How can we build our homes and communities so that they co-exist harmoniously with Nature? What does it mean to create a sustainable house, a sustainable community, a sustainable city? For each additional day that we live, design and build unsustainably, we pull another fibre out of the fabric of Earth’s ecosystems.

Bamberton : Ecological Protection

"That Bamberton represents a new possibility for the way people co-exist with nature, upholding the ideal of responsible stewardship, and seeking to be ecologically sustainable in the use of natural resources such as water, soil, habitat, energy and raw materials."

from the Bamberton Code


Over a 2-year period the biodiversity of Bamberton has been recorded by a team of biologists, botanists, soils experts and other specialists, to understand the property in general, and to pinpoint areas of biodiversity that must be protected. Thanks to their work, many exciting finds and several areas of rich biodiversity that escaped logging by earlier owners have been mapped. Most of these are on the steep slopes above Sheppard and McCurdie Point. Many rare and endangered plants were found there, including the best stand of Poison Oak in B.C. A 17 ha area of old-growth forest, with its own unique biological richness has been studied, as have several unique Garry Oak/Arbutus ecosystems along the area to the south of the old cement plant. A 300 acre area stretching along 3.5 km of shoreline will be protected, with buffer zones. Management prescriptions will be written to protect both this and other protected areas. At the other end of the property, on the west side of the highway, a riparian area was found that is considered fragile as well, with a stand of giant black cottonwood trees. These unique areas don't dominate the land at Bamberton, but they are certainly significant, and will all be preserved. These areas are all zoned for logging under existing zoning. Once the new town proposal has been approved, they will be preserved forever. Many of the areas found to contain rare plants are under attack from broom, and other non-indigenous species. Only a constant effort to eradicate the broom, hopefully by a Bamberton Nature Trust, will preserve these rare plants.


The first impression of Bamberton is that apart from the area around the cement works, it is covered in trees. In the 3 areas where the future villages are planned, however, the forest was 'highgraded' 2-3 times (ie intensively logged) by previous owners in the 1920s, 1930s, 1960s, and most recently in the 1980s. Parts of the forest floor have been damaged by skidders, and the topsoil washed away, and the current forest that has started to recover is mainly damaged trees, and non-commercial species like arbutus and alder. The Bamberton Zoning Bylaw requires that every tree 8" or more in diameter have legal protection against cutting, with fines up to $3,500 per tree, and a requirement to replace it with a 4" diameter tree of the same species, unless a tree-cutting permit is obtained. In the area of the first neighbourhood, all of the larger trees (mostly arbutus and maple) have been measured, tagged and surveyed, and appear on the topographical maps of the site. The effect of this will be that many homes will be built partiallyunder the existing tree cover, provided there is no danger from blow-down. The trees will still dominate the site, and the view from the water. Many of the steeper areas which have not been logged, and are too steep to build on, will become designated forest land, park areas, or ecological reserves. To the south of the cement works, an area of 300 acres will be protected since it consists of some of the last remaining coastal douglas fir ecosystem in the area, and about 15 different garry oak sites. In addition, the 3 major ravines will be entirely protected, as will a 40-metre strip right along the waterfront, where the steep slope would lead to soil erosion, if disturbed.


There is much confusion about the old cement plant being a 'contaminated site'. All PCB coolants were removed in 1991 and are now in a special PCB storage area in Richmond. There is a small amount of oil-soaked soil, which will be bioremediated naturally, using bacteria. There are 3 old kiln dust dumps containing limestone dust that wasn't used for cement. Until the 1930s, this was sold to local farmers to sweeten their soil. Because it is very alkaline, like all limestone and cement, it will be condensed into one site, likely the floor of the upper quarry (whence it came originally), sealed over with a cover and clay, and become a park area.


