Last summer, officials were forced to pump water over the weir at Cowichan Lake to maintain water flow in the Cowichan River, due to drought conditions. (Photo by Lexi Bainas/Lake Cowichan Gazette)

Editorial: Start of work on new weir at Cowichan Lake good news

The problem is that the weir that we have can only do so much.

Sometimes it seems like we’ve been talking about a new weir at Cowichan Lake forever.

To be fair, it has been many, many years, and one could be forgiven for becoming skeptical that such a project would ever get underway, instead believing it would just continue to be talked to death in perpetuity by a succession of local politicians and advocates.

But we are happy to report this week that will not be the fate of this endeavour.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District announced last week that they’ve awarded a contract for design and engineering work to begin. They’ve also found a project manager. These are far more concrete steps than have ever been taken in the past, and demonstrate, we think, that though the project will still take years, that a new weir will indeed be built.

And it can’t come soon enough.

We had a little rain finally over the last week, but not enough to change the fact that this has been an exceptionally dry April. While all that sun was good for the spirit as we while away the hours in self-isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn’t so great for our water reserves.

Already this spring the weir was put into operation earlier than normal, as officials anticipate another dry summer, and the days that have followed seem to so far be proving that prediction true.

The problem is that the weir that we have can only do so much. For many years it was adequate to the task of holding back enough water in Cowichan Lake to slowly release during the summer for the benefit of the Cowichan River and everything and everyone that relies on it, but with the advent of climate change that is no longer the case. We need to be able to hold back more water when it is plentiful during the winter months, as the snowpack is no longer doing that job for us the way it used to. This means a taller weir.

Keeping the Cowichan River flowing year-round is vital. It is a major artery that not only provides water for industry and people and our myriad activities, it also sustains the salmon, the elk, the deer and all of the other wildlife in its vicinity. It is literally the stuff of life.

We are pleased that our politicians have recognized the necessity of preserving our water flow with a new weir.

It won’t fix all our drought-related problems, and we all must be looking at the best ways we can do our part, but it will solve one of the predicaments with the widest ranging repercussions.

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