William Godak walked into the middle of the Chemainus River on Saturday in awe at how low its water had dropped.
“It’s very bad. And no way for salmon to get up their ways. It’s very concerning, yes,” said Godak, visiting from nearby Ladysmith.
This year’s record drought has squeezed the Island river so dry into late September that spiderwebs have formed on downed trees where water and spawning salmon would usually be splashing.
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“I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never seen it this dry. We have dust in our driveway, end of September and we have dust in our driveway,” Chemainus area farmer Don Allingham told CHEK News.
According to Allingham, for the first time in his 61 years on his farm, he’s seeing salmon spawning at a low point in the river behind his fields, as rocks have blocked their way from going up any further.
“All these springs have dried up around here,” he said. “I don’t know how they got up as far as they have. They’re up behind my place actually spawning right now.”
But relief is on the way. Showers began to fall on the Cowichan Valley Saturday and Environment Canada is forecasting heavy rain to begin soaking the South Coast by Sunday night.
The storm is expected to deliver up to 50 mm of rain on West Vancouver Island, 30 mm of precipitation near the Northern Strait of Georgia, and less than 10 mm of rainfall is forecast for Victoria and the Gulf Islands.
Allingham pulled in irrigation pumps and equipment from his fields Saturday in anticipation of the storm’s arrival, which also includes wind warnings.
“We needed this so bad. We could have used this a month ago,” he said.
BC’s River Forecast Centre is warning that river levels will rise rapidly with the rains, but no major flooding is expected.
It’s ideal conditions for salmon returning to the Chemainus River, as what’s now a narrow window of a river they’re trying to travel up is expected to swing open like a wide door, just in time for spawning.