Senior levels of government have announced funding for preliminary work for a new weir in Cowichan Lake. (File photo)

Ottawa, Victoria step in with funding for Cowichan weir work

Pumping over weir begins on Thursday

Senior levels of government are kicking in funding to help pay for the preliminary work required to build a new weir on Cowichan Lake.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District, in collaboration with Cowichan Tribes, Paper Excellence Canada and the Cowichan Watershed Board, who submitted a joint application, will receive $4.08 million over three years for the work, with $1.3 million this fiscal year and the remaining money coming in the next two years, from the joint-federal/provincial BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund.

The funding was announced by John Wilkinson, minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard, along with several other projects being supported by BCSRIF on Vancouver Island, at an event on Aug. 26 in Colwood.

The funding is expected to be used on two key activities necessary to move forward on attaining a long-term water supply for the Cowichan River.

The first component will be development of detailed engineering designs and permitting for a new weir in Cowichan Lake, as well as strategies for the removal of the existing weir.

RELATED STORY: WATER LEVELS IN COWICHAN LAKE NOW CONSIDERED “DIRE”

The second component of the project will be to determine Cowichan Lake’s natural boundary in order to conduct a private-property impact assessment associated with an increase to lake levels if and when a new dam is constructed in the future.

Ian Morrison, the chairman of the CVRD who served as master of ceremonies at the funding announcement, said it’s “fantastic news”.

“This is great news for our region as this work is direly needed to prevent further damage and degradation of fish populations in one of our heritage river systems,” said Morrison.

“We are grateful to DFO for recognizing the importance of this work, and to our partners for their collaborative efforts to seek a viable solution that will protect the vital resources of fish and water.”

Morrison said while the total costs of the weir project to its completion have yet to be determined, it won’t fall to local taxpayers to cover it.

He said it’s the responsibility of senior levels of government to ensure fish habitats are protected.

RELATED STORY: CATALYST WARNS BOATERS ON COWICHAN LAKE OF NAVIGATIONAL HAZARDS

Catalyst Crofton, which operates the weir at Cowichan Lake, plans to begin pumping water over the weir into the Cowichan River at 11 a.m. on Aug. 29, the first time it has been required since the weir was constructed in 1967.

The water level in the river is continuing its downward trend as the summer progresses with little or no rain, and it’s been determined that pumps will be needed to keep minimal flows in the river prior to the conclusion of the Labour Day long weekend.

RELATED STORY: WATER PUMPING INTO COWICHAN RIVER TO BEGIN THURSDAY

Catalyst’s Crofton pulp mill, which depends on water from the Cowichan River to run its operations, has been planning to begin pumping water over the weir for weeks if the region didn’t get sufficient rain to raise the water levels in the lake.

“Lack of water surety is becoming one of the Valley’s biggest issues threatening the recharge of local drinking water aquifers, water supply for agriculture and our Crofton mill operation, and putting the health of the river at risk,” said Brian Baarda, CEO of Paper Excellence, the parent company of Catalyst Crofton.

“We’re relieved to see both governments supporting this work that will lay the foundation to increase water storage to more effectively handle climate change impacts.”

Alistair MacGregor, MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, has been advocating for the construction of a new weir for years.

He said the funding announced is very welcome news for the region.

“Upgrading the Cowichan weir is necessary for the long-term health of the Cowichan River, something I have continuously pressed the federal government on since first being elected,” he said.

“I’m extremely pleased to see this important first step, which will allow for the weir design and impact engineering to proceed.”

Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan, said the Cowichan River fish runs have been threatened year after year by low water levels, so an upgraded weir will be critical to sustain local wild salmon populations.

“This is the kind of funding we recommended as part of the Wild Salmon Advisory Council’s report, and I’m proud to have been a part of moving this work forward,” he said.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Editorial: Don’t let your road rage get the better of you

Road safety largely comes down to trusting the drivers around us.

Sidaway on fire for Cowichan’s Caps

Tanner Sidaway exploded for a pair of two-goal games in the span… Continue reading

Charles Hoey Park packed for Remembrance Day

101st anniversary of Armistice marked in downtown Duncan

What you said: New Duncan airport a terrible idea

When Citizen reporter Robert Barron wrote that a study commissioned by the… Continue reading

‘We love you, Alex!’: Trebek gets choked up by ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant’s answer

The emotional moment came in Monday’s episode when Trebek read Dhruv Gaur’s final answer

Birthday boy: Pettersson nets 2 as Canucks beat Predators

Vancouver ends four-game winless skid with 5-3 victory over Nashville

Judge rejects Terrace man’s claim that someone else downloaded child porn on his phone

Marcus John Paquette argued that other people had used his phone, including his ex-wife

Petition for free hospital parking presented to MP Jody Wilson-Raybould

What started as a B.C. campaign became a national issue, organizer said

Petition to ‘bring back Don Cherry’ goes viral after immigrant poppy rant

Cherry was fired from his co-hosting role for the Coach’s Corner segment on Nov. 11.

B.C.’s high gasoline prices still a mystery, Premier John Horgan says

NDP plans legislation this month, seeks action from Justin Trudeau

Group walking on thin ice at B.C. lake sparks warning from RCMP

At least seven people were spotted on Joffre Lakes, although the ice is not thick enough to be walked on

VIDEO: Don Cherry says he was fired, not sorry for ‘Coach’s Corner’ poppy rant

Cherry denies he was singling out visible minorities with his comments

Woman airlifted with serious injuries after being struck by car in Nanaimo

Woman, hit in crosswalk, suffers life-threatening injuries; driver co-operating with police

Most Read