Lake Cowichan weir work would be replacement, not upgrade

“This is a few years away before the CVRD makes any decision about the weir.”

The summer before last Catalyst tested pumps to get water from the lake into the river when the river threatened to run dry. (Ed Bonenfont photo)

Talking about the future of the Lake Cowichan weir, Town of Lake Cowichan Mayor Ross Forrest said he doesn’t think just an upgrade of the weir will be found to be feasible.

The weir, which is operated by Catalyst Paper in Crofton, separates Cowichan Lake from the Cowichan River and raising or lowering it to control the amount of water in the river has been a much-discussed subject for decades.

“Catalyst has had geotech studies and whatnot done and they can’t raise the existing weir, so if something is done it would be replacement rather than upgrade. That’s my understanding so far of the geotech tests,” Forrest said, pointing out that his information was sketchy.

“But in our conversation with the minister [at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities convention] it was discussed that the town would like a little additional amenity out of it. We mentioned as an example maybe a walkway across and an educational component. But, maybe also we should ask that it be hydro-generating or something that could also benefit the town in some fashion.

“This is a few years away before the CVRD makes any decision about the weir. We should be coming up with some ideas ourselves. If we have a good solid plan in place, it could be worth them looking at,” Forrest said.

Lake Cowichan CAO Joe Fernandez said that in his last discussions with the Lake Cowichan First Nation’s Aaron Hamilton, “he was looking at the weir as a possible power site, a run-of-the-river power generation possibility so that may be something we should look at discussing with the First Nation because maybe they have funds there.”

The Town of Lake Cowichan also has been asked for comments as Catalyst Paper applies for a new permit to pump water over the Lake Cowichan weir.

According to works superintendent Nagi Rizk, Lake Cowichan will be saying that the level of the river must now be allowed to get so low that the Town of Lake Cowichan actually runs dry.

“They now know the elevation that is critical,” he said.

Coun. Tim McGonigle added that it should also be noted that the town should be protecting its water source in Cowichan Lake.

“We’re doing a $6.3 million water treatment upgrade. We have to protect that source as well. It’s important to protect that infrastructure,” he said.

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