The new weir features both replacement and new elements. (Submitted)

The new weir features both replacement and new elements. (Submitted)

Design for new weir at Cowichan Lake unveiled

Construction may begin by 2024

There was a solid turnout at the unveiling of the final design of the new Cowichan Lake weir online on July 8, with an estimated 60-plus residents logging in to be updated on the progress of the new weir project.

“I thought it went well,” said CVRD Project Manager Leroy Van Wieren. “There were a lot of good questions but nothing that struck me as new or different or odd.”

Van Wieren said the one-hour video, followed by a one-hour question and answer period will be made available on the project website at www.cowichanlakeweir.ca as soon as possible.

The new weir has been designed to be able to have a new walkway upon it either right away or in the future, said Van Wieren, but that’s an option on which the new owner must decide.

The new weir design also calls for the replacement of the island sill fishway and overflow weir, maintenance of the existing vertical slot fish passage and the addition of a new cold water release system and south abutment fishway. The control structure and boat lock will be assessed and new mechanical and electrical elements and components will be added.

New monitoring mechanisms will allow for greater control over water storage and the system is designed to adjust to emergency conditions as required.

The new weir height will be increased by 70 cm above the existing weir. This of course changes the shoreline, and as a result, a lot of shoreline assessment work is being undertaken to see what those changes might look like.

So, now that the final weir design is complete, attention turns to continuing with that assessment work.

“Now that we’ve designed a new weir and understand the height of the weir, we can use that info to help us analyze the impact to the shoreline along the 100 kilometres of the Cowichan Lake shoreline and what that might mean in the long run,” Van Wieren explained. “We’ll take all that info and see what it really means to the shoreline if we raise the weir. We’ll also see what it means if we don’t raise the weir and we end up with less water.”

The goal, according to the project manager, is to have the shoreline assessment work wrapped up by March 2022.

“Things are progressing and I’d say this is one small piece of the big puzzle,” Van Wieren noted. “My hope is we have an understanding of who is going to hold the licence by then. Then we go through the formal application and approval process. That would put us into 2023, with construction in 2024.”

The weir design and shoreline assessment are meant to give solid information to two people: the future water licence holder and the approvers. The future water licence holder is a key next step, Van Wieren noted.

“Without a licence holder there can’t be a water licence.”

While Paper Excellence would still hold a licence to run its operations, the new licence would be an environmental licence — a new legal ownership entity to own and operate the weir in future, and would likely be made up of a consortium of local and/or provincial and federal governments and/or stakeholders.

To watch the update video and to learn more about the project visit: www.cowichanlakeweir.ca

Lake Cowichan