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

Pictorial

 

Just Posted

Lake Cowichan council briefs

Lake Cowichan will be able to see how many people voted for and against the affordable housing

Get free transit on election day in Cowichan

Free transit on general voting day within the Cowichan Valley

Community paramedic program filling health care gap at Cowichan Lake

Mike Wright says he is serving people one-on-one as well as in groups

Lake Flashback: Angry fence owner, angry cable operator, and overwhelmed voters for you this week

Politicians by the score join ‘garbage’ bears, cable TV ‘thieves’ in our romp through years past

‘Dust ‘n Bones’, is onscreen at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre

Film examines controversies and mysteries that threaten the preservation of First Nations artefacts

B.C. NDP retreats again on empty-home tax for urban areas

Rate reduced for all Canadians, dissident mayors to get annual meeting

Coming up in Cowichan: Pair of Mill Bay Marine Rescue Society fundraisers

Fall Fishing Derby will benefit Mill Bay Marine Search and Rescue Mill… Continue reading

Cowichan Coffee Time

Chain of Love and Lake to Lake Walk

Grow ops left in legal weeds

“I think people are going to get a big surprise that it’s not going to change things much.”

Driving with dope: Police talk rules on cannabis in the car

Even though pot is legal, you can’t smoke in the car

B.C. teens fined for possession of pot on legalization day

The pair received $230 fines for smoking pot in public

Trio of Saint Bernard find their ‘forever home’ after story goes viral

Edmonton Humane Society had put out the call to adopt Gasket, Gunther and Goliath

Nurses deliver 24,000 anti-violence postcards to B.C. Health Minister

Nurses delivered thousands of postcards to the front steps of the B.C. legislature, each carrying a message for violence prevention

Openly gay, female priest of B.C. church defying norms

Andrea Brennan serves Fernie at pivotal time in church’s history

Most Read