Lake needs to be used as reservoir

Over 60 years ago Crofton pulp mill builder BCFP decided to build a weir at the upper mouth of the Cowichan River to store, or hold back, about a metre of winter water for summer usage. This weir has masked the changes of the lake and river ecology over that time, particularly in the forested watershed hillsides as industrial logging swept through for second and third growth cutting, and as climate change relentlessly brought pressure on the seasonal water retention variabilities, especially snow pack, or its lack.

The mask is slipping under the relentless pressures.

Drought is now a word heard much more often than over the previous decades, and correctly so.

I accept that the relentless industrial logging regime is by the hand, and will, of mankind, and has a contributing consequence to summer water availability.

Your common sense tells you so. Climate change? Well Pope Francis says by the hand of man, others of the ilk of Jeb Bush say by God’s will. Doesn’t matter who’s right, doesn’t need debate, the effect is similar either way. Basically we are running out of outflow water for basic flows in the Cowichan River in the summer and fall seasons. Cowichan Lake is okay, always has been, so far, maintaining its maximum depth of about 152 metres – even if the river runs dry!

My point? Lots of water in Lake Cowichan, all year long, a huge and significant reservoir.

Sooo, could the Lake become a usable reservoir? You betcha! Just add pumps.

Over the last 25 years there have been repetitive initiatives and agendas to raise the height of the weir by about a third to retain more Lake storage in the spring for later river flow usage.

So far no success, but the drought word is echoing, resonating, louder and louder, something will give on the loggerhead weir debate that is endless and ongoing for about 25 years now.

But the raising of the weir height will only mask the calamity of drought, for maybe an additional decade, it will not mitigate the denuding of the hillsides, forest water retention, disappearing snow pack, or ongoing climate change variabilities, particularly seasonal rains.

Plan B, of course, has to be negative storage on Cowichan Lake, utilizing it as a reservoir, as other such water bodies are all over B.C., the Americas, and the world.

Pumps complementing and backing up the weir will be a startling thing. An ugliness, and fundamental change to the bucolic lake regime, but unfortunately in my opinion, now inevitable, and needed sooner than later.

Sooo, other than for the Crofton Pulp Mill we don’t actually use the river for drinking water, just fish and sewage dilution, but our Valley, and regional groundwater and aquifers are hovering at the edge of sustainability for well extractions – that drought word again.

The region will need the bulk water storage of the Lake reservoir, sooner than later my friends.

Particularly if relentless growth and further settlement is the CVRD goal, and here the CVRD politics have excluded any semblance of a Regional Growth Strategy.

And that is my point, talk is of a new bureaucracy being created to “manage” water and watersheds, some say a separate bureaucracy, some point to an expanded CVRD mandate.

Don’t do, or allow either model, particularly additional taxation, until such time as a rigorous Regional Growth Strategy has been done as per Part 25 of the Local Government Act.

Pure negligence otherwise. Fiduciary duty mandates such action before any new bureaucracy.

The region is approaching the limits of water resources to support additional growth without a significant bulk water storage feature. We need to know, and respect, those growth limits, or accept the relentless tightening around the proverbial watering hole.

Water conservation rhetoric, without an RGS only reapportions water resources to the growth and development agenda and relentlessly returns to the trough for more of your present water resources. Agricultural needs become displaced also, as we all chase our sustainability tail in a downward spiral.

Demand a timely and long-avoided RGS, and then participate in the process.

Think about it, think your way through it. I ask, don’t be an enabler.

Loren Duncan

Area E