IMPROVE WHERE WE LIVE THROUGH RESTORATIVE DEVELOPMENT: “In the 1980s, the lack of science was a real issue. Science is no longer the issue. We have enough science to know what needs to be done to reconnect hydrology and ecology,” stated Bill Derry in his keynote address at the Parksville 2019 Symposium

Note to Reader:

Launched in October 2018, the multi-year program known as the International Year of the Salmon (IYS) is a looming game-changer in British Columbia. Through research and outreach, a program goal is to inspire a new generation to ensure the resilience of salmon and people in a changing climate Although international in scope, IYS has a “made in British Columbia” genesis. The vision was conceived at DFO’s Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo!

In a  submission  dated 2012, Emeritus Scientist Dr. Richard Beamish proposed the International Year of the Salmon to promote research on how ocean conditions are contributing to changes. IYS has now grown into an effort to ensure the “resilience of both salmon and people” in a changing climate.

In embarking on this journey, British Columbians can learn from historical precedents and parallels. In particular, the “salmon crisis” in the 1990s was a game-changer in the way it was the catalyst for green infrastructure practices. A generation later, will lightning strike twice and will the iconic salmon again be the regulatory driver that spurs communities to raise the bar to “improve where we live”?

Everything is connected. Looking ahead, a desired future for BC communities would be restorative land development that results in sustainable stream restoration. Redevelopment is the opportunity to reconnect hydrology and ecology. This outcome would be achieved by taking the big picture on water and the environment into account, and by implementing land use and drainage practices that mimic the “hydrologic cycle”.

A generation ago, the “salmon crisis” was the driver for pioneer research at the University of Washington (UW) that was seminal, transformative and far-reaching. UW research was the foundation for science-based understanding of how “changes in hydrology” in the urban environment impact on stream health. In turn, UW research opened the door to the Whole-System, Water Balance approach that underpins Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia, released in 2002.

The Guidebook spawned the ongoing Beyond the Guidebook program, under the aegis of the Partnership for Water Sustainability, to advance application of science-based understanding and evolve the Water Balance Methodology. Drawing on this foundation of knowledge and experience, the recent Parksville 2019 Symposium foreshadowed how to bring to fruition the next leap forward: Improve Where We Live Through Restorative Development.

This photo, which won the International Year of the Salmon photo challenge for the Pacific, shows a woman releasing Chinook salmon fry in Surrey, BC, south of the Fraser River. (Photo by Fernando Lessa)

IMPROVING WHERE WE LIVE: Could the ‘International Year of the Salmon’ program be a game-changer?

Bill Derry has had a remarkable career: Washington State local government innovator, consultant with cross-border experience, AND, stewardship sector leader as President of People for Puget Sound. “Context is everything. Four decades ago, understanding was scant,” states Bill Derry. “In the 1980s, the lack of science was a real issue. Science is no longer the issue. While there will always be a need for more science, we have enough science to know what practices are good, and what needs to be done to reconnect hydrology and ecology.”

Lessons Learned Over a Generation

At the Parksville 2019 Symposium, in his keynote presentation Bill Derry provided a critically important historical perspective when he explained the origins of the science-based approach to understanding how ‘changes in hydrology’impact on stream stability and health in the urban environment.

An early pioneer in an emerging practice circa 1990, Bill Derry chaired the local government committee that framed eight key questions. These then defined areas of research by graduate students at the University of Washington, explained Bill Derry, under the guidance of Dr. Richard Horner. Chris May then pulled together this original research in his PhD dissertation. His doctoral work is the foundation that the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC continues to build on as understanding of the science grows.

For the past twenty years, a leadership position in Washington State local government – first in Seattle and currently in Kitsap County – has allowed Dr. Chris May to put science into practice. Kitsap County, where he is Surface & Stormwater Division Director, is a living laboratory for implementing a hydrology-based approach at multiple scales (to build resilience).

British Columbia Premier John Horgan delivered remarks at the IYS launch event in October 2018.

Reconnect Hydrology and Ecology

At the Parksville 2019 Symposium, the leap of faith for many in the audience was to first grasp, and then understand, WHY and HOW restorative land development would result in sustainable stream restoration. A program goal was to bring to life the phrase reconnect hydrology and ecology. Thus, Day One had book-end presentations – by Bill Derry and DFO’s Nick Leone. They connected the dots between actions and outcomes.

Get It Right 

The high-energy presentation by Nick Leone was a barn-burner. He drew audience attention to the fact that 2019 is the International Year of the Salmon. This initiative has the potential to be a catalyst for outreach and research that inspires a new generation to ensure the resilience of salmon and people throughout the Northern Hemisphere, he said. “The International Year of the Salmon is not just about the fish,” emphasized Nick Leone, “it is about us and our ability to adapt to change and resiliency.”

“Bring people together, share and develop knowledge, raise awareness and take action. Know that salmon are a sentinel species. They reflect a variety of watershed values.

“It is damn important to inspire a new generation of researchers, managers and conservationists because it is in large part all about people. It is about replenishing the professions, the disciplines, the interest, the energy to take the baton from Bill Derry, Richard Horner, Chris May and others. It is not just about the salmon. It is what that organism represents that is fundamental to how we look at the landscape, especially when the climate is changing.

“Hydrology shapes and influences our landscape. It is the connection between ecosystems and habitat. The two are different. If we are to fundamentally restore or rehabilitate creeksheds, we must first recognize and understand the essential elements that make up a dynamic landscape. It is a system. Act accordingly.”

Water Management – Where is the “Water Balance”

“The problem with water is that it is part of everything: the weather, our economy, our environment, and everything we need to live,” wrote an unidentified author in an article titled Ramblings of an Old Water Guy in the Spring/Summer issue of CWRA’s Water News.

“So why do we not take the overall ‘water balance’ into account during the planning process? When does the big picture on water and the environment get taken into account? Balancing the wet and dry will be even more critical if the predictions of greater extremes and more variable weather patterns is correct.”

Do you wonder why Nick Leone’s presentation is described as a “barn-burner”? To satisfy your curiosity, click on the image below to view the video on YouTube: