Too much to lose with low water levels

Apparently, reducing the flows was deadly for a good portion of the Chinook smolt outmigration

It’s a huge wakeup call to everyone who continues to think everything is fine.

It’s not fine.

In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, there is still a group of people who believe that nothing needs to be done about the weir at Lake Cowichan. They’re also the folks who tend to think climate change is a hoax, too. We mention it because these two things are inextricably linked.

Last year, in a desperate attempt to try to avoid summer drought conditions that had seen the Cowichan River run almost dry the previous summer, water flows from Cowichan Lake into the river were lowered earlier than usual in the spring.

Parker Jefferson of the Cowichan River Watershed Board has now told us just how destructive this was. Apparently, reducing the flows was deadly for a good portion of the Chinook smolt outmigration — meaning a lot of them died.

This is a catastrophe that must be avoided in the future — which has the unfortunate side effect of cutting off the early low-flow solution to the rivers summer water woes.

And those woes are going to continue. The weather pattern we are in, which results in little snow pack to hold water for gradual release into the warmer months, coupled with drought conditions for three months and more in the summer and fall, seems to be the new normal. It’s our front-row view of climate change.

Jefferson also tells us that we’re facing similar water conditions to last year already.

We need to think to the future of the entire watershed. The weir needs to be raised to store more water for those dry summer months. We fully expect to see Catalyst re-installing pumps to get water over the weir in the summers to come while the weir issue is debated — again.

All available evidence tells us that raising the weir is the way to go. The arguments against it normally come from waterfront property owners who don’t want to lose land, but since the summer levels would still be less than the lake levels in the winter months, that argument doesn’t, well, hold water, especially when the seriousness of the situation is taken into account.

It’s time to raise the weir. Everything isn’t fine.