A water sustainability plan for the Koksilah River, which saw low water levels again this year, is under way. 
(File photo)

A water sustainability plan for the Koksilah River, which saw low water levels again this year, is under way. (File photo)

Water levels in Koksilah River critically low again this year

Farmers had to alternate water use

While the Cowichan River was spared the low water flows this year that it had experienced in recent summers, the same can’t be said for the Koksilah River.

Unlike previous years when the region experienced continuous droughts each summer, the wet weather experienced last winter and early summer in the region raised water levels in Cowichan Lake, which feeds the Cowichan River, enough that it negated the need for Catalyst Crofton to use pumps this year to raise water levels in the river, a major fish-bearing waterway.

RELATED STORY: PUMPS NOT NEEDED ON THE COWICHAN RIVER THIS YEAR

But Tom Rutherford, executive director of the Cowichan Watershed Board, said the Koksilah River doesn’t have a large body of water at its head, like Cowichan Lake, to provide water storage during wet conditions that could feed the river during dry periods.

Without a head-water lake, and less summer rain, water flows in the Koksilah River are often critically low for its coho salmon, steelhead and resident trout populations by mid-August.

In order to address this concern, Cowichan Tribes and the province signed an interim letter of agreement last February to work in partnership to explore the option of creating a water sustainability plan for the watershed, the first of its kind in the province.

RELATED STORY: COWICHAN TRIBES, PROVINCE SIGN AGREEMENT TO DEVELOP PLAN FOR KOKSILAH WATERSHED

While that plan is still in its early stages, other organizations, including the Cowichan Watershed Board, have been working together since April in an effort to coordinate water monitoring and planning for the anticipated low flows in the Koksilah River that were expected this summer.

Last year, the province issued a Fish Protection Order in August when water flows in the Koksilah River fell to 180 litres per second, which curtailed the irrigation of forage crops, like hay and corn, to some of the farmers in the Koksilah watershed, impacting their crop quality and yield.

But Rutherford said that this year, the Agriculture Research and Development Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the BC Agriculture Council, initiated a plan on behalf of farmers located within the Koksilah watershed to assess and address low water flows in the river.

RELATED STORY: FARMERS WORRY ABOUT WATER AVAILABILITY IN COWICHAN VALLEY’S KOKSILAH WATERSHED

“They developed alternating irrigation schedules for the farmers so they wouldn’t all be using water from the river at the same times, and that made a difference in the water levels,” Rutherford said.

“My hat’s off to the farmers because I’m sure that it cost them to do this. Moving forward, while the solutions for the Cowichan River involve the construction of the new weir, there appears to be no ‘techno-fit’ like that for the Koksilah River.”

Rutherford said that the management of the Koksilah River and its watershed requires a different type of management, and there are high hopes for the partnership between the Cowichan Tribes and the province.

“It’s the same problem as with the Cowichan River, but requires a different solution,” he said.

“We need to up our game, and the work that is underway should give us a better idea of where we are and what needs to be done to properly manage the Koksilah River.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

B.C. Drought

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There still has been no arrests and the investigation is ongoing into the deaths of Nellie Williams and Fran Shurie on Christmas Eve, 2019. Police are asking for the public’s assistance in solving the crime. This memorial, located near Trunk Road and Canada Avenue where the crime occurred, still stands at the site of the double homicide. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Investigation continues into Duncan double murder

Police ask anyone with information on Christmas Eve, 2019, crime to contact them

An Island Health graph showing COVID-19 cases in the central Island by local health area between Dec. 27 and Jan. 23. (Island Health image)
Central Island’s COVID-19 case spike shifting, says Island Health

Cowichan Valley has seen the highest number of cases, but Nanaimo and south Island seeing upticks

Extensive water on No. 4 and 5 at the Mount Brenton Golf Course following heavy rains earlier this month. (Photo submitted)
Mount Brenton Golf Course does a booming business in 2020

A total of 15,000 more rounds played than the previous year

The memorial site for double-murder victims Nellie Williams and Fran Shurie, located in Charles Hoey Park, will be allowed to stay for another two months after the City of Duncan changed its policy on temporary memorials. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Duncan allows temporary memorials to stay longer

Policy change related to memorial for double-homicide victims in city park

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.

Most Read