New weir must be top priority
Dear CVRD chairman and directors:
I realize and appreciate our busy board currently has many priorities and budgetary fires to snuff.
However, one of the largest blazes on our horizon is the sad environmental state of our heritage Cowichan River and its bankrupt summer-flow rates threatening our precious salmon stocks and their ecological habitat.
That perennial summer drought — and now winter flooding — happens during our weather’s new normal, fuelled by worsening climate-change — a local and global crisis wisely recognized by our CVRD board, and recently by our smart School Distrcit 79 trustees.
Ironically, we now have a flooding emergency across our valley, water that will be sorely needed come this summer to help salmon swim upriver to spawn.
Seems like yesterday local streamkeepers and many other volunteer stakeholders were again capturing salmon and trucking them upstream to spawn among scarce pools in a dry riverbed.
This emergency rescue-and-release to spawn has sadly become an annual event with Mother Nature thankfully saving our struggling river with fall rainstorms.
I implore our board and municipalities against becoming complacent about what many experts say could eventually be the demise of our beloved Cowichan River.
We need a new weir now on Cowichan Lake to capture all this flood water — coursing to Cowichan Bay — that will doubtless be needed for controlling constant flow rates this summer.
Those flows, under two provincial permits to the Crofton pulp-and-paper mill, are crucial to preserving our salmon run, and maintaining volumes and jobs at the mill.
Unfortunately, years of conversation — not construction — about that new weir continues among CVRD directors, mill managers, Cowichan Tribes, stakeholders, the province and the feds.
I raise this grim, well-known reality with our understanding board as summer droughts could understandably be out of sight, and out of mind amid pressing, current concerns.
That was the case last February, and soon gave way to drought conditions that arguably started last June, not basically in August as in previous years.
I strongly urge our board to make action to build our new weir a top priority, in tandem with our current flooding emergency.
In Nature’s books, our summer drought season is just around the corner.
Peter W. Rusland,