Why is it necessary to store more water in Lake Cowichan?
This is one of the questions six Cowichan Lake-area landowners are asking after filing Water Act appeals with B.C.’s Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) objecting to processes allowing new storage and release of Cowichan River water in the lake.
Michael Dix, E. Weir, Darcy Lubin, Catherine Willows Woodrow, Greg Whynacht, and Ian Poyntz have filed appeals so far.
Their concerns include: water storage is encroachment on their property rights; storage causes nuisance factors preventing property enjoyment; water storage constitutes trespassing on their private property; storage could cause more erosion of their property and affect septic systems, and lakeshore ecosystems; denies them of full use of their property; a lack of historical storage-volume data used in allowing boosted storage; a lack of respect for lakeside property owners’ rights; and ignoring of a Dec. 6, 1955 letter from (former) B.C. Forest Products guaranteeing consultation, remedying and compensation for any negative impacts storing water has on the lake’s waterfront lands.
Greg Whynacht, who lives in Youbou, says they feel like their property rights are being encroached upon.
“We’re losing our private property to water,” he said. “It’s not necessary if other things were done to mitigate the water issue. We’re certainly not opposed to having more water run down the river, but we’re looking at alternative ways of doing it.”
As a waterfront property owner, one of Whynacht’s concerns is erosion issues caused by the higher water levels.
Whynacht says one frustration is that they aren’t getting any specific answers about why this is necessary.
“With all the discussions we’ve had, there seems to be a revolving pointer — sometimes it’s for cleaning the river, sometimes for fish habitat, sometimes for diluting pollution in the river,” he said. “We have never been given a definitive answer as to why the river level has to be raised.”
“Every time we speak with either the CVRD or Water Comptroller or whomever, we don’t get definitive answers as to what the final objective is,” he added. “One of the things that came to light at one of the town hall meetings is even though there’s a willingness on behalf of the CVRD and the Water Comptroller for raising the water again, it’s what they call an interim step. At one meeting, we were told it’s an interim step to building a dam. They don’t say that in any documentation. We know there’s another agenda they don’t tell us about. It’s like you’re invited to a card game, but the people who invited you don’t tell you what game you are playing or what deck you are using.”
In his letter to the EAB, Michael Dix, who owns [Billy] Goat Island and is and chairman of Cowichan Lake Recreational Community Inc., states that it is his opinion that “the Order changes the intent of the original licences and the rule curve significantly enough to justify the need for an application to increase water storage.”
Appeals must be filed with the EAB by Aug. 30.
—With files from Peter Rusland