Drying Koksilah River on Vancouver Island threatens salmon migration

WatchCritically low water levels in the Cowichan Valley have officials removing gravel from river beds and calling on farmers to stop irrigating their crops with water from the fast drying Koksilah River.

Hungry otters are feasting right now in the low water of the Koksilah River as salmon prepare to flood what remains of the small river in their annual migration.

The odds against the salmon are higher than ever with critically low water levels this year, as well as log jams and massive gravel deposits standing in their way on the Cowichan and Koksilah Rivers.

“You’re talking about metres of gravel,” said Cowichan Tribes biologist Tim Kulchyski.

“It’s really serious.  It’s about as low as it has ever been.”

“Right now there will be adults returning to this channel wanting to return,” said Ken Elliott, an environmental monitor for Cowichan Tribes.

“And they’re blocked off by these gravel bars.”

This week Cowichan Tribes, will begin dredging the two rivers of gravel, debris and remove logjams to restore the path salmon need to go from ocean to spawning grounds.

“Here its a loss of over seven kilometres of habitat,” said Kulchyski.

The province is also immediately notifying leaseholders who draw on the water of the small Koksialh River to immediately stop using it to irrigate hay and corn crops to ensure fish in the river survive this dry spell.

“Anybody who’s drawing water in that system have to be much more conscientious about your water,” said Kulchyski.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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