Catalyst Crofton had to resort to pumping water into Cowichan River over its weir at Cowichan Lake from Aug. 29 to mid September for the first time to maintain water flows in the river after the dry summer. (Barry Hetschko file photo)

Catalyst Crofton had to resort to pumping water into Cowichan River over its weir at Cowichan Lake from Aug. 29 to mid September for the first time to maintain water flows in the river after the dry summer. (Barry Hetschko file photo)

Cowichan Lake still not full after summer drought

But rain forecasted in the coming weeks could fill it to overflowing

Even after a fairly wet fall, Cowichan Lake has still not fully refilled after last summer’s dry conditions.

But Brian Houle, environmental manager for Catalyst Crofton which operates the weir at the lake, said calls for a lot more rain in the coming weeks should do the trick.

Catalyst had to resort to pumping water into the Cowichan River over its weir at Cowichan Lake from Aug. 29 to mid September to maintain water flows in the river after the dry summer.

WATER PUMPING INTO COWICHAN RIVER TO BEGIN THURSDAY

It was the first time the company, which depends on water from the Cowichan River to run its pulp and paper mill operations in Crofton, has had to take such action since the weir was first constructed in the 1950s.

Houle said 2019 will go down as a very unusual year from beginning to end.

“When comparing 2019 to the most recent dry year of 2016, 63 per cent less water flowed down the Cowichan River in 2019 from Feb. 1 to Dec. 13,” he said.

“January was exceptionally wet in 2019, while every other month was exceptionally dry. From the other trends, the snow pack is zero today and wet weather is predicted to begin this week.”

RELATED STORY: WATER LEVELS IN COWICHAN LAKE NOW CONSIDERED ‘DIRE’

In response to how difficult 2019 conditions were, Houle said planning for 2020 has begun already.

He said regulators and key stakeholders are rebuilding the operating plan for the lake and river to be ready for the next drought, and it could be next year.

“I am hoping for a normal, wetter, 2020 but we are preparing for another challenging year and developing a plan to ensure water is released in the best way possible for all stakeholders’ interests.”

Senior levels of government announced last August they are kicking in funding to help pay for the preliminary work required to build a new weir on Cowichan Lake that will be better able to hold water in storage during dry years.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District, in collaboration with Cowichan Tribes, Paper Excellence Canada which owns the Crofton mill, and the Cowichan Watershed Board, who submitted a joint application, will receive $4.08 million over three years for the work, with $1.3 million this fiscal year and the remaining money coming in the next two years, from the joint-federal/provincial BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund.

RELATED STORY: OTTAWA, VICTORIA STEP IN WITH FUNDING FOR COWICHAN WEIR WORK

A component of the funding will be used for the development of detailed engineering designs and permitting for a new weir in Cowichan Lake, as well as strategies for the removal of the existing weir.

Another component of the money will be used to determine Cowichan Lake’s natural boundary in order to conduct a private-property impact assessment associated with an increase to lake levels if and when a new dam is constructed in the future.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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

Just Posted

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

It’s been almost a year since the last public performance inside the Chemainus Theatre. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Lead donors pledge $60,000 in matching campaign at the Chemainus Theatre

Perrys, Hiltons and Duncan Iron Works help to Bridge the Gap during COVID shutdown

Doug Routley is the chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act. (File photo)
Routley selected chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA acknowledges there will be a lot of material to process

Amanda Vance, executive director of the DDBIA, said the business organization will host a workshop for its members on how to deal with customers who refuse to wear masks. (File photo)
Workshop to help Duncan businesses deal with customers refusing to wear masks

DDBIA says businesses continue to deal with anti-maskers

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

Vancouver and Victoria both have a MySafe machine to help reduce overdoses

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

(Black Press file photo)
Agassiz boy, 11, dies from ‘extensive injuries’: Homicide team

Agassiz RCMP were called out Friday to assist with a child in medical distress

Dr. Amit Desai of St. Francis Hospital receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
B.C. has now vaccinated more people from COVID-19 than total confirmed cases

B.C. has reached a milestone, vaccinating roughly 1.6% of its population from the coronavirus

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who smashed the window of an adult toy store and made off with more than $1,200 in merchandise. (File photo)
Vancouver Island sex shop out $1,200 in merchandise after suspect steals ‘colossal’ product

Suspect smashed window of Nanaimo store, cutting himself in the process

Most Read