If you want to understand how far municipalities have evolved in
recent years when it comes to stormwater management, look no further
then the engineering department.
Civic engineers, traditionally, have considered stormwater the enemy
of property and threat to human life, and looked at streams primarily
as conduits that get the water safely away.
In the Strait of Georgia over the last century that philosophy has
been disastrous for salmon streams.
In the last four years, however, the people working in this pragmatic
of all civil service professions have begun talking like, well,
like New Age environmentalists.
Urged on by the Greater Vancouver regional district and senior government
agencies involved with streams and fish, engineering departments
are reappraising their roles and helping ensure that community values
are incorporated into stormwater management plans.
That means managing streams so that environmental, recreational,
aesthetic, heritage and fisheries values are considered, along with
traditional objectives like protection from flooding,
"You have to look at it form a holistic perspective," says Fred
Nenninger, and engineer who is program manager for the GVRD's liquid
waste management plan.
"Considering the stream is just as important as the rest of the
infrastructure -- the streams are going to be just as important
as the roads and all the other utilities."
In Surrey, as far back as the 1980s, municipal engineers were designing
containment ponds to capture water and allow it to seep slowly back
into streams to maintain a more steady water flow.
Many other municipalities around the region have yet to achieve
Surrey's environmental sophistication -- but that doesn't mean Surrey
is waiting for them to catch up.
As you read this, the city's engineering department, working in
collaboration with the University of B.C., a developer, a residents'
group and about 70 other stakeholders, is hashing out a suburban
prototype for the 21st century
||-- B.C.'s first environmentally sustainable
A major feature of the project, to be developed in the 225-hectare
East Clayton area, is stormwater management.
That means minimizing the use of blacktop, eliminating curbs and gutters
in favour of shoulders and swales that allow stormwater to gently
percolate into the ground instead of being ushered into local streams.
In a neat twist on convention, the plan calls for water to be pumped
down into wells, so it can escape and recharge underground aquifers.
It also means the elimination of conventional paved streetscapes in
favor of back lanes, and installation of perforated piped that allow
water to gradually escape into the local water table instead of being
directed into a stream.
Will it work?
Progressive Construction, the major landowner in East Clayton, says
the jury is still out.
Steve Kurrein, general manager of residential development for Progressive,
notes there is a strong market for housing in Surrey.
He cited rapid sales of building lots at Clover Ridge, a joint subdivision
venture between Progressive and some builders.
Clover Ridge will be built according to conventional standards --
with attached garages, driveways and a main roadway with sidewalks,
curbs and gutters. At the recent opening of lot sales, builders scooped
up 90 lots in two hours.
But Kurrien is not convinced builders and buyers will be as receptive
to the East Clayton concept.
"The challenge is making the sustainable development concept work
in the marketplace," Kurrein said. "I think it's fair to say we're
One of the problems, he says, is satisfying both the sustainability
objectives and the builders who actually purchase the properties and
put homes on them.
The next problem will be finding buyers willing to invest in the concept.