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Cowichan flood protection plan celebrates completion

Local officials got together on Nov. 2 to celebrate the completion of the dike system along the Cowichan River, the last phase of the Cowichan River flood-protection plan. Pictured, from left, are Jon Lefebure, mayor of North Cowichan and chairman of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, Cowichan Tribe Chief William Seymour, City of Duncan mayor Phil Kent and capital works manager Norm Olive. - [Robert Barron/Citizen]
Local officials got together on Nov. 2 to celebrate the completion of the dike system along the Cowichan River, the last phase of the Cowichan River flood-protection plan. Pictured, from left, are Jon Lefebure, mayor of North Cowichan and chairman of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, Cowichan Tribe Chief William Seymour, City of Duncan mayor Phil Kent and capital works manager Norm Olive.
— image credit: [Robert Barron/Citizen]

The last portion of the multi-phase Cowichan River flood-protection program is complete.

Representatives from local governments and Cowichan Tribes celebrated the accomplishment at a ceremony at the Quw'utsun' Cultural and Conference Centre in Duncan on Nov. 2.

Kate Miller, manager of environmental services for the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said the CVRD, City of Duncan, Municipality of North Cowichan and Cowichan Tribes began developing a flood-management plan for the river more than a decade ago.

She said the flood plain where the Cowichan and Koksilah rivers meet was where First Nations, and later Europeans, decided to first settle in this area because of its productive fish populations, easy transportation and other reasons.

But, by nature, it's prone to periodic flooding that has caused major damage to homes and businesses over the years, and that has also been exacerbated by development in the area.

Miller said the local governments, Cowichan Tribes and the provincial and federal governments have funded approximately $25 million of aspects of the award-winning flood-protection plan, including numerous kilometres of dikes along the river, since it was first developed.

We have now finally completed our extensive dike system so the industrial lands to the south of the Cowichan River, and homes businesses and infrastructure in Georgetown and the City of Duncan are now protected from flooding,” she said.

However, the building of the infrastructure can be just the easy part to a flood-management plan. We still face challenges, including climate change, that could see sea levels rise and still cause flooding. We might need to look at changing building codes to deal with that. It's always an ongoing plan.”

Seymour said Cowichan Tribes has struggled with flooding along the Cowichan River through its long history.

I remember as a child we used to enjoy the floods because our homes were built on stilts and we would go canoeing all over the place,” he said.

But those days are gone now and everyone, including our neighbours, benefit from the dike system and other work that has been done, and I'm thankful for our partners in the flood management plan.”

Jon Lefebure, chairman of the CVRD and mayor of North Cowichan, acknowledged the partnerships that allowed flooding in the river to be dealt with.

But he also said there's still lots of work to do to deal with the issue on an ongoing basis.

We need to keep removing log jams, sediment and gravel from the river when necessary, and other work, so this management plan will continue indefinitely,” he said.

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