With the water level in Cowichan Lake higher than it has been at this time of year for some time, Catalyst Crofton increased the flow rate at the weir on the Cowichan River to 10 cubic metres per second on Sept. 16.
Brian Houle, the environmental manager for Catalyst Crofton which operates the weir that regulates the flow of water from the lake to the river, said the water levels in the lake are very close to the maximum that is allowed.
He said lake levels are not usually so high at this time of the year.
“This year is an anomaly,” Houle said.
“It was wetter than usual in June and into July so summer this year had a slow start. That meant that the snow in the mountains melted slower this year and that kept the lake full more than ever before in our records.”
Houle said he doesn’t think this year is any indication of what next year, and future years, will bring for the lake.
“I’d call this year a one-off,” he said.
“I don’t expect a repeat of this spring and early summer next year, but climate change is unpredictable so we’ll have to wait and see.”
The region had experienced extremely dry summers in previous years and water basins in the region, including Cowichan Lake, were only getting about two-thirds of the water they used to get in spring and summer, a far cry from this year.
Houle said the flow from Cowichan Lake will be held at 10 cubic metres per second a for as long as possible.
“With the higher flow of 10 cms, the rate of decline in the lake level will increase until rainfall arrives and changes things,” he said.
“The weather is expected to be wet in the coming month.”
Houle said with higher water levels in the Cowichan River so early this year, Chinook salmon are already entering the river from Cowichan Bay and have been observed passing through a recently installed counting fence on the river.
He said the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in coordination with Cowichan Tribes, are monitoring the improved conditions for the Chinook this year, given there’s so much more water than usual in the lake.