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Climate Change Hits Home in Cowichan Valley Where High-volume Water Pumps will Prevent Cowichan River from Running Dry
Cowichan Lake, (B.C.) – The Cowichan Tribes, Catalyst Paper, the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) and community supporters came together today to commission 20 high-volume water pumps that will prevent the Cowichan River – the lifeblood of Cowichan Valley – from running dry.
“Keeping the river flowing is critical to protect fish and wildlife, the many community uses it supports and to avoid a shutdown of the Crofton mill, which employs approximately 600 local workers,” said Graham Kissack, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, Catalyst Paper.
The effects of global climate change are being felt in the Cowichan Valley first-hand – now in its third consecutive drought year, and with eight droughts in 20 years.
“Our rivers and waterways have always been an integral resource for our community,” said Chief William Seymour. “Our people rely on the rivers for food, ceremony, and survival. Allowing the Cowichan River to run dry is not an option for our people. A long-term solution is needed, and we’ll continue to work with our strategic partners to find that solution to keep the Cowichan watershed intact for the next generation.”
Built in 1957, the weir at the head of the Cowichan River no longer stores enough water in Cowichan Lake to keep the river flowing during the summer months and early fall. The 20 high-volume pumps being tested would move six Olympic-sized pools of water each hour from Cowichan Lake into the Cowichan River to maintain its flow.
Catalyst is investing $500,000 in the transformers and pumps required to move the water. Seventy per cent of the pumped water will support fish, fish habitat and civic and agricultural uses. The remaining 30 per cent will support the Crofton mill and the 600 direct and 1,100 indirect jobs generated by the mill.
“The issue of low water levels in the Cowichan watershed has been a critical concern in the Cowichan Valley for a number of years,” said CVRD Board Chair Jon Lefebure. “Today we’re asking the provincial and federal governments to work with the CVRD, the Cowichan Tribes and Catalyst Paper to form a more collaborative management regime to secure a tangible, long-term solution for the Cowichan River.”
The three parties want to collaborate with the two senior governments to undertake the necessary scientific and engineering studies that would identify a pathway to raise and manage the weir through an equitable funding formula.
“Our provincial and federal governments are showing leadership in their ongoing actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in B.C. and across Canada,” said Lefebure. “Now, we need to work together to manage the impact of climate change here on the ground in the Cowichan Valley.”