A delighted Ian Morrison gets ready to head home after a quick trip to Vancovouver to get the great news. (Ian Morrison photo)

Cowichan salmon projects get provincial, federal funding

It’s all about ensuring more water supply for the Cowichan River: a subject everyone is talking about

The Cowichan Valley Regional District and partners, including Cowichan Tribes, are one of 23 groups to get funding for projects to help rebuild the water supply for the Cowichan River.

It’s all aimed at supporting suffering salmon stocks but that covers a lot of territory in Cowichan.

The Valley project is to conduct an evaluation of the natural boundary of Cowichan Lake “to support building critical new water storage infrastructure, to provide flows required to sustain Cowichan salmon populations”, said a press release issued after a top level meeting in Vancouver Friday morning.

A jubilant Ian Morrison, chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, posted on Facebook as soon as he left the session,

“FANTASTIC NEWS that the CVRD and partners Cowichan Tribes, Paper Excellence, Cowichan Watershed Board and all our watershed stewards and supporters — we have been APPROVED for year one of our water storage plan activities including natural boundary surveys, engineering and associated weir replacement work under BCSRIF (BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund)! Lots of intense detailed work to complete the funding agreement in the days ahead before we hear ‘the cheque is in the mail’ yet what a fantastic end to a great week. Thanks to all the many hands and minds who contributed to submitting a successful application on a very tight deadline. Well done everyone!”

The BCSRIF is concerned because “healthy wild fish stocks are vital to the economic prosperity and social fabric of British Columbia’s coastal communities. Wild Pacific salmon, in particular, are intrinsically linked to the identity of British Columbians and are fundamental to the culture of many Indigenous communities.

Over the past several years we have seen declines in key Pacific salmon stocks, which have important consequences for our environment and our economy. Together, the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia are taking action to protect and restore fish habitat and wild fish stocks.

On Friday, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Jonathan Wilkinson, and British Columbia’s Minister of Agriculture, Lana Popham, announced that the 23 project proposals have been approved in principle during the first round of intake. Once agreements are finalized with proponents, these could total approximately $13 million in funding for year one.

As Morrison, mentioned, there is still plenty of talking to do.

The projects will focus on restoring British Columbia’s wild salmon populations, and target three key areas: innovation, infrastructure, and science partnerships.

Cowichan Tribes will be interested in fish, environmentalists along the river will be interested in supporting natural habitat, and Cowichan Lake and Catalyst mill will be talking weir. There’s room under those three umbrellas for all of it.

Over the next five years, investments through the BCSRIF will help ensure British Columbia’s wild fisheries are environmentally and economically sustainable for the long-term, and that middle-class jobs in the fishery are resilient to the challenges of climate change, as well as evolving economic conditions.

Some of the other approved projects include one for The Canadian Wildlife Federation, who will bring together partners, including federal and provincial governments, non-governmental organization, First Nations, and communities to prioritize fish passage remediation efforts across B.C. to maximize the benefits for Pacific and Steelhead salmon.

Many volunteers working around Cowichan Lake have noted that piled up gravel at the mouths of tributary creeks is making it hard for fry to get up those streams.

The British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund is a 70 per cent federal, 30 per cent provincial cost-shared program.

The Government of Canada is investing $100 million over five years for the British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, and also providing a one-time investment of $5 million for the Pacific Salmon Endowment Fund.

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