The Canadian government is investing more than $24.2 million in funding to improve watershed resiliency in the Cowichan Valley.
On Wednesday, Catherine McKenna, the federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, made the announcement with Chief William Seymour of the Cowichan Tribes.
The funds will go towards the Cowichan Watershed Resiliency Program that will help reduce the impact of flooding in the valley.
“We need to be making these investments in critical infrastructure that’ll make a big difference,” McKenna said. “Bank stabilization, improvements to local infrastructure that will protect the community, protect the roads, the residences, the buildings, the businesses, the cultural buildings, the sacred archaeological sites, as well as the local wetland.”
In February 2020, a state of emergency was declared in Cowichan Valley after heavy rainfall caused significant flooding. Many people were evacuated from their homes and roads were shut down.
One hundred and seventy-five homes were impacted by this flooding, said Seymour, and it wasn’t easy for many of them to get out of their homes because of how fast the water was moving.
“Thankfully, we had community members that had big trucks or boats that were able to help to get our community members out,” he said.
But the task team that was created to deal with flood mitigation is still working, nine months later. Most of what they’ve been able to do is minor repair work.
“These are simple things: Cut off the drywall, replace it,” Seymour said. “But there are homes that every time it floods, it’s going to be in that flood zone. How do we deal with it?”
That’s where the funding comes in. With the money, Seymour said they’ll be able to look at the erosion of their banks, building more dikes and gravel remediation.
“When I look at that flood, the minor work that we [had done] on bank erosion, or raising a little bank, protected some of the homes,” he noted. “If we didn’t get that work done, we would have lost the whole village.”
The Cowichan Tribes and contributing partners are investing $5.3 million into the watershed project, in addition to the federal government’s funding.
The project, McKenna added, will also help increase water storage capacity during summer months.
“[It’s] critically important to a long-term strategy that we have for Canada to adapt to the impacts of climate change and a long-term flood mitigation strategy for the Cowichan Tribes,” she said. “It’s aimed at keeping [the] community safe and adapting to the impacts of climate change and extreme weather.”