Bowker Creek Initiative: A 100-Year Commitment to Improve Watershed Health
Situated in Greater Victoria, Bowker Creek and its watershed cover an extensive area of 1028 hectares that includes three municipalities and one regional district: the Capital Regional District, District of Oak Bay, City of Victoria, and District of Saanich. Over the last 100 years this vast area has become increasingly urbanized, primarily for residential, commercial, and industrial urban land uses. With these changes to the landscape, a number of unintended outcomes have resulted including stream channel degradation, habitat loss, poorer water quality, and the spread of invasive species.
The Capital Regional District Environment Committee identified protecting this watershed as a high priority in 1997, and an integrated watershed management program was created in 2002. In the years since, the Bowker Creek Watershed Management Plan has been actualized through implementation of many projects on the ground. To address the goals of the Management Plan, the Bowker Creek Blueprint: A 100-Year Action Plan to Restore the Bowker Creek Watershed was developed. The rationale for the 100-year timeframe is that it took 100 years for urbanization to result in sections of the creek, so it will take another 100 years to return it to a natural state.
The vision to minimize runoff and pollution, to create a healthy stream, and to provide a community greenway that connects neighbourhoods is already being realized thanks to student and community stewardship, the dedication of resources to monitor water quality and quantity, the many partners who have contributed to this project so far and the ongoing outreach activities that continue to build upon this collaborative effort.
Partnerships & Stakeholders
The Bowker Creek Initiative (BCI) is a collaboration between the following entities:
- City of Victoria
- District of Oak Bay
- District of Saanich
- Capital Regional District
- University of Victoria
- Camosun Community Association
- Community Association of Oak Bay
- Friends of Bowker Creek Society
- North Jubilee Neighbourhood Association
- Quadra Cedar Hill Neighbourhood Association
- Urban Development Institute
- Land developers
Summary of the Process
In 2002, a forum for government agencies, community organizations, landowners and residents was organized by the CRD to create the Bowker Creek Integrated Watershed Management Plan. The forum increased awareness about protecting the watershed, while valuable input was gathered from attendees.
By 2003, the three municipalities and regional district approved a watershed management plan. A part-time coordinator was hired, a steering committee was created, and the BCI was initiated to implement some of the major projects.
The BCI creates work plans, seeks resources, and advises redevelopment and new development. The BCI steering committee meets every second month to make project decisions, while subcommittees focus on particular projects like outreach (e.g. building a transferable watershed model), the Integrated Stormwater Management Plan (ISMP), and creating a greenways corridor across three municipal jurisdictions. They are also stewards of the watershed, and encourage residents to report incidents (e.g. spills and bylaw infractions) to the appropriate authorities.
The BCI group developed a unique ISMP, known as the Bowker Creek Blueprint: A 100-year Action Plan to Restore the Bowker Creek Watershed. Adopted by council in 2012, specific watershed principles and actions were developed which balance the social, economic and environmental factors of urban watershed renewal. The 100-year timeframe gave municipalities comfort in approving the plan, without having to commit to all of the financial implications at once. This extensive plan has led to a number of key policies, programs, and partnerships that have stimulated positive changes to protect and restore the watershed.
Key Outcomes & Impacts
- A section of Bowker Creek runs through Oak Bay High School so a partnership with local government, senior governments, the School District #61, Oak Bay High School, and community groups was formed to implement the Bowker Creek Restoration at Oak Bay High School project. Since 2013, this project has allowed students to engage in hydrometric monitoring, Bowker Creek awareness sessions, and creek restoration activities. Construction of a restored creek channel and outdoor classroom will be completed in Summer 2015.
- BCI received the CRD’s 2012 EcoStar Award for Integrated Watershed Management (IWM). The award recognized the three member municipalities’ (Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay) endorsement of the Bowker Creek Blueprint.
- Water quality and quantity monitoring takes place twice a year where CRD Integrated Watershed Management staff sample the water to measure indicators such as nutrients, hydrocarbons, fecal coliforms (sewage), and metals.
- Outreach activities have included creating interpretive channel marking signs for each municipality and one at the University of Victoria, building an interactive Bowker watershed model, and several events to celebrate Bowker Creek in the community, including partnering with Oak Bay High school on the annual Bowker Creek Rubber Duck Race. In addition, restoration of riparian habitat along the open sections of Bowker Creek is being led by community members.
- The efforts of the Capital Regional District, District of Saanich, City of Victoria, and District of Oak Bay have been assisted by a number of partners including community groups, institutions, and citizens. This collaborative effort has been crucial to make headway with the Bowker Creek Blueprint and the Bowker Creek integrated Watershed Management Plan.