The Saanich Inlet is a very beautiful and special body of water, home to seals, sea-lions, many birds, turkey-vultures and eagles, and visiting orcas. A shellfish closure is in place due to pollution from leaking septic tanks and other sewage discharges, and there is further pollution from boats flushing out their bilges. The Bamberton strategy to help protect the Inlet has 6 components. Each has been designed to address a specific potential source of pollution from human interference :

The Issue The Response

1. Sewage treatment State-of-the-art biological

tertiary sewage treatment system

2. Soil erosion 40-metre deep no-build strip, right

along the waterfront

3. Visual Impact Strict tree-protection regulations

4. Storm-water run-off Natural swales, soak-away pits

5. Chemical pollutants Sewage source-control program

Covenants against pesticides, etc

6. Marina Saanich Inlet Marine Code


The sewage treatment plant planned for Bamberton is a 'state-of-the-art' tertiary biological waste water treatment plant. Similar plants are in use at Penticton and Kelowna. Both towns draw their drinking water from the same Okanagan Lake that they discharge their sewage into, which is why they built such advanced tertiary plants. After treatment, the solids are composted for return to the land, and the liquids are disinfected by ultraviolet light before entering the Inlet. The final waste water is clean enough to raise fish in for human consumption, which is the legal performance standard laid down in the Bamberton Zoning Bylaw. In each of the critical performance criteria (biological oxygen demand, nitrogen, phosphorus, ammonia, coliform count, suspended solids, heavy metals, oil and grease) the Bamberton/Penticton plant achieves an exceptionally high performance standard. A full source control program will be operated by the sewage utility to remove chemicals and heavy metals at source, before they enter the liquid waste stream. This will involve education, monitoring and legal enforcement through a sewage and storm drain bylaw. Further literature is available upon request.


Soil erosion usually occurs when development happens on steep slopes, and on land adjacent to the water. The risks will be minimized by excluding steep sloped areas from development, and by the tree-protection regulations, the waterfront no-build strip, the requirement that every lot retain 25% of its area under native species, and the Site Protection Code for builders.


Bamberton will be the complete opposite of the Port Royale Development at Brentwood Bay, where every tree was cut down, and the land artificially terraced. Bamberton's tree-protection regulations will mean that many houses are built partially under a canopy of arbutus, alder and maple. The no-build strip will protect the whole waterfront from development, except at the town centre. Taken together, the overall view of the site from the water will still be dominated by trees, except at the town centre itself, where the cement works is today.


In most developments, storm-water run-off is collected at the street and channeled underground for discharge into a river or the sea, carrying oil, grease and other pollutants with it. At Bamberton, most storm-water will be managed through a system of natural swales or ditches alongside the roads, by the use of porous paving materials on driveways, and by soak-away pits for each house, maximizing soak-away back into the land.


The use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, which have very harmful potential if they drain off into the Inlet, will be restricted by means of ecological covenants placed on the land. All other chemicals will be subject to a source control program operated by the sewage utility, to prevent them from entering the liquid waste stream.


The Marine Code commits signatories to adopt ecologically responsible boating habits with regard to issues such as sewage discharge, cleaning bilges, fuel leaks, fishing tackle, maintenance and refitting, and high speeds, and will apply to everyone using the Marina at Bamberton. The Marina will have a sewage pump-out station, but no refuelling depot. Copies of the Code are available upon request.


1. Biodiversity and Trees

A full biodiversity study has been completed, and a management strategy for the protected areas is being developed. Comprehensive tree-protection regulations will be enforced.

2. Green Spaces and Ecological Planning

All areas of special ecological value, waterfront lands, ravines and steeper sloped areas will be protected from development, totalling over 400 acres.

3. Chemical Fertilizers

There will be ecological covenants on all Pesticides & Herbicidesland prohibiting the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, in order to prevent chemicals from getting into the ecological food chain, and the Saanich Inlet. Organic and biological methods of pest protection will be encouraged.

4. Native Species

The Landscape Code will emphasize native species, and there will be a requirement that 25% of every lot be left under native species. The purpose is to support indigenous trees and plants, and the many different species which co-exist with them.

5. Building Site Protection

The Site Protection Code will lay down standards for tree and soil protection which everyone working on the site will be required to follow.

6. Education and Enforcement

There will be a one-day training program in ecologically responsible building for all site workers, and all residents will be given information and encouragement on organic gardening and native species. The intention is to make it easy for people to adopt the new standards, rather than depend solely on enforcement measures. A Bamberton Nature Trust is anticipated, which will encourage ecological stewardship for the site as a whole.

Further Reading :

Designing with Nature, by Ian McHarg

Town of Bamberton : Biodiversity Inventory. Madrone Consultants (1992-93)

Preserving the Inlet, by Guy Dauncey and Bob Dawson (Bamberton News, Oct 1991)

Technical Paper on Sewage, by Oleh Dubeh

Technical Paper on Storm Water, by Oleh Dubeh