RDN’s rainwater strategy ready to move to implementation stage

RDN's rainwater strategy ready to move to implementation stage
Photo credit: Mitodru Ghosh/Unsplash

The regional rainwater management strategy developed by the Regional District of Nanaimo is now ready for implementation following endorsement by the board of directors.

The rainwater management approach is used “to control, treat and convey precipitation within the landscape, using both natural and built infrastructure” and considers rainwater a “resource” rather than a “nuisance,” the 69-page strategy says.

“Exceeding the capacity of 1/8 built 3/8 infrastructure results in flooding, erosion of natural watercourses, degradation of natural ecosystems and damage to public and private property, all of which will be compounded if future predictions about more intense rainfall events are realized.”

Implementation will start with foundational scientific studies, including watershed monitoring and regional climate change assessment followed by setting performance targets such as retention and recharge volume, release rates and water quality; and updating language in regulatory documents.

“What it’s trying to do is provide a little bit of a framework to work coherently across those jurisdictions,” including the electoral areas, Islands Trust, municipalities and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), Julie Pisani, program coordinator for the RDN’s drinking water and watershed protection program, explained to the board. MOTI is “a really important partner in implementing any sort of regional strategy for rainwater management because they’re in charge of the rural ditches, culverts and road drainage outside of the municipal areas,” Pisani said.

Once that information is collected, the RDN will be in a position to apply for larger grants for building infrastructure such as bioswales or rain gardens as well as acquiring natural assets.

The strategy makes recommendations to consider when local governments are undergoing Official Community Plan reviews. There are seven across the electoral areas, but for Gabriola, that’s the purview of the Islands Trust. “The variance in inclusion and strength of requirements 1/8 in the OCPs 3/8 supports the need for a unified vision of rainwater management across the RDN,” the strategy states.

Part of the recommended implementation of the rainwater strategy includes developing regional programs that could be coordinated by the RDN with participation across governments, First Nations, stewardship groups, land developers and industry as well as asset management planning that incorporates rainwater management assets – open spaces, forests, wetlands, water bodies and also green infrastructure.

Some directors pointed out the majority of the watershed that the RDN falls within is privately owned, making accomplishing watershed-scale improvements challenging. Mosaic Forest Management, a major land owner within the regional district, participated in the working groups for the development of the strategy. During the process there was a “collaborative, participatory relationship but not a thou shalt,” Pisani told directors. “The hope is they’ll see themselves as an active player at the watershed scale.”

The full strategy is available at www.getinvolved.rdn.ca/rainwater-management-strategy. The RDN says implementation updates will be posted there as well.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Gabriola Sounder via The Canadian Press

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