EAP, THE ECOLOGICAL ACCOUNTING PROCESS, IS GAME-CHANGING: Financial Case for Bowker Creek Daylighting in British Columbia’s Capital Region
Note to Reader:
“SHARE INFORMATION. INFORM DECISIONS.” This soundbite lines up nicely with the mission of Waterbucket eNews which is to help our readers make sense of a complicated world. Waterbucket eNews celebrates the leadership of individuals and organizations who are guided by the vision for Living Water Smart in British Columbia to build greener communities and adapt to a changing climate; and embrace “design with nature” approaches to reconnect people, land, fish, and water in altered landscapes.
The edition of Waterbucket eNews published on October 26, 2021 featured EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, as applied to the 100-Year Action Plan for daylighting Bowker Creek in the Capital Regional District. On this date, the Partnership released Bowker Creek – A Natural Commons in the Capital Regional District: Using the Ecological Accounting Process to Establish the ‘Financial Case for the Stream’, the sixth in the series of EAP demonstration applications to be completed in a 3-stage, multi-year program of applied research.
on the financial case for the stream
“The provincial umbrella for EAP is Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework. In 2019, UBCM and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs established an expectation that grant applicants would integrate natural assets into their asset management processes. EAP shows them how to do it for stream systems,” stated Kim Stephens, Waterbucket eNews Editor and Executive Director, Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.
Reconnect Hydrology and Stream Ecology by Design
“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.”
“Use of EAP to establish the ‘financial case for the stream’ would put maintenance and management (M&M) of stream corridor systems on an equal footing with constructed assets (municipal infrastructure).”
“The leap forward explicit in the vision for “sustainable drainage service delivery” is whole-system action on the landscape that ensures stream system integrity. Whether constructed or natural, an asset is an asset. And in the built environment, each asset type requires an annual budget for M&M.”
“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. This would begin the process of reconnecting hydrology and stream ecology by design.”
Financial Case for Bowker Creek Daylighting in B.C.’s Capital Region
“Bowker Creek originates at the University of Victoria on southern Vancouver Island and flows for 8 km through three municipalities – Saanich, Victoria and Oak Bay. The creekshed is completely urbanized. The impervious area coverage is 56%. Over 30,000 people reside in the surrounding creekshed,” continued Kim Stephens.
“The Bowker Creek Blueprint is a 100-year action plan to create islands of nature within the urban environment, daylight a creek where it is enclosed in a pipe for two-thirds of its original channel length, and restore a continuous stream corridor.”
“The process to operationalize the Blueprint is now self-fulfilling. It is embedded in three Official Community Plans and cascades down to the DNA and departmental work plans within each municipality. In February 2021, the 12-clause motion passed by Victoria City Council is the game-changer that launched the second decade of the 100-Year Action Plan.”
“In this edition of Waterbucket eNews, the focus is on the “financial case for the stream” because the Partnership for Water Sustainability is releasing Bowker Creek: A Natural Commons in the Capital Regional District. Applying EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, adds to the conceptual framework for stream daylighting with new insights about metrics.”
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Application of EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process to Bowker Creek
“In 2020, the Bowker Creek Initiative added the Daylighting Feasibility Study to its strategy for restoration of the Bowker Creek stream corridor as a natural commons or ecological system,” stated Tim Pringle, EAP Chair.
“Applying EAP, the Ecological Accounting Process, adds to the conceptual framework for stream daylighting by providing new insights about metrics for annual maintenance and management (M&M) of a functioning stream corridor system.”
“The EAP findings for Bowker Creek also introduce intriguing insights that would potentially inform the long-term strategy for property acquisition, in conjunction with land redevelopment, for stream daylighting.”
Integration of Natural Assets into Local Government Asset Management
“The Bowker Creek EAP project is part of an applied research program, involving multiple local governments, to demonstrate application of the EAP methodology and metrics. The intent is that the findings would be used by participating local governments to establish line items in budgets for maintenance and management (M&M) of ecological assets in stream corridors,” explained Kim Stephens.
