Restrictions implemented on Koksilah, Cowichan rivers due to drought

Catalyst Paper is responsible for controlling the water flow in the Cowichan River through the weir.

As the drought conditions continue on Vancouver Island, the provincial government is bringing in water use restrictions for industries that use water in the Koksilah River and restricting fishing on the Cowichan River.

This move is to protect the fish populations in the rivers.

Koksilah River restrictions

The government says the Koksilah River has seen persistent low stream flows that threaten the survival of steelhead trout.

The Koksilah water use order affects approximately 108 surface and groundwater applicants. Using water for forage crops and industry must stop. However, water can still be diverted for foraging crops like market vegetable, livestock watering or domestic purposes.

The restriction may be revoked earlier if river levels recover.

RELATED: B.C. issues water restrictions along Vancouver Island river to protect salmon, trout

Farmers who are affected by this can access the AgriStability program that helps producers who experience a significant drop in their income or increased expenses.

“These decisions are always made as a last resort – recognizing the impact on people and businesses,” B.C.’s Ministry of Forests said in a news release. “Because of the collective efforts of water licensees in the area, the Province has been able to delay these actions until today. Provincial staff are monitoring the situation and working to balance water uses with environmental flow needs.”

Upper Cowichan River restrictions

The fishing restrictions on the Cowichan River have been extended to Nov. 15, from the previous end date of Sept. 1.

Angling will not be permitted between the Cowichan Lake Weird dam and the 66 Mile Trestle in the Cowichan River Provincial Park.

The drought and hot water has resulted in a “significant” algal bloom developing in this area..

“This bloom has led to reduced water quality, creating adverse conditions for fish and the aquatic ecosystem in the Upper Cowichan River and causing significant fish mortality in the Upper Cowichan River over an area of at least 10 kilometres,” the Ministry of Forests says.

“The goal of this extended closure is to alleviate additional stress on fish populations and allow for the recovery of the river’s aquatic ecosystem.”

Drought conditions

Vancouver Island remains under a level 5 drought, which is the highest level on the B.C. government’s scale.

A level 5 drought under the B.C. government’s classification system means that adverse impacts are almost certain. The impacts range from impacts to fish habitats that can result in fish mortalities, infrastructure that pulls water from creeks can be impacted, reduced water availability for ranchers and livestock, and potential issues in water supply for communities.

Vancouver Island has been at this drought level since July 13, when in previous years the Island has not reached a level 5 until September.

READ PREVIOUS: Island reached level 5 drought earlier than usual

The Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada average precipitation shows that over the past 30 days parts of Vancouver Island has received less than 40 per cent of its usual precipitation.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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