Weir replacement funding will ‘sustain the health’ of Cowichan River

Weir replacement funding will 'sustain the health' of Cowichan River

The Cowichan Lake weir replacement project is now fully funded after a $14 million contribution from the provincial government was announced.

In its 2024 budget, the provincial government revealed it will give the money to replace the weir, which is a badly needed project, according to Xtli’li ye’ Lydia Hwitsum, Cowichan Tribes Chief and co-chair of the Cowichan Watershed Board.

“I am pleased to see the provincial government commit funding for the raising of the Lake Cowichan Weir, a positive step for this essential project to sustain the health of the Quw’utsun Sta’lo,” said Hwitsum.

“We look forward to the next steps with the Province in advancing liability protection and a collaborative approach to water governance that respects Cowichan Tribes inherent rights.”

The funding from the provincial government matches a $14 million contribution for the weir from the federal government’s Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund. The federal government has contributed an additional $10 million from the fund for projects in the mid and lower river to address winter flooding.

Combined, this reaches the total estimated cost for the weir from an engineer in 2021 of around $28 million.

“We are elated to hear that the provincial government is committing to the health of this heritage river and ecosystem, while also supporting water preservation for the communities who depend on this critical resource,” said Aaron Stone, chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District and co-chair of the Cowichan Watershed Board.

“This announcement is the result of a long journey of collaboration between the CVRD and Cowichan Tribes. This work reflects the benefits we all share in working together along the path to reconciliation.”

The weir was built in the 1950s and in 2018 a Water Use Plan was developed that recommended raising the weir by 70 centimetres to increase storage capacity. Though raising the height has been a priority for almost a decade.

This would also change how water storage is managed early in the season and help with fish habitat.

The issue of the weir height was brought into the spotlight when there was a massive fish die-off in the river in July 2023.

READ PREVIOUS: New details emerge about fish die-off in Cowichan River last summer

“A collaboration to put water for salmon first, with Cowichan Tribes in the drivers’ seat, and all governments partnering – this is a different, and better, approach to doing things,” said Tom Rutherford, strategic priorities director for the Cowichan Watershed Board.

“We have more work to do, but today we want to celebrate the decades of work and collaboration by so many who love and care for the long-term health of this River.”

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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