"Walk the talk and designate the entire Bowker Creek Watershed as a development area," urges Saanich Councillor Vic Derman
Progress Report on 2014 Work Plan for Inter-Regional Collaboration
In 2012, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia asked the Boards of five regional districts – namely Capital, Cowichan Valley, Nanaimo, Comox Valley and Metro Vancouver – to endorse local government collaboration under the umbrella ofthe Inter-Regional Education Initiative (IREI). The partners are now in Year 3 of inter-regional collaboration.
In February 2014, Kim Stephens, Partnership Executive Director met with the Environmental Services Committee of the Capital Regional District (CRD) to present a Progress Report on Inter-Regional Collaboration for Watershed Sustainability.
In his presentation, he described the Bowker Creek Watershed Blueprint as a provincial game-changer. “In my 40-year career as a professional engineer, there is nothing that equals it. And the reason it is so important is that it gave the rest of us a vision of what can be. In this region, you moved it from just having reports to actually having action,” stated Kim Stephens.
“The Environmental Deficit”
“It is nice that we talk about the ‘infrastructure deficit’. It would also be nice if we started to talk more about the ‘environmental deficit’, which is really what you are talking about, and how we could the address the two cooperatively is the issue,” stated Director Vic Derman following the presentation by Kim Stephens.
“One of the things that I have observed over the last couple of years is that we do a lot of planning, and we do a certain amount of monitoring, but then it becomes an issue of implementation. And really, the question is how do you ensure that your plans, intentions and goals shape and guide your decision-making on a day-to-day basis?”
Ensure that Watershed Outcomes Are Achieved
“The Bowker Creek Watershed Blueprint is a very good example. While we have the 100-Year Action Plan, I can recall a few years back that an application come before us (Saanich Council) for a development on the bank of Bowker Creek. And in the report that Council received from staff, there was no mention of the Bowker Creek Blueprint.”
“In mentioning this, it is not to blame anybody. It is easy for things to be off the radar scope: times change; people change; staff change; politicians change. And so it is easy for the plan to become shelf-ware.”
“After fellow Councillor Paul Gerrard and I reflected on that situation, in 2011 we brought forward a report to Council that proposed a way for Council to become more involved in regional watershed planning. What our report did was essentially say was this: let’s take the Bowker Creek Watershed and make it a special Environmental Development Area based on the 100-Year Action Plan because we have to essentially restore that watershed.”
“Once you take that step, then every time you do anything in the watershed, it requires a development permit. And so it has to pop up on staff’s computers, and it has to come before Council. And if Council is not going to go along with what they said they would do, they have to publicly announce it….which is a pretty powerful tool.”
“I am not saying that Council would go against the Blueprint. But what it does mean is that every single time any proposal must be brought back before Council for review in the context of the Watershed Blueprint. And so every single time that you do anything, Council decision-making is shaped by that policy.”
Walk the Talk
“Unfortunately wheels turn a little slowly and we haven’t got this in place yet. But there is still a hope that we will do that. Our report also said let’s pass this on to Oak Bay and Victoria and let’s encourage them to adopt common policies with us in terms of Environmental Development Permits for the Bowker Watershed.”
“Then, functionally, you would have a Development Area that covered three municipalities and the entire watershed. This would get us beyond the talking stage such that every time you do something you have to walk that talk.”
“This would be a huge step because so much of what we do, with the best of intent, stays at the talking stage. We need those tools that will get us to the walking stage,” concluded Director Vic Derman.
To Learn More:
To watch the video of the presentation by Kim Stephens and commentaries by Vic Derman and others, click on Capital Regional District: Progress Report to Environmental Services Committee on Inter-Regional Collaboration for Watershed Sustainability
To download a copy of the 2011 Report to Council by Vic Derman and Paul Gerrard, click on Watershed-Based Development Permits for Bowker Creek.
For the complete story of how the Bowker Creek Watershed was developed, visit the homepage for the 2010 Bowker Creek Forum