FLASHBACK TO 2014: “Coquitlam’s story demonstrates, on a local level, how attitudes and approaches in the Metro Vancouver region have evolved with watershed management and recognition of rainwater as a resource,” stated Melony Burton, co-author of Creating the Future in Coquitlam, second in the Watershed Case Profile Series that features communities leading by example in British Columbia
Note to Reader:
The second in the series of Watershed Blueprint Case Profiles published by the Partnership for Water Sustainability featured the City of Coquitlam and its Integrated Watershed Program. Co-authored by the City’s Melony Burton and the Partnership’s Kim Stephens, the Case Profile describes how the City of Coquitlam evolved an effective and adaptable approach to watershed-based community planning. In 2014, the City of Coquitlam was the only Metro Vancouver municipality that had developed, or was currently completing, Integrated Watershed Management Plans for all its watersheds.
Beginning in 2007, and for the next decade, Melony Burton was the City’s Watershed and Drainage Coordinator. At the City of Coquitlam, she was the champion tasked with drainage utility planning and driving the ISMP process. The next evolution in her career trajectory took her to the City of Port Coquitlam where she is the Manager of Infrastructure Planning.
Context for the Coquitlam Story
“An interesting aspect of Coquitlam’s story is that it demonstrates, on a local level, how attitudes and approaches in the Metro Vancouver region have evolved with watershed management and the recognition of rainwater as a resource,” stated Melony Burton in 2014.
“Going back to the 1990s, and the start of watershed-based planning approaches, Coquitlam has been involved in pilot projects that put these theories to the test. Since then they have continued to take concepts introduced regionally, and implement them incrementally, each effort building on the successes or lessons of the last. In the process, Coquitlam has learned by doing.”
“Changing the way we do things means taking on new challenges and not always getting it entirely right the first time. But all attempts generally have some salvageable elements to move forward on.”
“Over the past decade, the City has built on pragmatic experience in first securing political support for a watershed-based approach to community planning; and then developing, implementing and refining practical rainwater management applications that mimic the natural Water Balance.”
“Coquitlam’s Official Community Plan requires that a Watershed Plan be completed before a Neighbourhood Plan can be developed. This important direction guides appropriate land use in response to a watershed’s unique conditions and needs. Using this strategy has brought our Planning, Environmental, Engineering, and Parks departments to the table. Both the process and the plan are integrated to achieve practical, cost-effective objectives which balance land use, drainage and the environment.”
“For all urban watersheds, Coquitlam is developing integrated watershed management plans (IWMP) to preserve watershed health, while also meeting community needs and facilitating growth and development. IWMP’s use a Net Environmental Benefit approach that strives to improve fish and fish habitat,” concluded Melony Burton.
Balance Idealism with Pragmatism
“We have arrived at a good place, but the journey has not been easy. In fact, we had to work our way through some pretty contentious periods. We persevered, we adapted and we progressed,” stated Peter Steblin, City Manager, in 2014 at the time of release of the Watershed Case Profile.
“We want other local governments to know about the good, the bad and the ugly of the Coquitlam story so that they may learn from our experience and know that it is okay to stumble.”
“A decade ago, the City’s approach to watershed-based community planning and rainwater management was quite idealistic. It was also prescriptive and impractical. As a result, the City could not implement what was proposed. This resulted in significant complaints from the development community which, in turn, culminated in Council-Staff conflict.”
“With the advantage of hindsight, we now have an appreciation of the extent to which this conflict has defined the journey. There was a dark period yet that is what makes the Coquitlam story authentic and helped us to develop approaches which balance idealism with pragmatism.”
To tell the Coquitlam story in a seamless way, the steps along the way were grouped under these seven themes that served as section headings:
- OCP Amendments Provide Foundation for a Watershed Based Community Planning – 2003 was a defining year because new policies required that watershed needs be reflected in the land use planning process by requiring watershed studies before Neighbourhood Plans.
- Source Control Implementation Challenges Led to a Refined Strategy – this covers the period 2004 through April 2007 when challenges with the implementation of source controls triggered the need for a refined approach.
- Rainwater Management Guidelines Represent a New Beginning – this covers the period May 2007 through June 2009 when the City underwent a renewal process that revised its approach to rainwater management and reaffirmed its commitment to watershed planning.
- Partington Creek IMWP: Putting It All Together – adopted in July 2011, the Partington Watershed Plan was the culmination of efforts over the years to achieve true integration of drainage, ecology and land use planning.
- Coquitlam on Track for Completion of Watershed Plans – the City is nearing completion of watershed plans for all urban areas and moving forward with implementation through an array of projects.
- Looking Beyond 2014: Adaptive Management using Monitoring that Informs – the City is a member of the regional working group that has developed a monitoring program that can be used to select actions for continuous improvements in watershed health.
To Learn More:
To download a copy of the Watershed Case Profile document, click on Watershed Planning & Rainwater Management: Creating the Future in the City of Coquitlam.
Visit the dropdown on the Convening for Action community-of-interest to peruse a set of articles featuring individual perspectives on the Coquitlam experience.