N. Cowichan antes up for fish salvage as river crisis mounts

North Cowichan has decided to grant the Cowichan Valley Regional District $5,000 to fund a fish salvage operation in the Cowichan River.

It may not be needed, but the money is now there to help out if the worst happens and the rains do not come.

The current level of flow coming out of Cowichan Lake can only be continued for about another month, if there is no significant rain.

“After that, there is no more water,” said Mayor Jon Lefebure.

Councillors were reacting on Sept. 3 to a request brought to their regular meeting, driven by the extremely low level of the river, caused by a light snowpack and a hot, dry summer.

There is so little water that if the drought continues, the salmon will not be able to traverse the river to spawn without help.

As the request was for emergency money, North Cowichan staffers recommended that helping the fish salvage program was the best fit for municipal funds.

The entire project is expected to cost about $20,000 and they recommended that North Cowichan ante up $5,000.

The money will probably come out of the South End water budget, council learned.

“I’d like to have seen more of a budget but it’s a good neighbourly thing to do,” said Coun. John Koury.

Lefebure agreed, adding one caveat.

“My only fear is that it’s an ad hoc kind of funding. The fish salvage itself is a phenomenal operation.”

The entire regional Cowichan watershed drought mitigation project is estimated to cost $142,000 to $152,000 and includes installing monitors at Cowichan Lake and on the Cowichan River, engaging a consultant to look at a long-term solution, looking at the effect on docks at Lake Cowichan and, of course, trucking fish to safety this fall.