“The EAP program supports local governments adopting an integrated approach to life-cycle M&M of the drainage service. The integrated approach recognizes that constructed infrastructure and stream systems are inter-connected components of the drainage service. Effective M&M of natural assets (stream systems) requires local government commitment backed by line items in an annual report.”
“The EAP methodology and metrics recognize the importance of the stream system in the landscape. A stream is a land use because the stream corridor is defined in regulations and has a financial value.”
Land Use Context
“When land development takes place, there is necessarily a riparian deficit. Thus, when applying EAP, the measure of the riparian deficit is the most useful output,” emphasized Tim Pringle.
“Transformation of the Bowker landscape occurred decades ago in an era when there was no streamside protection regulation. Other than a 400m headwater reach at the University of Victoria, Bowker has no riparian ecosystem. Elsewhere, there are only remnant riparian areas.”
“The Riparian Deficit is the environmental equivalent of the Infrastructure Deficit (or Gap) for constructed assets such as underground utilities and buildings. It adds balance to the asset management conversation by giving equal weight to the environmental protection perspective and financial case for stream systems,” concluded Tim Pringle.
Operationalizing EAP within Asset Management
“The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has developed a self-evaluation tool called the Asset Management Readiness Scale (AMRS). The 5-part tool defines five levels of competency and readiness. Currently, it is applied to M&M of constructed assets. However, it has value as a conversation starter with local government asset managers about M&M of natural assets,” stated Kim Stephens.
“The process for understanding how EAP might be applied to AMRS by local governments involved conversational interviews with asset managers in the three Bowker Blueprint partner municipalities. Their responses yielded insights into how the EAP case study aligned with and/or fitted into the big picture which is their organization’s approach to asset management planning for sustainable service delivery.”
“Conversations revolved around the question of how likely is it that one small study would shift the overall ratings in a 15 x 5 matrix (scroll down to image of the matrix). The short answer by the partners is that it would not. The consensus, however, is that EAP does help broaden and balance the asset management conversation.”
“This alone achieves the goal of EAP in providing local governments with a methodology and metrics for making the financial case for streams,” summarized Kim Stephens.
Reflections by Local Government Staff
About the Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC
Incorporation of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia as a not-for-profit society on November 19, 2010 was a milestone moment. Incorporation signified a bold leap forward. The Partnership evolved from a technical committee in the 1990s, to a “water roundtable” in the first decade of the 2000s, and then to a legal entity. The Partnership has its roots in government – local, provincial, federal.
The umbrella for Partnership initiatives and programs is the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia. In turn, the Action Plan is nested within Living Water Smart, British Columbia’s Water Plan. Released in 2008, Living Water Smart was the provincial government’s call to action, and to this day transcends governments.
Conceptual Framework for Inter-Generational Collaboration
Technical knowledge alone is not enough to resolve water challenges facing BC. Making things happen in the real world requires an appreciation and understanding of human behaviour, combined with a knowledge of how decisions are made. It takes a career to figure this out.
The Partnership has a primary goal, to build bridges of understanding and pass the baton from the past to the present and future. To achieve the goal, the Partnership is growing a network in the local government setting. This network embraces collaborative leadership and inter-generational collaboration.
Application of Experience, Knowledge and Wisdom
The Partnership believes that when each generation is receptive to accepting the inter-generational baton and embracing the wisdom that goes with it, the decisions of successive generations will benefit from and build upon the experience of those who went before them.
The Partnership leadership team brings experience, knowledge, and wisdom – a forceful combination to help collaborators reach their vision, mission, and goals for achieving water sustainability. When they are successful, the Partnership is successful.
The Time Continuum graphic (above) conceptualizes the way of thinking that underpins the inter-generational mission of the Partnership for Water Sustainability. Influence choices. Capitalize on the REACHABLE and TEACHABLE MOMENTS to influence choices.
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