Pumps added to weir at Lake Cowichan as water level drop to historic lows

Pumps added to weir at Lake Cowichan as water level drop to historic lows

Twenty pumps are now working overtime to keep water flowing through the weir at Lake Cowichan into the Cowichan River.

Brian Houle, the environmental manager with Catalyst Paper, says the pumps are necessary as the drought continues to impact the lake.

“We’ll continue pumping until the lake is filled by Mother Nature. And optimistically next week, we have significant rain next week. And potentially a major system the week after,” Houle said.

But even with the pumps working around the clock at the weir, no rain means water levels are dropping by almost a centimetre every day.

And the lake is now at a historic low.

“The lake level is down eight inches,” Houle said.

That’s impacting the shoreline, parts of which have never been exposed. It’s also impacting recreational users who normally would be flocking to the lake on a sunny afternoon.

Gerry Pennels is hoping to get out on the water if it’s possible. He wants to take friends out for a day boating on the lake.

“I’m going to take a look at the water level. I’ve never seen it this low,” Pennels said.

Overnight rains that soaked much of the south island bypassed Lake Cowichan.

And that’s why Catalyst Paper has now installed its full fleet of pumps and pipes to keep water flowing into the Cowichan River.

“The river is being sheltered by bringing the environmental impact to the lake. We’re holding the river at a constant flow, the flow that we’ve been targeting all summer,” Houle said.

The good news is that significant rain is in the forecast for the next few weeks.

But until the skies open up, the pumps will stay, according to Geoff Grime, owner of North Pacific Divers. His company installed the pipes and the pumps into the lake.

“We try to keep them until the last minute just in case the rain stops and the levels drop again. But a week of good rain, and we should be back to natural, good levels for the flow in the river,” Grimes said.

The lake will recover quickly once the rains arrive.

But until then, Pennels will have to wait another day for a day out on the water.

WATCH MORE: Water to be pumped from Lake Cowichan into Cowichan River amid drought

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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