turn you on to the practical reality that designing with nature – particularly water – is underway, is working, and holds out hope for communities and cities to function better,” stated (former) West Vancouver Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones when she facilitated a presentation to elected representatives on the Metro Vancouver Sustainable Region Initiative Task Force (October 2006)

“I was asked by members of the Green Infrastructure Partnership to help them support local leaders throughout BC, so that we – the politicians – can champion the idea that designing with nature, particularly with regard to how water flows, has everything to do with achieving a built environment that is truly sustainable. As the leaders appointed to design the Sustainable Region Initiative, we view you as critical partners in affecting positive change with regard to infrastructure design in the region,” stated Mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones.

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WHY THE FUSED GRID STREET PATTERN? – “In the early 2000s, entirely new priorities, along with old ones, were being staked at every corner of the planning universe. A tangled web of interacting variables emerged from these demands; a truly formidable, complex puzzle,” stated Fanis Grammenos, author of Remaking the City Grid, and an urban sustainability thinker

“The real urgent task was to convince a Municipality or a developer that this combination of known components worked well and that it produced desirable outcomes. Developers listened to the evidence with one ear while holding the other close to their clients – Sold! But they hesitated, being anxious that the City would not approve such plans; Cities, big and small, had just issued policy reports declaring: ‘cul-de-sacs are no longer allowed in this city because they are disconnected’,” stated Fanis Grammenos.

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HYDRATING LANDSCAPES TO MITIGATE CLIMATE CHANGE: “It was 20 years ago when we realized that soil is the cornerstone for water sustainability. Restoring the ‘balance’ to the ‘water balance’ starts with soil,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, in his panel presentation at the virtual Living Soils Symposium hosted by Regeneration Canada (February 2021)

“To adapt to a changing water cycle, soil depth as an ‘absorbent sponge’ is a primary water management tool, during both dry-weather and wet-weather periods. When the soil sponge has sufficient depth, the water holding capacity means that less water would be needed during dry-weather to irrigate gardens. This contributes to sustainability of water supply. And in wet-weather, an effective sponge would slowly release runoff and contribute to sustainability of aquatic habitat,” stated Kim Stephens.

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FLASHBACK TO 2009: “To do an Integrated Stormwater Management Plan right, one has to start with the desired outcome – which is protect or improve stream health – and then determine what actions in the watershed will green the urban landscape,” stated Kim Stephens, Chair of Metro Vancouver’s Liquid Waste Management Reference Panel, when reporting out to regional elected representatives

A commitment by Metro Vancouver municipalities to integrate land use and drainage planning was the genesis for Integrated Stormwater Management Plans (ISMPs). “When the Reference Panel reported back to the Waste Management Committee in July 2008, we identified the ISMP process as a sleeper issue because there are 130 watersheds in the region; and continuation of the old-business-as-usual would potentially result in an aggregate unfunded liability that could easily equal the $1.4 billion cost of sewage treatment,” stated Kim Stephens.

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