Watershed Case Profile Series: “Town of Comox – A ‘Beacon of Hope’ for Citizen Science in Action & Reconnecting Hydrology and Ecology through the Water Balance Approach to Land Development” (released September 2019)

Note to Reader:

In September 2019,  the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia released the 8th in the Watershed Case Profile Series. It features the Town of Comox, and the Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society, in the Comox Valley region of Vancouver Island.

The Watershed Case Profile Series is unique. The series showcases and celebrates successes and long-term ‘good work’ in the local government setting in British Columbia. Our spotlight is on champions in communities which are breaking new ground and establishing replicable precedents.

Storylines touch lightly on technical matters, yet are grounded in a technical foundation. The objective in ‘telling a story’ is to engage, inform and educate multiple audiences – whether elected, administrative, technical or stewardship. Stories in the series are presented in a magazine style to make it easier to read, comprehend and absorb technical information. Stories are designed to connect dots.

DOWNLOAD: Comox-Beacon of Hope_Sep2019

A Beacon of Hope

“British Columbia is at a tipping point. Will local governments bridge the gap between policy and new standards of practice, reconnect hydrology and ecology, create greener communities, and adapt to climate change?,” wrote Kim Stephens, Partnership Executive Director, in the preface to  Town of Comox – A ‘Beacon of Hope’ for Citizen Science in Action & Reconnecting Hydrology and Ecology through the Water Balance Approach to Land Development.

“The Partnership for Water Sustainability has identified Comox as a beacon of hope because the Town’s experience shows what is possible when a local government has a strong working relationship with the stewardship sector, and leads by example to implement responsible water balance management.”

A Building Blocks Approach

“The Town’s journey comprises three building blocks. Over the past decade, experience gained and lessons learned through the Lower Brooklyn Creek channel enhancement project and Northeast Comox land development planning process have been integrated into the Draft Anderton Corridor Neighbourhood Concept Plan for Middle Brooklyn Creek.

“The Draft Anderton Corridor Concept Plan is precedent-setting because it demonstrates how application of the Ecological Accounting Process (EAP) approach helps managers change practices and adopt new strategies regarding the protection and enhancement of ecological systems in the stream corridor and riparian zone, and throughout the entire creekshed.

“The Town is reconnecting hydrology and ecology by embarking on a systems approach on all levels. The approach includes amending bylaws, training staff, educating the development community and homeowners, creating new procedures, and formalizing roles and responsibilities.

“By taking action to reconnect hydrology and ecology, Comox is moving along a pathway that ultimately leads to a water-resilient future where flood and drought risks would be reduced, and ecological services would be sustained.

A Rethinking of ‘Core Services’

“Everything was proceeding quite fine until Tim Pringle completed the EAP analysis for lower Brooklyn Creek,” stated Marvin Kamenz at Parksville 2019. “That was the moment when we realized that ecological services are not just an add-on. They are, in fact, core services.

“Utilities, roads, parks and recreation take up the bulk of a municipal budget. Once we made the mental transition to view ecological services as core municipal services, and looked at the municipal budget differently, we then asked ourselves: how can we do things better?

“We stopped work on the rainwater management plan and changed the plan focus to the Package of Ecological Services – how can we get the best package for them? All plan elements were redesigned; and residential density was concentrated to maximize public access.”

To Learn More:

Download a copy of Town of Comox – A ‘Beacon of Hope’ for Citizen Science in Action & Reconnecting Hydrology and Ecology through the Water Balance Approach to Land Development.

For the story of the presentation by Kim Stephens to Comox Town Council, read URBAN DESIGN & THE PACKAGE OF ECOLOGICAL SERVICES: “The ‘Comox story’ is indeed a blueprint for what the phrase hard work of hope means in practice,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability, when he met with Comox Town Council to present the 8th in the Watershed Case Profile Series (September 2019)

The ‘table of contents’ presented below is a synopsis of the ‘Comox story’. It distills the essence of each section into a succinct statement. These create a storyline. When reading this synopsis, readers should pause and reflect on the messages before continuing.