RECONNECTING HYDROLOGY AND ECOLOGY: “The Partnership for Water Sustainability in B.C. has identified the Town of Comox as a ‘beacon of hope’ because of the precedents it has established when implementing the twin pillars of the whole-system, water balance approach to land development,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, when he met with Town Council (September 2019)

Note to Reader:

In September 2019, a presentation to Town of Comox Council by Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC, was the ‘moment of release’ for the 8th in the Partnership’s Watershed Case Profile Series.

Titled Town of Comox – A ‘Beacon of Hope’ for Citizen Science in Action & Reconnecting Hydrology and Ecology through the Water Balance Approach to Land Development, the Watershed Case Profile recognizes the passion, commitment and perseverance over many years on the part of Town of Comox local government staff and volunteers in the Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society to improve where they live.

The presentation by Kim Stephens was a companion presentation to one made by Marvin Kamenz, the Town’s Municipal Planner, and his colleague Regina Bozerocka. The focus of these two presentations was on the Draft Anderton Corridor Neighbourhood Concept Plan. This was the initial presentation of the Draft Plan to Council.

To watch the videos of the presentations by Kamenz-Bozerocka and Kim Stephens, respectively, visit
https://comox.ca/modx/council-meeting-videos

Urban Design & the Package of Ecological Services

“For the past decade, elected representatives and staff in the Town of Comox have quietly and without much fanfare been on a journey. With the aid of hindsight, their experience shows what the phrase hard work of hope means in practice, and what it involves to lead by example,” reports Kim Stephens.

“Whether or not Council and/or staff consciously always thought about it, the Town’s journey related to land development practices, ecological services and stream restoration has been guided by the Living Water Smart vision. The Town’s journey is ongoing, and involves building blocks.

“The Town is reconnecting hydrology and ecology by embarking on a systems approach on all levels. The approach includes amending bylaws, training staff, educating the development community and homeowners, creating new procedures, and formalizing roles and responsibilities.”

Building Blocks Approach

“The Watershed Case Profile takes stock of milestone moments along the way, with a focus on lessons that can be replicated. The Partnership has identified the Town of Comox as a ‘beacon of hope’ because of the precedents it has established when implementing the twin pillars of the whole-system, water balance approach to land development.

“The twin pillars are the Water Balance Methodology and the Ecological Accounting Process (for the ‘twin pillars’ image, scroll down to bottom of page).

“The Draft Anderton Corridor Neighbourhood Concept Plan is a melding of Brooklyn Creek and Northeast Comox experience. The middle reach of Brooklyn Creek would be restored, over time, as a condition of development. A transformational dimension of the plan is recognition that ecological services are core municipal services.”

The Hard Work of Hope

“For more than a decade, the Town has been on an amazing journey. The Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia tells the Town’s story in the latest in our Watershed Case Profile Series,” Kim Stephens told Council members in his opening remarks.

“In this document, we recognize the passion, commitment and perseverance over many years on the part of Town of Comox local government staff and volunteers in the Brooklyn Creek Watershed Society to improve where they live. Working together, they are making a difference.

“The ‘Comox story’ is indeed a blueprint for what the phrase hard work of hope means in practice.”

Pragmatic

“This quote by Jim Dumont says it all,” Kim Stephens informed Council. “The last bullet is the one to remember. As we  heard from Marvin Kamenz in his presentation, you have a plan that would create a high value public asset in the middle reach of Brooklyn Creek. A year ago who would have thought that possible?”

To Learn More:

Read this companion story posted on the Rainwater Management community-of-interest: WHOLE-SYSTEM, WATER BALANCE TRAINING FOR ENGINEERS: “The Town’s experience is that the weak link in drainage analyses is always the assumptions,” stated Shelley Ashfield, Municipal Engineer, when she explained why the Town of Comox took on responsibility for an educational process to bridge a gap in practitioner understanding

Provincial Firsts

“This image captures the essence of what the Partnership is all about. Everything we do is under the umbrella of Living Water Smart,” continued Kim Stephens. “But it is not what we do that matters. It is what local governments do. We are always on the lookout for the champions who establish precedents for others to follow.

“The Town is the poster child for the twin pillars. You are the first local government to do both.

“I want to emphasize the significance of the first statement. In 2002, the Province released the Stormwater Planning: A Guidebook for British Columbia. I was the project manager and principal author. The Guidebook introduced the Water Balance Methodology. 17 years later, Comox is the first local government to get it right.”

Ecological Accounting Process

“Last September, my colleague Tim Pringle spoke to Council about EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process,” Kim Stephens reminded Council members.

“Brooklyn Creek really opened our eyes. And it got us thinking. This image has become an important communication tool. It helps an audience focus on why we need to consider ecological services and use of land as equally important.”

To Learn More:

First, read ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS: “One should view EAP as representing one point along a ‘green infrastructure continuum’. It is the latest evolution in an ongoing process in British Columbia that had its genesis in the late 1980s and early 1990s,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair, when providing historical context for green infrastructure ideas and practices

Then, read an introduction to REPORT ON: “Assessing the Worth of Ecological Services Using the Ecological Accounting Process for Watershed Assessment: Brooklyn Creek Demonstration Application in the Comox Valley” (Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC; released September 2018)

After that, download a copy of the Brooklyn Creek report by clicking on: https://waterbucket.ca/gi/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2018/09/Brooklyn-Creek_EAP-Demonstration_FINAL_Sep2018_low-res.pdf

Package of Ecological Services

“Kudos to Marvin Kamenz for coining the term PACKAGE OF ECOLOGICAL SERVICES. It is an example of an Aha Moment that occurred during a conversation that Marvin had with Tim Pringle. Each gives the other credit for the phrase. Marvin made an observation. That triggered a thought by Tim. In an instant, the phrase clicked,” Kim Stephens explained.

“The term Ecological Services is not intuitively obvious to most folks. But Tim Pringle and Marvin have made a major, and profound, contribution to our collective understanding  of what it means in practice. They have done this by defining Ecological Services as the RANGE OF USES DESIRED BY THE COMMUNITY.

“Three key words capture the essence of what we mean by ‘range of uses’ – drainage, recreation and habitat. These three words immediately conjure a word picture in our minds. They are visual. They make real what is an abstract concept to most people.”

Sustainable Service Delivery

“Sustainable Service Delivery is the BC branding for asset management,” stated Kim Stephens. “But more than that, senior government funding is now predicated on adherence to the BC FRAMEWORK. UBCM, the Union of BC Municipalities, encourages local governments to implement a whole-system approach that accounts for nature.

“The Town is demonstrating how to ‘walk the talk’.”

Twin Pillars

“The Town has done the hard work. And now the Partnership will do our  part to showcase and celebrate your working examples,” concluded Kim Stephens.

“By taking action to reconnect hydrology and ecology, Comox is moving along a pathway that ultimately leads to a water-resilient future where flood and drought risks would be reduced, and ecological services would be sustained.”

To Learn More:

Download a copy of Town of Comox – A ‘Beacon of Hope’ for Citizen Science in Action & Reconnecting Hydrology and Ecology through the Water Balance Approach to Land Development.