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Green Infrastructure

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POLICIES, DECISIONS, AND RAINFALL INDUCED FLOODING IN CITIES: “Communication is king. As urban decision making brings in more voices, and climate change becomes less of an abstract future but a present-day reality, it is imperative for policy to understand what the different perspectives are and how to weigh their importance,” stated Charles Axelsson, PhD, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice in the Science and Management of Climate Change (March 2022)


“One of the main takeaways from my doctoral work is there is still a lot of disagreements in communication throughout this decision-making process. Within policy itself, there is a disconnect between the way the problem of stormwater adaptation is framed theoretically versus perceived in reality. Theoretically, there is a large focus on adaptation. However, in my research I found that many of those involved in policy still place a higher importance on the political limitations of policy making and the economic costs of project management.,” stated Charles Axelsson.

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HISTORY OF GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “When we formed the GIP in 2003, green infrastructure was an emerging concept. The paradigm-shift that then occurred during Paul Ham’s watch far exceeds our original expectation that the partnership would be a catalyst for change,” stated Chuck Gale, Founding Chair (2003-2004), Green Infrastructure Partnership


A confluence of events and circumstances brought a mix of key players together in 2003. It was a teachable year because of the impact of drought, forest fires and floods on public consciousness. Chuck Gale as chair brought instant credibility to the GIP. When he retired from local government, Chuck Gale recruited Paul Ham, General Manager of Engineering with the City of Surrey, to succeed him. Paul further elevated the GIP profile because Surrey was seen to be at the forefront of green infrastructure innovation.

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DESIGN WITH NATURE TO CREATE LIVEABLE COMMUNITIES AND PROTECT STREAM HEALTH: “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 Lois Jackson, former Board Chair of the Metro Vancouver Regional District, in her call for action (February 2022)


“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. One of the reasons that I ran for office in 1972, and why I served for 20 years as Mayor of Delta, and 7 years at Chair of Metro Vancouver was ‘to make a difference’. One of the first things I did when I became Mayor in 1999 was to introduce our community to caring about of our air, land and water. Many were opposed to this position. But we persevered and, as a result, I believe we have set a good example for stewardship,” stated Lois Jackson.

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HISTORY OF GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE INNOVATION IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “At the 2005 consultation workshop, Greater Vancouver municipalities told us that they wanted to hear firsthand from those who are implementing green infrastructure, and they want to see what it looks like. In response to this need, 2006 was the first year of the Showcasing Innovation Series,” stated Paul Ham, Chair (2005-2008) Green Infrastructure Partnership


“The goal of the Showcasing Innovation Series was to build regional capacity through sharing of green infrastructure approaches, experiences and lessons learned as an outcome of ‘designing with nature’. The series was a building block process — each time the objective was to raise the bar when celebrating successes in Greater Vancouver municipalities. The 2006 Series was a provincial pilot. There is much to learn by sharing information with each other. At the end of the day, it seems that it takes a third party to bring people together,” recalled Paul Ham.

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SUSTAINABLE FUNDING PLAN FOR INFRASTRUCTURE REPLACEMENT: “We are proud of what Oak Bay has been able to do in the past few years, but we have a challenging journey ahead of us. We like to celebrate successes but also be realistic about the work ahead of us that remains to be done,” stated Dan Horan, Director of Engineering & Public Works, District of Oak Bay in an article published in the Asset Management BC Newsletter (February 2022)


“It was game-changing when the provincial government said that local governments will need asset management plans in place to apply for grants. Oak Bay Council and staff saw the writing on the wall. They could already see evidence of the level-of-service challenge around older infrastructure. So, they took the first steps to ensure Oak Bay would qualify for infrastructure grant programs. Those steps, combined with savvy Councillors and senior staff knowing what Oak Bay needed to do, influenced Council’s strategic priorities process as well as updating of the Official Community Plan,” stated Dan Horan.

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WHAT’S IN A WORD: “For decades we have trained our elected officials how to think and what to do with a plan. But now, with the Asset Management Plan, we want them to do something completely different. No wonder they are confused,” stated Wally Wells (Winter 2022 issue of Asset Management BC Newsletter)


“For decades, we have trained our elected officials to understand the decision process and flexibility available for them when presented with a Master Plan. There is often few consequences and little risk in doing or not doing the suggested activities outside of accommodating growth. The same flexibility, risk and consequences of a decision are not the same with the Asset Management Plan. An AM plan is not the same as a master plan. It just deals with what is needed to continue to provide EXISTING services at existing level,” stated Wally Wells.

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‘DESIGN WITH NATURE” FRAMEWORK FOR GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE: Nationwide document survey by Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies reveals that the green infrastructure state-of-the-art in the United States is now close to where British Columbia was in 2005


How green infrastructure is defined guides the types of projects that local governments implement, with enduring impacts to people and the urban environment. “Ecology is not really being embedded in any planning practice, This realization turned my attention towards urban planning and this question, how do you embed ecosystem science and principles within landscape planning to conserve landscapes and landscape functioning quality? It resulted from me thinking about how the social processes shaping landscapes are inseparable from people’s relationship with nature,” Dr. Zbigniew Grabowski.

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GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE CONTINUUM IS A METAPHOR FOR HOPE: “The state-of-the-art in the United States is now close to where British Columbia was in 2005. In the meantime, we have continued to progress and evolve our systems approach, and this is why the story of EAP is an essential read,” stated Kim Stephens when the Partnership for Water Sustainability released a downloadable resource introducing the ‘green infrastructure continuum’ as an organizing idea (February 2022)


“We use the term ‘green infrastructure continuum’ to frame how green infrastructure understanding and the state-of-the-art around it are building on experience and evolving over time. The continuum idea provides context for milestones on the green infrastructure journey in British Columbia. The continuum idea is a metaphor for hope. It allows us to answer the question, how well are we doing? The green infrastructure continuum is the way we measure progress to achieve the Living Water Smart vision for creating liveable communities and protecting stream health,” stated Kim Stephens.

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A NETWORK ALLOWS PEOPLE TO MOVE OUT OF WORKPLACE SILOS: “People who have ‘done it’ will help you properly define the problem and provide you with experience-based guidance on how to deal with the issue,” stated Joe McGowan, retired Director of Public Works, and network builder in the local government setting


“Our workforce is dealing with two massive changes. One is Generational Amnesia and the second is that good people who desire to effect change are often working in silos that limit their contact with colleagues who can help define a problem and provide guidance on how to solve the problem. Generational amnesia is a phrase used to describe a situation in which organizations lose their memory of how to do things. The world is rapidly losing expertise through retirement which denies new employees the benefit of their predecessor’s knowledge and experience,” stated Joe McGowan.

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THE STORY OF GUICHON CREEK: “Fifty years ago, few people felt that it was worth the trouble or the cost to try and bring degraded urban streams and rivers back to health. I believed very differently and would say, we must try. We can turn around almost anything when there is a will, a plan is in place, and there is commitment,” stated Mark Angelo – conservationist, author of The Little Creek That Could, and founder of BC Rivers Day and World Rivers Day


“I am such a believer in engaging the broader community as best we can. Going back 50 years ago to the 1970s when I was first starting as a streamkeeper, it was a lonely undertaking. Streamkeepers were few in number. One of the great steps forward that I have seen over the decades is that now there are many many streamkeepers and there streamkeeper groups attached to virtually every stream in the Lower Mainland. These volunteers put in thousands of hours, keep an eye on local waterways, profile issues when they arise, and approach local governments to help them deal with and correct those issues,” stated Mark Angelo.

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