Alistair MacGregor and Sonia Furstenau column: Cowichan demonstrating what climate change adaptation looks like

Alistair MacGregor and Sonia Furstenau column: Cowichan demonstrating what climate change adaptation looks like

The river has consistently fallen below acceptable minimum summer flows.

After 25 years of dedicated community work towards long-term protection of the Cowichan River, there is renewed hope that we are nearing a solution.

On June 11, the final report and recommendations of the Cowichan Water Use Plan were presented to the public at a meeting in Lake Cowichan. Cowichan Tribes, the Cowichan Valley Regional District, the Cowichan Watershed Board, and then-Catalyst Paper had worked with a public advisory group to develop a long-term plan for the Cowichan Watershed. This process was an inspiring example of an approach to planning and decision-making that is collaborative, rooted in evidence, consensus-building, and recognizes the importance of reconciliation as an important foundation of our efforts moving forward.

What was perhaps most striking about the June presentation was the in-depth analysis of the present and future impacts of climate change on the Cowichan River. The longer periods of drought combined with the eventual loss of snow packs in the mountains around Cowichan Lake will critically endanger the river and all life that depends on it. What is absolutely necessary is the ability to store more water in Lake Cowichan in order to be able to sustain the river through the hotter and drier summer and fall months we are already experiencing.

The plan recommends increasing the storage in Cowichan Lake by 30 cm immediately and an additional 40 cm once impacts to lakefront properties are resolved. This work is essential in terms of maintaining our world-class salmon stocks, including creating a chinook salmon refuge that may be critical for the survival of the southern resident orca, who are heavily reliant on local chinook stocks. It is also essential for building the resilience that is essential for the well-being of thriving communities in the Cowichan Valley.

The circumstances in the river are no better today than they have been over the past five years – the river has consistently fallen below acceptable minimum summer flows. However, due to the diligence, collaboration, and hard work of the Cowichan Watershed Board, this community is in the best position to work effectively with higher levels of government to implement the solution to this problem.

The provincial and federal governments are paying attention. The federal government has acknowledged that summer low flows in the Cowichan River are a threat to fish and fish habitat and that raising the Cowichan weir could provide additional water storage in the lake to deal with the problem, and provided funding for the Cowichan Water Use Planning process. The province is also recognizing the urgency and importance of acting to protect the Cowichan River. We both attended a meeting at the Legislature in September with the Cowichan Watershed Board and the two ministers responsible for water management in our province, and a follow-up meeting is happening soon. The co-chairs of the Watershed Board were clear in their message: a solution, arrived at through hard work and collaboration, is available. It is now time for all levels of government to implement the solution so that we can all be assured that the Cowichan River will no longer be in crisis.

Working together across all levels of government and with Cowichan Tribes, we are demonstrating to British Columbians, and the rest of Canada, what climate change adaptation looks like and how we can move down the path of reconciliation together.

Alistair MacGregor is the Member of Parliament for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.

Sonia Furstenau is the MLA for the Cowichan Valley.

Alistair MacGregor is the MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford. Sonia Furstenau is the MLA for Cowichan Valley.

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

Just Posted

The real estate market in the Cowichan Valley is suffering a lack of inventory making it a seller’s market. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Sellers rejoice, home buyers frustrated as prices up, inventory low in Cowichan Valley

Demand for homes in the Cowichan Valley is exceeding supply, driving up… Continue reading

Open as of April 17, Mountain Man Ice Cream, at 99 South Shore Road, is run by the Robertson family including Myles and Austin Robertson, as well as Brianne Thomassen. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Sweet new business opens its doors in Lake Cowichan

Mountain Man Ice Cream, located at 99 South Shore Rd.

Vandals burned a hole in the platform at the top of the Somenos Marsh Open Air Classroom early on the morning of Thursday, April 22. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson closes Somenos Marsh viewing platform

Fletcher estimates the damage at more than $5,000.

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist, an independent pharmacy in Toronto, Monday, April 19, 2021. Younger Canadians in several provinces are now able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
AstraZeneca vaccine appointments fill up fast on Vancouver Island

More pharmacies expected to be added as supply increases

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map shows new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 11-17. (BCCDC image)
BCCDC says fresh COVID-19 cases down in most Island Health areas

Nanaimo sees its fewest new COVID-19 cases since mid January

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

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

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

The conservation service confirmed they do not relocate cougars from settled areas but that euthanasia is not necessarily the fate for an animal in the Fanny Bay area. The hope is that the animal will move on to wild areas. (File photo)
Woman hopes cat-stalking Fanny Bay cougar can avoid euthanization

Conservation officers do not relocate the animals from Vancouver Island

Tofino residents expressed frustration over a recent post by Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett that falsely claimed all residents have been vaccinated. (Westerly file photo)
Resort owner apologizes for suggesting Tofino is safe to travel to

Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett apologizes to community and visitors

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Most Read