‘Lowest in my lifetime’: Cowichan River at slowest flow as drought intensifies

'Lowest in my lifetime': Cowichan River at slowest flow as drought intensifies

Maya Krey and her friends are squeezing a spontaneous tubing trip down the Cowichan River on Sunday as temperatures reach the high 20s in Lake Cowichan.

“It’s perfect and it’s warm,” Krey told CHEK News.

The forecasted chance of rain vanishing as clouds break apart overhead without even producing a drop on this parched region. It has Joelene Duff wondering if fall rains that you could once count will arrive at all.

“You could definitely tell there were four seasons, now it’s like there’s two,” said Duff while tubing on the river.

This summer’s record-breaking drought is stretching into the salmon migration and has water levels dropping so low that mechanical pumps are being set up to pump water from Cowichan Lake, over this Catalyst Paper weir, and into the Cowichan River.

The river’s currently running at its lowest recorded levels, says Tom Rutherford with the Cowichan Watershed Board.

“Right now, it’s below 4.5 cm — the lowest in my lifetime,” said Rutherford.

According to Catalyst Paper, the pumps will be switched on as early as Wednesday to keep the river from running dry as an expected 10,000 chinook salmon try to navigate rocks and gravel bars now jutting from where water should be.

Water will be pumped from the lake into the river just to keep the minimal to bring the adult salmon upstream.

Rutherford says these are alarming days as salmon-bearing rivers up and down Vancouver Island struggle deeply in this drought.

“We are standing next to the Koksilah River, and it’s easy to see there’s not a lot of water in it, and this is typical of rivers on the east side of Vancouver Island right now,” he said.

“From the Tsolum, the Puntledge right down to Victoria. So this is what we’re looking at.”

As this record drought continues, even more hot, sunny weather is in the forecast for the week ahead, as waves of threatened salmon head this way.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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