A 2018 report by the Insurance Bureau of Canada recommended retaining and restoring "natural infrastructure," as a way of reducing risks for communities living on the coast. Green Shores® (GS) is a trademarked voluntary program of the Stewardship Centre for British Columbia that promotes practical strategies for foreshore design and coastal management through the use of nature-based or natural infrastructure approaches. It is designed to advance sustainable coastal planning, design and development through practices such as wider setbacks, riparian buffers and stormwater management, which can protect critical functions and make later restoration actions unnecessary. Broadly applied, GS has the potential to reach tens of thousands of homes and tens of billions of dollars in private and public assets that are at risk from coastal erosion and flooding. The Green Shores guiding principles consist of 1) preserving the integrity of shoreline processes, 2) maintaining habitat diversity and function, 3) minimizing pollutants to the aquatic environment, and 4) reducing cumulative impacts to the shore environment –principles that are consistent with retaining and restoring natural infrastructure.
Eyzaguirre et al. (2020) carried out an extended social cost-benefit analysis on the Stewardship Centre for BC's Green Shores program and concluded that uptake of Green Shores approaches in BC leads to demonstrable benefits for waterfront property owners and coastal environments, including protection from erosion, flooding and sea-level rise; enhanced status and reputation; improved functioning of coastal processes, decreased coastal pollution and reduced cumulative impacts on shoreline ecosystems.
Interest in nature-based solutions that address development pressures on coastal ecosystems and climate change together is growing in Canada. However, compared to the decades of implementation experience with engineered protective structures, applications of natural solutions remain limited on British Columbia shorelines.
A survey of BC property owners, local governments and shoreline professionals carried out by ESSA (Eyzaguirre et al. 2020) identified key needs for increased implementation of the Green Shores nature-based approach along BC coasts. These include the need for:
One of the major bottlenecks to uptake in innovative practices is the lack of public awareness of these options. Public education and engagement help communities to increase their understanding of how communities may be directly affected by sea level rise now and in the future, and the solutions available to them. Although BC waterfront property owners surveyed were most familiar with the use and preservation of vegetation as protective and landscape features and with boardwalks over ecologically-sensitive areas, they had no to little familiarity with beach nourishment and techniques to improve sediment transfer, flood control or sea level rise mitigation. Awareness and knowledge of different programs encouraging the application of soft shoreline techniques was also very low among waterfront property owners.
Another major bottleneck to uptake of nature based solutions is the lack of trained professionals in BC (Eyzaguirre et al. 2020). in 2020, most of the Green Shores for Homes certifications that existed on mid Vancouver Island were attributable to a single contractor who had taken the Level 2 Green Shores course and was an advocate for Green Shores approaches.
This project aims to work with communities new to the concepts of nature-based approaches to climate resilience to increase the uptake of emerging approaches to foreshore design and management to reduce flood risk while increasing economic and ecological value. The area of focus is the East Coast of Vancouver Island (ECVI), from Victoria up to Port McNeill. These communities are becoming progressively more exposed to risk and habitat degradation as climate change increases the frequency and intensity of heavy precipitation and ocean storm surge events. Urgent action is needed. Although, existing efforts have started this process with localized activities, this will be the first large-scale education and training initiative in BC for promoting nature-based solutions.
PSF, together with our partner, the Stewardship Centre for BC, is implementing a multi-faceted approach to educate BC communities, government decision makers, municipalities and coastal professionals about current and future climate impacts (including risks, vulnerability, hard armouring) in their local communities on the east coast of Vancouver Island (ECVI) and the long-term adaptive benefits of nature-based approaches to address coastal sea level rise, storm surge and flooding. We will provide education on practical strategies that use living shorelines or green infrastructure for reducing flood risk due to climate change while promoting healthy shoreline ecosystems on high value salmon habitat on east coast of Vancouver Island and Strait of Georgia island communities. Learning opportunities will be provided by delivering educational content and outreach/communications materials (hard copy, virtual seminars, regular teleconferences, photographic and video resources, “lunch and learn events”, community days, and annual in-person meetings). Communities include, but not restricted to: stewardship groups, interested public, First Nations, Real Estate Foundation of BC, government decision makers, municipalities, Front Counter staff, planners, and coastal professionals. We are starting in year 1 (2021) with communities in Victoria and South Vancouver Island, and will move northwards up the East Coast of Vancouver Island, working with different communities up to Port McNeill and north Vancouver Island. The final year 5 (2025) programming will focus on rural communities of ECVI.