Gov’t doesn’t typically hold large scale water storage licences

Re: River problems far from over: rain helps, Oct.17,

Imagine an electrician issuing a permit to himself authorizing changes to a building’s plumbing. This makes no sense, however, this seems to be the suggestion of a number of people in your recent article on Cowichan River water management; the province should apply — to itself — for a licence on matters outside its mandate.

One advantage of having a weir is the option of storing water to mitigate the impact of dry weather.  In considering changes to water storage in Cowichan Lake engineering requirements for the weir, flood implications downstream, lakeside erosion and the rights of riparian land owners are all important factors.

Because the province adjudicates Water Act applications, and resolves differences between licensees and other stakeholders, we do not typically hold large scale water storage licences ourselves. A few exceptions exist, related to small hatchery operations or trout, steelhead or waterfowl management. However, in the case of the Cowichan watershed we are dealing with a federally managed salmon fishery, municipally managed sewage treatment, use by industry and other broader community issues.

For well over 30 years the province has provided guidance and support on the process to acquire a water licence to address these issues, including since 2007, when a decision was made by your local government to reject the Cowichan Basin Water Management Plan recommendation to increase the water level. Most recently, recognizing the importance of the Cowichan River to the community I have asked staff to prioritize the adjudication of any application that might be received. We will work with all concerned to find interim and longer term solutions.


Steve Thomson

Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations