Neighbours plead for help to save Chemainus River and salmon ‘choked with gravel right now’

Neighbours plead for help to save Chemainus River and salmon 'choked with gravel right now'
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Residents who live near the Chemainus River are worried the river will flood again this year.

Residents who live near the Chemainus River are worried that floods that damaged the area in previous years will happen again.

The Chemainus River ran quietly by Don Allingham’s North Cowichan farm Monday, but the lifelong resident was already bracing for what’s to come this fall. Rainstorms over the past two years have turned the river into an unstoppable funnel of flood waters, damaging hundreds of homes, and with new and massive gravel deposits, called gravel bars, blocking the waters way, he feared a repeat is inevitable.

“It’s frustrating. The gravel bars are getting larger and larger and they’re getting pushed down further and further,” said Allingham.

“The river is so choked with gravel right now, the spring salmon are trying to spawn. There’s a big salmon halfway up in the rapids you could tell that’s as far as he went. He got stuck now the birds are feasting on him. This river is so choked with gravel that the fish can’t even make it up there now.”

The gravel bars are higher than area farmer Wally Smith said he has ever seen before.

“This is gravel that was deposited by the last flood,” said North Cowichan resident Smith. “This whole area here is under threat.”

Allingham says he worries about potential floods in the fall.

“And with the floods coming there’s nowhere for the water to go in the channel anymore. So it’s gonna come over the sides faster,” said Allingham.

Yet, according to residents, they haven’t seen any action to remove the growing gravel bars in the river, at the same places where some of the worst flooding unfolded the past two years in a row.

“Do the provincial politicians, do the municipal politicians even care if it repeats?” said Smith.

The District of North Cowichan insists a lot has been undertaken on the Chemainus River ahead of the next flooding season. Including mapping the river for the first time in 30 years. In addition to identifying critical spots where problems could unfold. Though gravel bars are still being assessed.

“We’re running out of time for this year,” said Allingham.

“We’d love to have a long term plan, but we need short term mitigation while we wait that long term plan to be implemented,” said Smith.

Regional officials with the District of North Cowichan and Cowichan Valley Regional District will be meeting later this month, to review emergency planning ahead of the coming storm season that may include pre-emptive sandbagging and other temporary works.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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