Heavy machinery works to remove gravel from the bed of the Cowichan River to avoid flooding. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Heavy machinery works to remove gravel from the bed of the Cowichan River to avoid flooding. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Heavy equipment removing gravel from Cowichan River

Work meant to prevent flooding

Heavy machinery is working on the Cowichan River, near the Black Bridge, to remove gravel on the river bed to prepare for the upcoming flood season.

Cowichan Tribes is carrying out the project and Kate Miller, manager of environmental services for the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said the district is thrilled that the work is being done.

She said approximately 18,000 cubic metres of gravel builds up each year on the river bed which increases the flood risks and creates barriers that salmon and other fish can’t get over while in the river.

“It makes sense to do this on a regular basis,” Miller said.

“The area being worked on right now is one of two areas in that part of the river that have been targeted this fall.”

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.

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The river is 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.

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.

An extensive dike system that has seen industrial lands to the south of the Cowichan River, and homes businesses and infrastructure in Georgetown and the City of Duncan protected from flooding was completed last year.

However, the area still faces challenges, including climate change, that could see sea levels rise and still cause flooding.