FOUNDATIONAL CONCEPTS FOR ENHANCEMENT AND RESTORATION OF THE NATURAL COMMONS IN THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT: “The starting point for application of EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, is recognition that local governments have existing tools in the form of policies and legislation for ‘maintenance and management’ (M&M) of ecological assets within riparian corridors,” wrote Tim Pringle, EAP Chair, in the report on the application of EAP to Shelly Creek on the east coast of Vancouver Island (February 2020)
“Until now, what local governments have lacked are a pragmatic methodology for financial valuation, and meaningful metrics that go to the heart of sustainable service delivery. EAP provides metrics that enable communities to appreciate the worth of ecological assets,” stated Tim Pringle. Six foundational and cascading concepts underpin the EAP methodology and provide a mind-map. The M&M acronym is a starting point for encouraging practitioners to think holistically about the relationship between hydrology and ecology.
ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY: “The question often comes up, when is asset management over or complete? As long as you own assets, never! The process is not static, but the inputs are constantly changing as assets are added, deleted, replaced, or upgraded,” wrote Wally Wells, Executive Director of Asset Management BC, in the Summer 2020 Newsletter
“The primary cause of the ‘infrastructure gap’ is that we operate on today’s budgets without much attention to the ageing assets and future requirements for replacement or renewal. Or at least that is the way we operated up until now. The asset management process provides the tools to address this gap and hopefully prevent the gap from growing by planning, methodically, for the short and long term. The BC Framework is deliberately titled, “Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework”. The operative word is ‘sustainable’ — both economically and physically,” stated Wally Wells.
ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY: “We are still at the front end of our asset management journey, but we have been able to adapt to this unexpected change in operating conditions brought on by the global health pandemic,” stated Austin Tokarek, Asset Coordinator with the Cowichan Valley Regional District (Asset Management BC Newsletter, Summer 2020)
“Prior to this change, the CVRD, as an organization, recognized the value of a Strategic Asset Management Plan that defines levels of service, includes a risk management framework for managing climate change impacts, identifies infrastructure condition and priorities for renewal projects, and that attempts to identify future demand scenarios and break down the functional silos established by each department. This strategy enables an understanding of the systems within our community, interactions between staff, infrastructure requirements, defined service levels, and the costs to deliver those services,” stated Austin Tokarek.
A KEY TAKEAWAY FROM APPLICATION OF ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS TO SHELLY CREEK VALUATION: “Over decades of disturbance, ‘riparian ecosystems’ have become reduced to ‘riparian zones’ as shown on the maps of today,” stated Peter Law, President of the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society, in commenting on how ecological systems and services are compromised by land development
“An alternative term, riparian network, could also be used to describe a system composed of a physical stream channel and adjacent riparian (vegetated) corridor. This system provides a critical ecological function in linking terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in a watershed or creekshed. A common history of land uses on the east coast of Vancouver Island and other regions in BC has been the fragmentation of the riparian network in both rural and urbanizing landscapes. Over decades of disturbance, a landscape’s ecological links/services decline as it’s economic (land use) linkages increase,” stated Peter Law.
DEMONSTRATION APPLICATION OF ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: Kilmer Creek in the District of North Vancouver, completed in June 2020
“EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, addresses this question: How do communities decide how much to invest in the natural commons? The EAP methodology and metrics enable a local government to determine the WORTH of the natural commons, with ‘worth’ being the foundation for an annual budget for maintenance and maintenance of ecological assets. Application of the EAP methodology can help to inform an investment strategy for protection and/or restoration of ecological-hydrological function,” stated Tim Pringle.
REPORT ON: “Kilmer Creek Re-Alignment in the District of North Vancouver: Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process for Financial Valuation” (Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC; released June 2020)
“The report introduces new terminology – such as, the NATURAL COMMONS ASSET. The NCA is the portion of the stream defined by the set-back area required by streamside protection regulations. Often the NCA is augmented by contiguous natural area, such as parkland. This larger area is the Natural Commons Area. In addition, the report emphasizes the acronym M&M to draw attention to the distinction between these objectives as strategies: MAINTENANCE, which means ‘prevent degradation’; and MANAGEMENT, which means ‘improve the condition’,” stated Kim Stephens.
NEW REPORT: “The science is clear— natural infrastructure can provide significant, quantifiable levels of protection for communities from natural hazards, and is often more cost-effective than structural infrastructure,” said Jessie Ritter, Director of Water Resources and Coastal Policy, US National Wildlife Federation (released June 2020)
The report titled Protective Value of Nature summarizes the latest science on the effectiveness of natural infrastructure in lowering the risks to communities from weather – and climate-related hazards – benefits often described as natural defenses. “The use of natural infrastructure for hazard risk reduction has not reached its full potential. This is due, in part, to perceptions that conventionally engineered approaches are always more effective – despite numerous instances when they have failed,” stated Jessica Ritter.
FLASHBACK TO 2006: “At the end of the day, we literally tore up our work plan. It was clear that practitioners did not need another guidance document that would go on a shelf. Rather, they needed to network and learn from each other,” stated Ray Fung, Chair, when the Green Infrastructure Partnership released a report on conversations with a mayors and chairs focus group (September 2006)
“As we went around the table, the stories came out as to what Metro Vancouver municipalities were doing. A common refrain was: ‘We didn’t know you were doing that!’ The energy in the room just kept building and building. As a result, our outreach emphasis shifted from ‘informing and educating’ to ‘showcasing and sharing’. We witnessed the motivational power of celebrating successes. We also recognized the need to get the story out about the leadership being shown by local government,” stated Ray Fung.
CREATING OUR FUTURE IN THE METRO VANCOUVER REGION: “Today, what we as leaders do, will resound for the people of the future, their cities and their regions. In fact, for the world at large,” stated the City of Delta’s Lois Jackson, currently a Councillor and formerly the Mayor, when she reflected on her five decades of public service in local government and why it matters to ‘make a difference’ as a champion for ‘design with nature’ infrastructure practices (June 2020)
“One of the reasons that I ran for office in 1972 was ‘to make a difference’…. a difference to the children and their families of the future. But we are not the only ones sharing this planet, and what we do on a daily basis, can impact positively or negatively having a resounding effect and rippling effect of which we must be aware. We must all be leaders who selflessly have a vision, and we must then act to make the vision a reality, because air, water and continents are interconnected and if you can dream it — you can do it,” stated Lois Jackson.
CITIZEN SCIENCE IN ACTION: “As cities venture into unfamiliar territory, fear of public embarrassment and fear of unfamiliar maintenance obligations may scuttle worthy projects – and that’s where committed volunteer groups can ease the way forward,” observes Deborah Jones, Rain Gardens Coordinator, Cougar Creek Streamkeepers in the City of Delta in British Columbia’s Metro Vancouver region (June 2020)
“When any project is seen as ‘The City’, residents are quick to criticize or complain, elected officials are quick to pass these complaints to staff and staff are quick to ‘backpedal’ — especially if a project is a departure from past practice. No surprise, then, that many municipal officials and staff across all jurisdictions are subject to fear of public embarrassment in relation to rain gardens. By contrast, when rain garden projects are seen as ‘volunteer streamkeepers and school kids’, residents are more willing to cut us some slack if there are issues at the outset,” stated Deborah Jones.