Chemainus River drying out amid Island-wide drought

Chemainus River drying out amid Island-wide drought
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Days with no rain and drought have resulted in lower water levels in some Vancouver Island waterways.

The Chemainus River is one of the bodies of water that has dried up in places, which has created a new problem — salmon are getting trapped in parts of the river and ultimately will die without help.

Norman and Tim Thomas scrabbled over a gravel bank in the middle of the Chemainus River Thursday to save some of the trapped salmon.

The area where the two stood would typically have water up to their shoulders, but instead, it was bone dry.

“This should all be water, yeah, which is horrible that it ain’t,” said Norman Thomas, a member of the Halalt First Nation.

The eroded gravel bar stands nearly a storey tall now and has almost blocked the flow of the river.

The fish-bearing river is down to a trickle and where there’s water at all, small pools that have salmon fry trapped are drying out fast in the record drought.

“Chinook salmon are coming up our river now and they can’t even come up here because the water’s too warm,” said Thomas. “There’s some places on this river you can’t even get your sandals wet when you walk down it.”

The dry conditions that plague the Chemainus River have hit all of Vancouver Island. Fortunately, some rain is in the forecast for the weekend.

According to Environment Canada, the North Island and west coast will see the most precipitation with up to 10 mm anticipated, but it will be a lot less for Cowichan, offering little relief for the Chemainus River.

“Nanaimo to the Victoria stretch may be up to 5 millimetres we’re not really expecting a whole lot but we are expecting to be at least measurable rain,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Bobby Sekhon.

The Halalt First Nations members plan to keep rescuing stranded salmon and replanting trees on the Chemainus River’s banks, to reduce the drought’s continued impact.

READ MORE: Drought could cause Christmas tree shortage on Vancouver Island

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