BOWKER CREEK BLUEPRINT: “Why did we choose Bowker Creek when it is a rather degraded watershed? If we could make it right in Bowker Creek, we could make it right anywhere,” stated Jody Watson, Chair, Bowker Creek Initiative, when she told the story of the 100-Year Action Plan (February 2010)
Note to Reader:
Over about a 2-hour period, Jody Watson weaved the story of Bowker Creek from the late 1800s through until the present. This included the ‘watershed tour’ slides which Ian Graeme created in the mid-1990s to draw attention to the need for action.
The Story of the Bowker Creek Blueprint
Jody’s storytelling provided context for the ‘collective indifference’ that had characterized the urbanization of Bowker Creek for more than a century; and for the ‘design with nature’ ethic that is now driving watershed restoration.
“Why did we choose Bowker Creek when it is a rather degraded watershed,” asked Jody Watson rhetorically. “The answer is that we saw it as an opportunity. If we could make it right in Bowker Creek, we could make it right anywhere.”
To Learn More:
Download the two PowerPoint presentations by Jody Watson:
Bowker Creek Blueprint – Development (7.6MB PDF)
Bowker Creek Blueprint – Actions (7.8MB PDF)
Letting Go of the ISMP Template
A defining moment in the Bowker Creek process was the decision to ‘let go of the ISMP Template’.
“We started the planning process by retaining a consulting firm to develop a Master Drainage Plan. One of their deliverables was to provide us with terms of reference for an Integrated Stormwater Management Plan (ISMP),” stated Jody Watson.
“We established a sub-committee to review what the consultant had proposed. As we went through the ISMP Template, we had discomfort as to what we were going to get at the end of the day; and what would be valuable for all of us, and in particular for the municipalities.”
“We already had the experience with the master drainage plan; and the major capital costs associated with that plan – in the order of $20 million to $40 million. There was huge discomfort at the municipal level in trying to take those costs forward to their Councils. They wouldn’t do it.”
“There came a time when we just had to let the ISMP Template go. While part of the reason was that it was too engineering-centric, the biggest reason was that we did not have the funding. ISMPs are very expensive and consultant-heavy.”
“We took a step back and decided that the best way to go forward was to bring in a facilitator who was not an engineer. Collectively, we found that we had all the information that we would need. The facilitator helped steer the committee through a process. We were successful.”
Knowledge-Based Approach Works
Once the Bowker Creek regional team ‘let go’ of the ISMP Template, they applied a ‘knowledge-based approach’ to watershed restoration. The experience was transformational; and laid the foundation for Blueprint development.
Why the Blueprint:
“In 2003, the three municipalities and the CRD Board approved the Bowker Creek Stormwater Management Plan”, stated Jody Watson at the start of her second hour of storytelling.
“While this guidance document gave strategic direction, it did not provide municipal planners with the level of detail they need to effectively review individual development applications in the context of either a greenway or creek day-lighting strategy,”
“This really stymied municipal staff. So we concluded that we needed to get those necessary details down on paper. The meat of the Blueprint lies in the appendices. We wanted to keep the document easy to read with, and easy to get through.”
What is Necessary to Make Decisions:
“So, what did we need to do in order to create the Blueprint? To help municipal staff make decisions, there were all sorts of things that we had to incorporate.”
“Because we wanted this to be a very holistic plan to meet as many of the goals and objectives of the 2003 Management Plan as possible, we had to integrate a lot of information.”
The knowledge-based approach meant that the regional team convened as an inter-disciplinary roundtable to synthesize their individual areas of knowledge.
“Drainage, land use, environmental and social information was compiled and assessed in an holistic way that enabled the members of the team to apply their collective best judgment, reach-by-reach,” emphasized Jody Watson.
Plan for Climate Change Adaptation
“The Master Drainage Plan helped us understand the existing hydrology of the watershed; as well as the potential impact of future climate change. The best available science suggested we should expect a 15% increase in winter rainfall. In future, for example, this would mean that the extent of flooding during a 25-yr event would be about the same as what we would experience during a 100-yr event under today’s climate conditions.”
“We decided to look at options for holding the 15% increase on the land so that we would not have to increase pipe sizes. Low impact development is a real focus of the Blueprint at three scales: site, neighbourhood, and watershed.”
“Climate change mitigation efforts such as tree planting can be concentrated along creek corridors. Synergistic efforts also include riparian restoration and other measures to provide ecosystems with the resilience required for climate change adaptation.”