The March 9 public meeting regarding proposed changes to weir operation left a lot of questions unanswered and I would like to clear up some confusion expressed by concerned citizens since the meeting.
Q. What change to the weir operation is the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations proposing?
A. The only option currently being considered by the deputy comptroller of water rights, Brian Symonds, is to extend the full storage (water to top of existing weir) date from July 9 to July 31.
Q. Why is this change being proposed?
A. To protect fish stocks and the river ecosystem. A minimum flow of seven cubic meters per second is required and at present we can only maintain this flow one year out of three. The proposed change will likely allow for this flow two years out of three.
Q. What effect will it have on riparian areas and beaches around Cowichan Lake?
A. It will have no effect on riparian areas as the proposed change is only below the top of the weir (162.37 meters elevation) well below the natural average high water level which is at 164 meters (or 1.63 meters/ 5 feet above the top of weir) and only during the summer. Beach area may be slightly reduced in the summer months if we have adequate rain. The reduction would be no more than is experienced during an average wet summer.
Q. Will this change increase the chance of flooding around the lake?
A. No! The proposed change will only create a minor change to summer water levels and even if we had a huge summer rain event the operator would be directed to dump excess water when above the new rule curve. Water can be released very quickly by opening the weir when the river is low.
Q. Why am I interested and so involved in this issue?
A. My wife and I live on Cowichan Lake and we are concerned about winter flooding so I have dedicated hundreds of hours to researching lake water levels. I volunteer as a fisheries technician, president of the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society, and a technical advisor for the Cowichan Watershed Board (CWB). In these roles I have gained a substantial working knowledge of the lake and river system. I attend all the scientific and government meetings on this subject and am happy to share my experience with others.
In my opinion the proposed change is a required adaptation to climate change. The change will provide better control of our water with existing weir at no cost to taxpayers.
As a lakefront landowner I am willing to sacrifice a few feet of my beach during dry summers to help save the nearly extinct summer run of chinook salmon and our valuable river ecosystem.
A healthy lake and river are critical to a healthy watershed and ultimately our own health. I encourage other property owners who live on the lake and river to do their part and write the deputy comptroller at
Brian.Symonds@gov.bc.ca to support this change.
If you would like more information on this issue please call me at 250-749-7203.
Rodger Hunter with the CWB and I will also be answering weir operation questions on CICV, 98.7 FM The Lake on Saturday, March 23 at 10 a.m.
Phone in with your questions at 250-932-2428 for on air discussion.
-Gerald Thom, president of the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society