Water flows in a series of torrents over the weir as the recently installed pumps are commissioned by Catalyst. The company held a press conferenced Thursday in conjunction with Cowichan Tribes and the CVRD. [Ed Bonenfont photo]

Pumping the lake a scary prospect for Lake Cowichan mayor

The installation of pumps at the weir is cold comfort for the mayor of Lake Cowichan, who attended

The installation of pumps at the weir is cold comfort for the mayor of Lake Cowichan, who attended their commissioning last Thursday and hopes they will not be necessary this fall.

“I think the visual of the pumps shows the extreme scare that we have here. This is serious stuff,” said Ross Forrest. “We need a long-term solution. To tell you the truth, pumping the lake down to a level below the river elevation scares the heck out of me.”

Forrest, who sits on the Cowichan Watershed Board and is chairman of the Fish and Flows Committee, said for now he’s not concerned but that will change if the pumps are put into affect.

He said there is no reason to think the pumping will lower the water to the point that it hampers the town’s water intake system, however, there is still uncertainty over what other potential impacts the pumps could have.

“Who knows what the disturbances are going to be from pumping that could cause turbidity. And we know we’ve had a turbidity problem to start with,” he said. “We don’t know. Those are the types of issues that scare me: the unknowns.”

Forrest emphasized the situation’s complexity, attributing some of it to the fact that there are so many stakeholders involved, including the Town of Lake Cowichan, which relies on the river for its sewage dilution. He said the need for action is undeniable, and that’s what he and other government officials were elected to do.

A recent article in the Times Colonist citing the possibility of increased regional taxes to fund raising the weir caused outrage on social media.

Councillor Bob Day, who is also vice chairman of the CVRD board of directors, said $20,000 allocated for community outreach about the weir and the river’s situation comes from a reserve fund, so money that was already set aside.

“Never have I been involved in a conversation where we need to raise taxes half a per cent or [one] per cent to put money into that account,” he said, noting that directors are all feeling trepidatious following the backlash to last year’s alternative approval process.

Day said expecting the provincial or federal governments to step in and take care of everything is the wrong approach, one he likened to asking relatives in another province to look after your house while you’re on vacation rather than simply asking your neighbours.

“Somebody needs to get this started and who better than the person on the ground?” he said.

At the Sept. 23 regional services committee meeting. Area I director Klaus Kuhn stated his opposition to the CVRD getting involved in the weir’s management, which he said falls under the jurisdiction of the province and the federal government.

“What really troubles me is my area won’t benefit at all from this. The people in Area I have no benefit, the benefit all goes downstream,” he told the board. “I would like to opt out of this thing.”

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