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Vancouver Island Water

The island is a demonstration region for the ‘regional team approach’. Communicate. Cooperate. Coordinate. Collaborate. Share resources and learn from each other. CAVI, Convening for Action on Vancouver Island-Leadership in Water Sustainability, started with a conversation in 2005. Formally launched in September 2006, and funded by government, the form of the initiative has evolved over the years. The program has demonstrated what can be done through partnerships and collaboration.

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COMMITMENT TO A CAREER IN ONE PLACE: “Philosophically the Official Community Plan is very important to me. It ties together where Courtenay is going. We are on a new path,” stated Nancy Gothard, Manager of Community and Sustainability Planning with the City of Courtenay


“My commitment is to the community that I love and so my career strategy has been different. It has meant I may not grow as quickly as I could, but in the passage of time I feel rewarded for staying with one organization. We are currently experiencing rapid change in our organization and priorities. With all this change there is a need for institutional memory to provide stability, insight, and rapid response to these new opportunities. Now that I have evolved into a more senior role, I feel the strategy of commitment and patience is allowing me to contribute more decisively and effectively,” stated Nancy Gothard.

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SHELLY CREEK PARK IN PARKSVILLE IS A LIVING LABATORY: “Coastal Cutthroat Trout populations on Vancouver Island will perish unless there is ‘rainwater balance’ as watersheds are developed. The message for local governments is… GIVE STREAMS SPACE TO LIVE,” Peter Law, Past-President of the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES)


“Shelley Creek is typical of small streams on the east coast of Vancouver Island. Of the 5.5 km channel length, a mere 300m exists in its natural state. And this is only because the City of Parksville created an enhanced riparian zone for park purposes when the surrounding area was subdivided in 1998. We wanted to understand what factors influence the movement of resident cutthroat trout over their life history in Shelly Creek. We investigated how a small population of resident fish survives in a stream that undergoes significant changes to water flows over the seasons,” stated Peter Law.

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COMOX IS A BEACON OF INSPIRATION FOR ITS WATER BALANCE APPROACH TO LAND DEVELOPMENT: “Opening minds to accept changes in practice is challenging, especially when there is no direct regulatory or prescriptive requirement at the provincial level,” stated Shelley Ashfield, Director of Operations with the Town of Comox


The Town pf Comox had to re-invent land development practices. “I am proud of what the Town has accomplished over the past decade. It took hard work though. Now that the Northeast Comox rainwater management plan is in place, water balance modeling is a requirement, and supporting bylaws help us regulate what developers must do on the ground. All in all, it has been such a huge step for the Town to get to where we have arrived at. The situation called for an educational process to bridge a gap in understanding in the engineering community,” stated Shelley Ashfield.

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WHAT DOES WATER RECONCILIATION LOOK LIKE: “First Nations talk about the responsibility for care of the land being passed on from one generation to the next. They have been much more effective than us in having the community understand their role in stewardship and why that matters,” stated Richard Boase, facilitator for the Watershed Moments Symposia Series and Blue Ecology Seminar Series


“We have landed at the crux of two of the most important issues facing Canadians – relationships with First Nations and relationships with water – in an era when we must also adapt to a changing climate. Communities have a once in a generation opportunity to get our relationships with both right, and then start back down the river of time – this time together. To move this bold idea forward, the Watershed Moments Team is showcasing the Blue Ecology vision for interweaving Western science and Indigenous knowledge,” stated Richard Boase.

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SALMON-SAFE IN THE TOWN OF VIEW ROYAL: “This is a joyful moment. It’s the reason we have the Salmon-Safe program ― to encourage land and water stewardship that help wild salmon thrive,” said Theresa Fresco, program manager at Fraser Basin Council


“The View Royal site that BC Transit is redeveloping was previously an old, degraded industrial property with a badly damaged waterway. The stream restoration, and now the fish, show that sound management and community stewardship can have amazing results,” stated Theresa Fresco. The new stream has riffles and pools, as well as purposely placed rocks, logs and weirs that break up the water flow, introduce oxygen to the water, and reduce stream bank erosion. The stream has also created a wildlife corridor connecting to the forest along Craigflower Creek.

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RAISING WATER BALANCE AWARENESS: “Community-based science should be used to inform science models and planning. The Salt Spring Island Water Preservation Society is making a successful step in that direction,” states Dr. John Millson


“The Salt Spring Island Freshwater Catalogue Project that I am leading is providing field data for ground-truthing, as I call it, for some of the community-based science work that we are doing to support the work by the Islands Trust and Capital Regional District. The data can help us understand water quantity variability and water balance for an island. It all hangs together and dovetails nicely in a multi-threaded, decision-making process. Water quantity is such a big deal. Why is that? Well, islands only have rainwater for water supply,” stated John Millson.

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Watershed Moments Team Award honours legacy of Rob Lawrance, former Environmental Planner with the City of Nanaimo


Rob Lawrance grew up in the Cowichan Valley where he began his stewardship journey. In his time with the City of Nanaimo, he grew the responsibilities of Environmental Planner to include community collaboration. He played a key role in almost every major waterway stewardship initiative in Nanaimo and connected community stewardship passion with municipal capacity. In 2021, Rob retired from the City and moved to Blaine, Washington. Tragically, he passed away in May 2022 while participating in the cyclocross leg of the Bellingham Ski to Sea relay race.

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STORIES OF INTER-REGIONAL COLLABORATION: “Our focus in the ‘story behind the story’ series is on how learning from each other has influenced, as well as been influenced by, initiatives and outcomes in all five regions surrounding the Salish Sea,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC


“In early 2023, the Partnership will begin rolling out the stories of inter-regional collaboration. These ‘stories behind the stories’ are weaved from conversational interviews. Comprehensive in scope, the stories document a shared history. They are not technical reports, although they are founded on technical concepts and understanding. Everyone learns through stories, and this is how we hope to inspire readers. The series is about local government champions who are committed to the long-term wellbeing of their communities. Stories provide insight into the actions of local government thought leaders,” stated Kim Stephens.

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ADAPTING TO FLOODS AND DROUGHTS IN THE COWICHAN REGION: “Being part of the inter-regional collaborative network helps us reinforce our long-term strategies. These are necessary to respond to climate threats which are projected to be long-term in duration and changing over the long-term,” stated Keith Lawrence of the Cowichan Valley Regional District


“Early in my career, working with agencies across Western Canada gave me an appreciation for the urgent need for collaboration between organizations. When I joined CVRD in mid-2013, I had a strong sense that this would be a place where I could work in a more collaborative setting.. There was a willingness to foster a collaborative framework between partnering organizations so that together we can respond to climate threats to our water resources. As local government, one of the roles that we can play is to support that stewardship culture,” stated Keith Lawrence.

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DRINKING WATER & WATERSHED PROTECTION IN THE COWICHAN VALLEY REGIONAL DISTRICT / ADAPT TO A CHANGING CLIMATE – Partnership for Water Sustainability releases 1st in the “Stories of Inter-Regional Collaboration Series” in January 2023


“In the Cowichan Valley we have a dominance of electoral areas with proudly distinct communities, capable and engaged municipal partners, and a leadership that is characterized by true independence and internal reliance. This has resulted in a rich tapestry of watershed planning across our region.  There is no one model. Rather, we have a range of applications that are sensitive to the environment in which it was formulated and to the core drivers and champions that brought it forward. We truly have a rich basis in which to begin the process of stepping back, learning and reflecting on our next steps,” stated Kate Miller.

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