David Anderson

Cowichan River stakeholders demand provincial action

Up to Cowichan: Formal public process needed to change storage practices

Ducking a dry Cowichan River and another fish kill next fall could rest with regional directors and Crofton pulp-mill brass applying for a new provincial water-storage licence.

“We’re willing to work with all stakeholders to avoid a repeat of what happened this year,” said mill manager Rob Belanger after Thursday’s politely tense meeting in Duncan.

Crofton mill holds licences for river-water storage and extraction to supply its operations.

More storage of spring run-off behind Cowichan Lake’s 1957 weir — to prevent summer low-flow woes and dead salmon — needs a provincial licence.

Rob Hutchins, Cowichan Valley Regional District chairman, indicated if Victoria won’t act to save the heritage river, the CVRD board would seek that licence.

“Its the (forest and lands) minister’s responsibility, but if they fail (to act on storage), yes we will (apply for a licence).”

Thursday’s meeting drew about 150 citizens, government, Natives and business leaders to the Quw’utsun’ Cultural Centre where opinions and ideas were aired about why spring water-storage didn’t happen in Cowichan Lake to slake a drought-crippled river this fall.

Most anger about a dry river, that killed 1,000 spawning chinook, was vented on Brian Symonds, Ministry of Forests and Lands’ water-stewardship director.

“Step up, take on the licence, and do the job,” said Gerald Thom, Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society’s president.

Symonds insisted due process be followed to gain broad community input, plus a formal licence re-application.

“We’re reluctant to issue it to ourselves. We need to go through the process and look at (storage) impacts,” he said of the lake’s 800-odd properties that may be affected.

But David Anderson, former federal environment minister, explained B.C.’s legislation basically allows Symonds’ boss, minister Steve Thomson, to boost emergency lake water-storage.

“He’s got the authority now,” stressed the Cowichan Watershed Board member, angry Thomson appears to have ignored valley leaders’ May pleas to store water, and head-off a dry river in late summer.

“We need the minister to recognize his responsibility and do the job.

“The buck has to stop somewhere. It has to stop with the minister . . . acting on the Cowichan,” Anderson said.

That means bending the strict-flow ‘rule curve’ to higher-volume ‘rule band’ levels, explained a chart-wielding Larry Barr, regional water manager.

The rule band would lift lake levels by about eight inches, he noted.

Symonds couldn’t be pried from process.

“Unless someone comes to us with an application, we’re not going to unilaterally change things,” he said. “We want consensus before changes.

“There’s no magic, secret formula but it must be a broad (community) engagement for a change to the rule curve.”

With all sides seemingly present, local Paul Rickard demanded, “What on Earth is your definition of broad-based community support?”

Noted Thom: “Bureaucrats are ducking the questions.”

The parched river bed saw 1,000 chinook die after failing to reach upstream spawning grounds, while First Nations’ fishermen were angry their traditional food fish foundered.

“We understand we don’t have the water. We’re not pointing fingers,” said filmmaker Harold C. Joe, disappointed Cowichan Tribes’ Chief Harvey Alphonse missed the meeting.

“If our chief was here we’d have accountability. We want a sit-down with the fishermen.”

Hutchins and valley mayors sat with Thomson in the spring, and requested the flexible (band) rule be used.

“We were told to apply for a licence. That takes 10 to 18 months. It wouldn’t have helped us this year,” said Hutchins.


Cowichan News Leader



Just Posted

Transport truck flips on its side on TCH in Duncan

Workers salvaged milk and ice cream

Somebody ‘saw’ something: North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP seek tool owner

The item was recovered from the area of York Road and Dingwall Street in Duncan.

Catch The Real Sarahs as they help open The 39 Days of July

Rising stars in the Americana music scene, The Real Sarahs are making… Continue reading

Drivesmart column: Should I signal?

My stock answer would be along the lines of “Will it hurt?”

Video shows fireworks shot at swan in Alberta

Alberta Fish and Wildlife is investigating the incident in Grande Prairie

WITH VIDEO: Two endangered marmots released on Vancouver Island

With three new pups born in May, two more Vancouver Island Marmots… Continue reading

‘Text neck’ causing bone spurs to grow from millennials’ skulls, researchers say

Technology use from early childhood causing abnormal bone growths in 41 per cent of young adults

B.C. teen killed by fallen tree on field trip remembered as hero

13-year-old Tai Caverhill was the first to spot the tree falling and warned his friends

Surrey RCMP raises Pride flag amid din of protesters

There were about 30 protesters on either side, and 20 Mounties doing crowd control

Should B.C. get rid of Daylight Saving Time?

The province wants to know, as state governments down south make the move

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Canadians crash out of Women’s World Cup in 0-1 loss to Sweden

Canada missed a chance to tie the game on a penalty shot

Four-year-old boy assaulted at B.C. soccer game

It happened at a weekend tournament in Ashcroft

Most Read