Cowichan Tribes and B.C. Government team up to save Koksilah River with unprecedented agreement

Cowichan Tribes and B.C. Government team up to save Koksilah River with unprecedented agreement

Stepping into his childhood playground of the Koksilah River Friday, Tim Kulchyski was gleeful to see young fish swimming in its shallow water. A positive sign that the Cowichan Valley river still has a lot of fight left in it after rounds of drought and record lows.

“It is certainly a shaky future, but we are on the right path,” said Kulchyski, Fisheries Biologist with Cowichan Tribes.

Friday, Cowichan Tribes Chief Lydia Hwitsum and B.C.’s Minister of Water, Lands & Resource Stewardship Nathan Cullen, waded into the Koksilah River together. They released salmon and trout fry — symbolizing a new precedent for the Watershed Planning Agreement they’re developing together that will ensure the river’s survival.

“This is the first time in the province’s history we’ve done a water sustainability plan together,” said Cullen. “Because we’ve damaged many of our watersheds, we have contributed to their degradation. Now we need to contribute to their restoration and that is something that brings me a sense of hope, along with that sense of urgency that we are facing situations that were unimaginable 20 years ago.”

“We need to come together to do this work because our river is suffering and there have been extraordinary measures in the last couple of years to ensure that there are sufficient flows,” said Cowichan Tribes Chief Lydia Hwitsum.

The first-of-its-kind agreement falls on the heels of back-to-back droughts that hit the Koksilah in 2019 and 2021 that were so severe that land owners along it were told to stop using its water in an effort to protect the fish.

“Ultimately we are responsible, to this river and this watershed, because without it, we don’t survive,” Cullen added.

So beginning immediately, all decisions affecting the Koksilah will be made by First Nations and Provincial leaders together, on the same page, collecting data, and coming up with a plan to save it before its too late.

A first-of-its-kind approach, as leaders stand on the banks of another drought.

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