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Tim Pringle

    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Now, with the Ecological Accounting Process as a foundation piece, local governments have a rationale and a metric to do business differently via multiple planning pathways to achieve the goal of natural asset management,” stated Kim Stephens, Partnership for Water Sustainability (June 2022)


    “EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, evolved as one ‘big idea’ led to the next one. We could not have made the leap directly from the first to the last. It required a building blocks process. This is the beneficial outcome of a systematic approach to applied research that tests and refines the methodology and metrics to get them right, and is founded on the principle of collaboration that benefits everyone. With the perspective of hindsight, each local government took a leap of faith that EAP would fit into their strategic directions,” stated Kim Stephens.

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    TO REVIVE A RIVER, RESTORE ITS LIVER: “A stream is a system. It includes not just the water coursing between the banks but the earth, life and water around and under it,” wrote Erica Gies (Scientific American, April 2022)


    “Across North America and the world, cities have bulldozed their waterways into submission. Seattle was as guilty as any until 1999, when the U.S. Department of the Interior listed Chinook salmon as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. That legally obligated the city to help the salmon when undertaking any new capital project that would affect the fish,” wrote Erica Gies. But restoration projects were failing because they were overlooking a little-known feature damaged by urbanization: the stream’s “gut.”

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Cut through the rhetoric and recognize the importance of the stream in the landscape,” stated Tim Pringle, Chair of the Ecological Accounting Process initiative


    “The land supports assets that provide services. And decisions are made at the parcel scale. Thus, we are tied to the past through historical subdivision of land. This means we must understand the biology of land use. The human analogy is DNA. Only EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, deals with the parcel. Decisions by elected Councils and Boards are made at the parcel scale. Thus, getting it right about financial valuation of ecological services starts at the parcel scale and recognizing that every parcel is interconnected within a system. EAP bridges a gap. The methodology and metrics recognize the importance of the stream in the landscape,” stated Tim Pringle.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “The Asset Management ‘plan’ addresses life cycle assets related to the service they provide and the basis for replacement or upgrade over time. The risk and consequences of not taking action are substantially higher and more consequential than for Master Plans for water, sewerage and drainage,” stated Wally Wells, Executive Director of Asset Management BC


    “Asset Management is an awkward term. We have managed assets for decades and understand what that is and what we are doing. Suddenly we took two very simple words, reversed them, and went from managing assets to asset management. The result? We confused everyone. Too much attention is given to only the Asset Management Plan as opposed to all elements of the process. Even then, should we be calling the outcome the ‘Asset Management Plan’? But we do need to be careful in how we communicate what we do and what the expectations are with the results,” stated Wally Wells.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “The benefit of assigning worth to a stream corridor as an asset is that it leads to consideration of efforts needed to maintain that asset. To borrow a framework from the financial world, a Maintenance and Management (M&M) budget needs to be assigned to keep up the performance of ecological services beyond the natural asset’s initial ‘capital’ costs,” stated Ray Rung, retired Director of Engineering (March 2022)


    “Formal responsibility for the services that stream corridors provide, as equivalents to engineered assets, mostly lies with local government. EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, puts M&M of stream corridors and wetlands on an equal footing with say, pipes and pumps. The methodology and metrics recognize the importance of the stream in the landscape. EAP supports local governments that intend to include stream systems in asset management calculations. Through EAP, local governments have a guiding philosophy, methodology and metrics to make a financial case for stream systems,” stated Ray Fung.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Different local governments will always be at different points and different levels of maturity along the asset management continuum. This is why we focus on outcomes and do not prescribe what to do in BC,” stated Glen Brown, Asset Management BC Chair, in 2015 when he unveiled the branding image that conceptualizes what the journey by a local government would look like to achieve Sustainable Service Delivery for Watershed Systems


    “We framed the Asset Management Continuum as a series of three steps, recognizing that most local governments were at Ground Zero in 2015. Our operative phrase was ‘as understanding grows’. We saw this as the key consideration for local governments progressing along the continuum. Although it might be possible, we believed it unrealistic to expect anyone to jump directly to Step Three and integrate natural systems into their asset management strategies. We needed a way to illustrate this diagrammatically. This led us to the concept of a continuum,” stated Glen Brown.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “In the process of analyzing the 122 plans, we uncovered this grain of systems thinking within green infrastructure planning. It is like a crystal within a larger chaotic mix of planning ideas, an idea allowing us to integrate many different kinds of infrastructure systems,” stated Dr. Zbigniew Grabowski, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, lead author of a nationwide analysis of GI plans from 20 American cities (February 2022)


    Dr. Grabowski’s “grain of systems thinking” epiphany is the point of departure that allows the Partnership for Water Sustainability to connect the dots to a green infrastructure milestone in 2005 when BC’s Green Infrastructure Partnership developed the “Design With Nature framework” for a whole-system approach that integrates across infrastructure systems. A conversation with Dr. Graboswki revealed that the state-of-the-art in the United States is now close to where British Columbia was in 2005. In the meantime, BC has continued to progress and evolve the systems approach.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “Research by Jane Wei-Skillern offers insights into how champions in the local government and stream stewardship sectors can ensure that their collaborative efforts can have an impact that is dramatically greater than the sum of the individual parts,” stated Kim Stephens, Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia (November 2021)


    “At the beginning of 2021, the Partnership leadership reflected on our long-term commitment to collaborative leadership and growing a network. From the outset, we had vowed never to fall into the trap of concentrating our energies on building an organization and thus losing sight of ‘the mission’. This view of the world reflected our history as a roundtable,” stated Kim Stephens. “Are there other precedents for our approach, we wondered? Or are we unique? We decided it was time to research the social science literature to definitively answer these and other questions.”

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “If someone says something is not working – that barriers prevent success – then our challenge for them is: Think about what would make it work, and what are you going to do to make that alignment of goals happen? Our theme is ‘imagine’,” stated Susan Rutherford, former Legal Counsel with West Coast Environmental Law, in capacity-building presentations delivered under the umbrella of the Water Sustainability Action Plan in the first decade of the 2000s


    “What we have in mind when we say ‘imagine’ is that players would imagine a legal tool or procedure that would ensure that barriers are removed or other parties in the process more effectively fulfil their piece of the sustainable development puzzle. There are solutions to be found if all parties in the community development process, i.e., staff within local and regional governments as well as private and other actors external to government but no less involved in the development process, simply talk to each other about how they could all work together more effectively, using law reform or other process changes as tools,” stated Susan Rutherford.

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    LIVING WATER SMART IN BRITISH COLUMBIA: “The value of projects like EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, to the asset management program in Oak Bay is that it helps us better understand the financial case for Bowker Creek. We are then able to make some planning decisions about how much money to put aside to sustain and maintain the creek for the future. Council buy-in is important,” stated Dan Horan, Director of Engineering & Public Works (October 2021)


    EAP provides communities with a philosophy, pragmatic methodology and metrics to make the financial case for annual investment to prevent degradation and improve the condition of ecological assets that constitute a stream corridor system. This would put maintenance and management (M&M) of stream corridor systems on an equal footing with constructed assets (municipal infrastructure). Once local governments embrace a guiding philosophy that ecological services and use of land for development are equally important, then the next step is for them to include M&M budgets for stream systems in their Asset Management Plans.

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