Catalyst’s Brian Houle is hoping experienced Cowichan Lake boaters can help pinpoint new hazards. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Catalyst warns boaters on Cowichan Lake of navigational hazards

Water levels could drop 20 inches if pumping plans move forward

Catalyst is warning boaters on Cowichan Lake to operate their craft with “extreme caution” if plans to pump lake water over the weir and into the Cowichan River move forward.

Water levels in Cowichan Lake are expected to drop by as much as 20 inches if the pumping begins in mid-August, as currently planned, and that could uncover unexpected navigational hazards in the lake.

RELATED STORY: CATALYST PUMPS COULD DRAW DOWN COWICHAN LAKE 20 INCHES

Brian Houle, environmental manager for Catalyst, said the main concern is areas close to the middle, deeper, parts of the lake where boaters are used to travelling through with the presumption that there is adequate water depth and their way is clear, as it always has been before.

“Things like dead heads and rocks could be closer to the surface and, while they were never hazards before, they could be if we have to resort to pumping and lake levels continue to drop,” Houle said.

“We’ll be working with Coast Guard Canada to attach navigational hazard markers, including buoys, to the hazards as they are identified to make the public well aware of them and warn boaters to use extra caution around them.”

Catalyst’s Crofton pulp mill, which depends on water from the Cowichan River to run its operations, is planning to begin pumping water over its weir in Lake Cowichan as of mid-August if the region doesn’t get sufficient rain over the next few weeks to raise the water levels in the lake.

RELATED STORY: CATALYST CROFTON APOLOGIZES FOR “LAPSES” IN COMMUNICATION WITH TOWN OF LAKE COWICHAN

The region is experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades and water basins in the region, including Cowichan Lake, are only getting about two thirds of the water they used to get in spring and summer.

The licence that Catalyst has been given by the province to draw water from the Cowichan River requires that the company keep an eye on what’s happening on Cowichan Lake, where the river water originates, and identify hazards to navigation.

Houle said fortunately the Cowichan Valley Regional District led a topography project in the last five years to map the bottom of the lake in anticipation of just such a situation.

He said the map will be useful in helping to determine where navigational hazards can be expected when water levels drop.

“We already have a good sense of what’s there and it’s been determined that the lake is well suited for lower water levels,” he said.

“There will also be more hazards closer to shore with dropping water levels and boaters need to exercise caution there as well. But most boaters are much more cautious and careful with their navigation as they approach land.”

Houle said Catalyst hopes that enough rain will fall between now and mid-August to make turning on the pumps unnecessary and water levels in the lake will stabilize.

“It may also be that we may have to pump for just a few days,” he said.

“We just don’t know.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

CVRD requests rainstorm, flood photos via online tool

Officials want to know more about how that type of event impacted the region as a whole.

Bluegrass Festival in Cowichan offering savings for early birds

The annual Cowichan Valley Bluegrass Festival will run from June 19 to 21

Drivesmart column: Let’s block the road

Police resources to cope with the size of the protest group is an important consideration.

Coming up in Cowichan: Meet the Wounded Warriors

Wounded Warrior Run stops at Legion The Royal Canadian Legion Malahat District… Continue reading

Cowichan climber off to Olympic qualifier

Brennan Doyle competing for Pan Am Championship

VIDEO: 2020 BC Winter Games wrap up in Fort St. John as torch passes to Maple Ridge

More than 1,000 athletes competed in the 2020 BC Winter Games

Massive early-morning blaze destroys Vancouver Island home

Firefighters from three departments called in to battle fire at unoccupied residence

First win, fifth win highlight BC Senior Curling finals

Donna Mychaluk wins first title after finishing second five times; Wes Craig takes fifth crown

Still six cases of COVID-19 in B.C. despite reports of Air Canada passenger: ministry

Health ministry wouldn’t comment on specific flight routes

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

VIDEO: Wounded Warrior Run leaves Port Hardy on eight-day trek down Vancouver island

The team’s fundraising goal this year is $250,000, which is double last year’s goal.

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Most Read