Officials concerned about dropping water level on Cowichan Lake/River

Officials concerned about dropping water level on Cowichan Lake/River

WATCH: Officials are keeping a close eye on water levels on Cowichan Lake and in the Cowichan River. As Kendall Hanson reports, for yet another year officials are concerned dropping water levels could soon impact returning salmon and Catalyst Paper’s Crofton mill.

Cowichan Lake is a popular spot for those wanting to enjoy summer days but officials are once again paying extra attention to it as summer nears its end.

They’re worried about the dropping water level on the lake which is used to sustain the Cowichan River.

“We’ll run out of water behind the weir in late September early October,” said Jon Lefebure, chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District. “That means there will literally be no water passing over the weir and running into the Cowichan River. The Cowichan river would be running dry.”

The weir is operated by Catalyst Paper and helps manage water flows in the river but if there is no rain by late September Catalyst has applied to install pumps.

They would take water from Cowichan Lake and pump the water over the weir into the river.

The company is still waiting for a 10-year window to use the pumps if necessary.

“The government could make things happen overnight if they really wanted to,” said Chief William “Chip” Seymour of Cowichan Tribes. “So it’s something they need to do and should do.”

The provincial government is expected to give an answer on the application in the next several weeks.

The long-term fix many hope for is raising the weir. Each centimetre higher would allow it to store an extra days supply.

“If we were able to raise the weir for instance 60 centimetres there’s potential to have another 60 days of minimal flow going down the river,” said Lefebure.

“It’s one of the reasons it’s important for the government to come on board recognize there is climate change and to support our efforts in raising that weir,” said Seymour.

Officials say passing a referendum this coming fall in the Cowichan Valley Regional District to become a partner in raising the weir is one of the steps required to make it happen.

In the meantime, all eyes are on the Cowichan with some praying the rains will soon return again.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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