Catalyst Paper Excellence Crofton will manage the pumping of Cowichan Lake into the Cowichan River that’s set to begin Thursday.
Water will be pumped at a rate designed to maintain current flow conditions into the Cowichan River. The pumping has been authorized by the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and will continue until water levels are naturally restored later this fall.
The Cowichan Basin has experienced 11 droughts since 1998. This is the most extreme year of spring water shortages.
A winter with half of the expected snow pack followed by a drought beginning in early February are the root causes of this year’s conditions. The result has been record low lake levels and severely reduced flows which now requires the water pumping of Cowichan Lake into the river to preserve the river and its habitat.
“Best efforts will be made to minimize any impacts from water pumping to protect the Cowichan River and the lake,” stated Brian Houle, Catalyst Crofton’s Environment Manager, in a press release. “We have engaged authorities and consultants to provide oversite and surveillance during pumping operations.”
To protect those using the lake and river, a local guide familiar with Cowichan Lake will deploy buoys to highlight any new hazards to navigation.
“Catalyst Crofton has been collaboratively managing the Cowichan River since 2002 with First Nations, local government and other key stakeholders,” noted Chuck Walls, Catalyst Crofton’s General Manager. “Working together, we can get through this latest drought. Our top priorities are the protection of Cowichan Lake, Cowichan River and the town’s water supply.”
The general area around the weir spill gates, the weir and the pumps in the lake and the discharge area into the river will continue to be inaccessible. Boaters are asked to exercise extreme caution, especially near the shoreline areas looking for navigational hazards.
The provincial water manager has guided Catalyst Crofton in working with Transport Canada to ensure boater safety on Cowichan Lake due to low water level hazards which may impact navigation.
Canada Coast Guard officials are also assisting Catalyst with the impacts on Cowichan Lake and offering expertise on the deployment of buoys that will be needed for marking the temporary hazards to navigation.