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Vancouver Island

WATER, PLACE & RECONCILIATION IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Our vision is to transform an eco-liability into an eco-asset in the heart of the K’ómoks Estuary,” states Caila Holbrook, Project Watershed’s Manager of Fundraising, Outreach and Mapping


“Pre-1950 aerial photographs confirm that Kus-kus-sum was indeed a forested streamside area in the K’ómoks Estuary with side-channels connecting it to the adjacent Hollyhock Marsh,” stated Caila Holbrook. ”The restoration process will include removing built infrastructure from the site, removing fill, re-grading the topography of the area, planting native species and removing the steel wall. Nature will come back; it is already trying to – as trees and salt marsh plants are poking through the 1 foot deep rebar-reinforced concrete.”

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URBAN DESIGN, NEIGHBOURHOOD PLANNING & PACKAGE OF ECOLOGICAL SERVICES: Town of Comox precedents are working examples of what “reconnecting hydrology and ecology” looks like in practice


Town of Comox experience demonstrates that ‘Ecological Services are Core Municipal Services, not an Add-On’. Mayor Russ Arnott elaborates: “The ecological services within Brooklyn Creek are integral components of the Town’s core services of rainwater management, parks and fish habitat protection. Once the Town switched to viewing ecological services as core municipal services, we then asked ourselves: how can we do things better? The Draft Anderton Corridor Neighbourhood Concept Plan is the result.”

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FLASHBACK TO 2015: “A Guide to Water-Wise Land Development in the Comox Valley” – Joint Staff Training Workshop organized by the Comox Valley Regional Team initiated an educational process for communicating ‘design with nature’ expectations in urban watersheds


“The Water-Wise Guide is in essence both a call to action (for the community, but also for us) as well as a road map for that action,” said Nancy Gothard. “So, our goal was to begin to brand the story and to make it visible in the various regulatory agencies in the Valley. To depict visually that we were developing a consistency in expectations in how development would address environmental concerns. Having it available on every front counter and every website is a first step.”

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APPROACH TO LAND DEVELOPMENT IN NORTHEAST COMOX IS PRECEDENT-SETTING: “As we proceed with next steps, the most challenging will be educating staff, developers, consultants, and home owners of the new standards, procedures, policies and guidelines,” stated Shelley Ashfield, Municipal Engineer, Town of Comox


The time, effort and energy it takes to change the standard of engineering practice is substantial, as the Town’s journey clearly shows. Implementing effective water balance management requires a systems approach on all levels. Ripple effects are cascading. “Changing engineering standards is a journey in itself. To ensure success, the Town will need to adopt the design standards, update existing subdivision servicing specifications, establish a number of bylaws, and implement a cost recovery program,” stated Shelley Ashfield.

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CONVENING FOR ACTION IN THE NANAIMO REGION: “The stewardship groups comprising the Nanaimo Watershed Health Community of Practice have set out to build relationships with City Council and staff in a collegial and collaborative way. The relationships will grow as we build a culture of stewardship,” states Paul Chapman, NALT Executive Director


Galvanized by what they learned during the Nanaimo 2018 Symposium, a diverse group of stewardship groups took their first coordinated action before leaving the symposium when they formed a creekshed coalition. Eighteen months later, in October 2019, the group took the Mayor and members of Council on a creekshed walkabout so that they would see firsthand the nature of the issues of concern. “The saying from the hiking community is: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” stated Paul Chapman when he provided the context for collaboration.

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FLASHBACK TO 2010: “Home Depot in the City of Courtenay established a BC precedent when it implemented a deep deep-well system for injecting rainwater runoff and recharging the underlying groundwater aquifer,” stated the City’s Kevin Lagan when he shared the story with a provincial audience at the ‘From Rain to Resource Workshop’ hosted by the Okanagan Basin Water Board


“In 2003, the Home Depot development application in the City of Courtenay was to build a store and parking lot covering 90% of a four hectare second growth coniferous forest property,” stated Kevin Lagan. “The City required that post-development rainwater and stormwater flows leaving the site were equal to or less than the pre-development flows. For this property that was effectively zero.” Kevin Lagan described how the developer met this requirement of replacing a forest with impervious areas, and that the solution was successful.

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An Interview with Peter Law (November 2017): “Our goal is to educate people in the watershed surrounding Shelly Creek. We will be conducting ‘kitchen table talks’ to educate people on the effects of excess water running through the stream.”


The Shelly Creek experience foreshadows that an informed stream stewardship sector may prove to be a difference-maker that accelerates implementation of the ‘whole-system, water balance’ approach in British Columbia. “We’ve got some issues around trying to slow the water down. As lands get developed, we ditch and we drain everything and that moves water into the channel faster and pushes it into this place. As a site is developed or cleared, you’re actually looking at how you can slow the water down from that site, not drain it,” stated Peter Law.

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City of Victoria Stormwater Utility — "We have designed the utility so that it will be one of the most fair and representative stormwater utilities in North America," stated Adam Steele


Over time, the Stormwater Utility provides the City with the capability to foster a watershed stewardship ethic and influence landowner actions on the ground for the common good. “With implementation of our stormwater utility and Rainwater Rewards Program, we have provided a basis to facilitate and grow a change in thinking, so that increased awareness results in action. The program foundation resulted from listening to feedback.”

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OP-ED: "Water wise: Where have all the coho gone?" asks Tanis Gower


“Without even discussing the challenges of ocean life in a changing climate – or the unanticipated problems wrought by hatcheries – it is easy to see that changes to small streams are not beneficial to coho salmon. This is one reason coho haven’t been doing so well,” stated Tanis Gower. “The bright part of this story is that small streams don’t have to be wrecked by development. We now have the understanding and the technology to do better.”

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Moving Towards Healthy Watersheds: Do you wonder how to visually depict "Watershed Health" for a public audience?


“For the Bowker Creek watershed, we realized that the community, especially the youth, had no memory of Bowker Creek in a natural state because almost 70% of the creek was in pipes,” recalls Jody Watson. “When developing the Bowker Blueprint, we used stylized graphics to represent an open and above-ground creek and to depict many of the design with nature concepts that the Blueprint contemplates for the watershed. We did this to help the community visualize what is possible.”

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