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Blue Ecology

    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “In the urban environment, we cannot bring back the watersheds that were here historically. But we can do things to retain and improve natural areas and the quality of receiving waters,” states Hugh Fraser, former Deputy Director of Engineering, City of Delta


    Hugh Fraser is a green infrastructure pioneer in the Metro Vancouver region. In the early 2000s, he was a leading voice when green infrastructure was in its infancy and was a component of the region’s Liquid Waste Management Plan. Delta’s rain garden program in road rights-of-way began in 2005 as a demonstration application to show how to achieve desired watershed health outcomes. “The program is now in Decade Three. Shared responsibility and intergenerational commitment are foundation pieces for enduring success,” stated Hugh Fraser.

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    STORY BEHIND BRITISH COLUMBIA’S FISH PROTECTION ACT (1997): “Erik Karlsen was the secret sauce who convened the fantastic streamside regulation discussions that created collegiality between municipalities,” recalls Susan Haid, career environmental and urban planner in BC local government, and adjunct assistant professor at the University of BC


    “In late 1996, in came Erik Karlsen from the Province as the spokesperson for the first Fish Protection Act. He convened discussions with environmental, engineering and planning staff. Those were such fantastic discussions. There was a really good alignment and call to action on making streamside regulation work. It was a major advancement but a lot of stress as well. Streamside regulation was being portrayed as a huge land grab. There was a lot of back and forth to move from something that was site-specific to more of a hardline edict with the province,” stated Susan Haid.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Steve Jobs described creativity as ‘connecting dots’ and argued that creative people were able to connect experiences they have had and synthesize new things,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC


    “A terrific Steve Jobs quote encapsulates why processes and outcomes go awry when there is a ‘don’t know, don’t care’ mindset about the history behind the WHY and HOW of policy frameworks that shape urban design,” stated Kim Stephens. “Steve Jobs explained that dot-connectors have had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, he added, a lot of people don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem.”

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Mike Wei, a former Deputy Comptroller of Water Rights, is passionate about water. He cares, he really cares about getting it right at a pivotal moment in BC history,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability


    “Nominally the story is that Mike Wei went to Ottawa to talk about groundwater. But that is not the story behind the story. An invitation to appear before a House of Commons Standing Committee gave Mike Wei a reason to step back, see things from afar, and describe what a path forward for groundwater management could look like in BC. Getting it right means understanding the historical context for surface and groundwater management in this province. In the story behind the story, Mike Wei presents broad brush solutions in clear terms,” stated Kim Stephens.

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    PATH FORWARD FOR GROUNDWATER IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “If we have to wait for the cycle of provincial priorities to come back to water, the wait could be awhile for a water champion to show up at the political level,” states Mike Wei, former Deputy Comptroller of Water Rights


    Mike Wei’s over-arching message is that water invariably gets bumped by other priorities. “The lesson from BC is that the historical regulatory context cannot be ignored in regulatory design. The science forward approach which some academics advocate is a good idea but has practical challenges. Unless you have specific legislation that actually tells you what the important requirements are, it is very hard to go forward. It can be challenging to do the science. One of the challenges with science forward is if it is not legislated, it is not a priority for government,” stated Mike Wei.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “The Marine Science Thesis Course was my favourite. A big part of that enjoyment was just because the students were so excited to learn, and I was able to help them learn,” stated Zoe Norcross-Nu’u, Comox Lake Watershed Protection Coordinator


    Zoe’s academic career had three distinct phases. Insights gained along the way serve Zoe well in her current watershed coordinator role. In her first three years, Zoe taught those who just wanted to take an easy science course. Seeking an opportunity to create a more meaningful learning opportunity, she developed a course called Topics in Sustainability, which was a speaker series. Through that experience, she learned the importance of finding the silver linings. A thesis class was the rewarding phase of her academic career when Zoe mentored passionate young professionals.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Staff gives good advice and Council makes the decision – the operative phrase is a respect-based relationship,” stated Pete Steblin, former City Engineer and City Manager


    By the latter part of the 2000s, Coquitlam was viewed by others in the Metro Van region as the example of what not do. Through a trust-building process guided by Pete Steblin, the City of Coquitlam turned a crisis into a transformational outcome. The city emerged as a regional green infrastructure leader. “The final solution has to be doable; it has to be achievable,” emphasizes Pete Steblin. A noteworthy aspect of the Coquitlam story is how quickly municipal staff learned from experience, adapted their approach, and successfully instilled a new way of doing business.

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    BLUE ECOLOGY OFFERS HOPE AND REMOVES THE FEAR OF RECONCILIATION: “As long as you show a genuine curiosity, the willingness to learn, cross-cultural conversations blossom,” stated Michael Blackstock, Independent Indigenous Scholar and co-founder of the Blue Ecology Institute Foundation


    Michael Blackstock believes that a message of hope is paramount in these times of droughts, forest fires and floods. “Rather than looking through a cumulative effects lens, I also see the concept of ‘cumulative healing’ landing as a way to give back to water and land. Rather than wondering how much more can we take or impact land before we need to stop, instead we should ask how much longer should we let the water and land heal, before we ask for more,” states Michael Blackstock.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Our rivers, our watersheds are connected to many aspects of our lives. A First Nation perspective would recognize water as life,” stated Paul Chapman


    “The earliest inhabitants on the land, BC’s First Nations, settled near rivers. More recent settlements have followed suit, settling near rivers for fresh water supply, travel, commerce, food supply, recreation, and in our built environments storm water and wastewater services. Climate change has compounded the stresses our modern practices and settlements impose on watershed health and healthy functioning. The new normal includes drought, flood and fire on a seasonal basis. A hopeful way forward is found in Blue Ecology,” stated Paul Chapman, Chair of the Watershed Moments Team.

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    DOWNLOAD THE ARTICLE: “Is it time for Biocultural Diversity Zonation in British Columbia?” asked Michael Blackstock (BC Forest Professional, September – October 2014)


    “British Columbia has an an amazing diversity of Indigenous languages, about 60% of Canada’s First Nations languages are found in BC. Language is an essential component of the cultural diversity of the planet. Biocultural diversity emerged as a term this millennium that inextricably links cultural and biological diversity, focusing on correlations between biodiversity and linguistic diversity. The evolution of the two in BC can be portrayed by interweaving Biogeoclimatic (BEC) Zones and linguistic zones to create Biocultural Diversity (BCD) Zone maps,” explained Michael Blackstock.

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