"Brooklyn Creek experience makes the case for green infrastructure to protect stream health in Northeast Comox," observes Dick Stubbs

Note to Reader:

Brooklyn Creek is situated in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. The watershed is mostly urbanized and flows through three jurisdictions: City of Courtenay, Comox Valley Regional District (formerly known as the Regional District of Comox-Strathcona) and Town of Comox.

At Seminar #2 in the 2011 Comox Valley Learning Lunch Series, Glenn Westendorp (Town of Comox) used the Brooklyn Creek experience to provide a graphic illustration of an infrastructure liability that is the consequence of NOT designing with nature. A decade ago, the $1.8 million price tag incurred by the Town of Comox for creek stabilization and restoration became the driver for doing business differently.

The Brooklyn Creek story provided the inspiration for DIck Stubbs, Chair of the Bowser Waterworks District to contribute the article below. He provides a personal perspective on the changes that he has witnessed over the past 60 years.

Communities Know What They Need to Do, But…

“Many of us have begun to realize what needs to be done in the field of water management and other related fields that need to be greened if we are to move forward in a sustainable fashion,” states Dick Stubbs.

Dick stubbs (120p) - chair, bowser waterworks district“BUT what I heard from Glenn Westendorp regarding Northeast Comox was that the Town and he know what they would like to see; yet they are struggling with the methods to get from here to there. Everywhere we look there is the call for good change; but no one wants to give anything up, unless the rewards are adequately articulated prior to making a committment.”

“Glenn appears to be of the view that coordination of the dozen property owners to reconcile what they want and what the Town needs is almost unachievable. Without some strong political backing that states that the project will be done right or not at all, is there a way to demonstrate or orchestrate (to the property owners) a Win-Win method for all?”

“I am convinced that there is, and I believe that Comox Valley watershed advocates (and others) need to be prepared to strongly state these types of developments can occur, but that there are some issues that must be addressed, and we all need to look at new ideas. How do we articulate the new way of doing business that creates a buy in?”

“The ability may be found in reviewing the Brooklyn Creek history because it has not all been good. Glenn hinted that while he has hope for the creek, it is going to be difficult! I have to admit that when I heard that something was being done to restore the creek I was cautiously optimistic.”

Historical Perspective

“As early as 1955, my Dad was raising concern that the flows were causing gravel movement to the point that pools were being filled in and habitat was being lost. The bridge to our home was being battered during storm events; and in 1958 we built a concrete bridge with 2 design criteria: support the oil delivery truck; and stay in place when the flow rose to 2 feet above the deck.”

“In those days, there was a dedicated group that caught fry in the upper reaches and moved them to the wooded areas below the Balmoral culvert.”

“In the early 1970s, the creek was straightened to conform to a property line and facilitate development of a multi-family project on Noel Ave. Later, when erosion occurred in the lower reaches, the creek bed was straightened with a bulldozer. There was talk of retention ponds as part of development but they do not appear to have worked over time.”

“Every thing that was done, in hindsight, increased the rate of flow and resulted in more problems. Yes there were minor guilts addressed with senior government grants at the lower creek and no doubt other areas, but often these treated the bad results and not the soource of the problem.”

Learn from the Brooklyn Creek Experience!

“The treatment of Brooklyn Creek for most of the past 60 years, has been an example of what not to do. Let’s use this example as a learning experience that helps us all move toward a better way of doing things,” concludes Dick Stubbs.

To Learn About ‘Doing Business Differently’:

Click on Brooklyn Creek case study illustrates that a drainage system is more than just pipes to download a PDF document.

For additional context regarding protection of stream health and reduction of infrastructure liability, the reader is referred to Green Infrastructure: Achieve More With Less, published in Construction Business Magazine in February 2011.

Posted May 2011