A water sustainability plan for the Koksilah River, which saw low water levels again this year, is under way. (File photo)

Water levels in Cowichan Valley’s Koksilah River critically low again this year

Farmers had to alternate water use

While the Cowichan River was spared the low water flows this year that it had experienced in recent summers, the same can’t be said for the Koksilah River.

Unlike previous years when the region experienced continuous droughts each summer, the wet weather experienced last winter and early summer in the region raised water levels in Cowichan Lake, which feeds the Cowichan River, enough that it negated the need for Catalyst Crofton to use pumps this year to raise water levels in the river, a major fish-bearing waterway.

RELATED STORY: PUMPS NOT NEEDED ON THE COWICHAN RIVER THIS YEAR

But Tom Rutherford, executive director of the Cowichan Watershed Board, said the Koksilah River doesn’t have a large body of water at its head, like Cowichan Lake, to provide water storage during wet conditions that could feed the river during dry periods.

Without a head-water lake, and less summer rain, water flows in the Koksilah River are often critically low for its coho salmon, steelhead and resident trout populations by mid-August.

In order to address this concern, Cowichan Tribes and the province signed an interim letter of agreement last February to work in partnership to explore the option of creating a water sustainability plan for the watershed, the first of its kind in the province.

RELATED STORY: COWICHAN TRIBES, PROVINCE SIGN AGREEMENT TO DEVELOP PLAN FOR KOKSILAH WATERSHED

While that plan is still in its early stages, other organizations, including the Cowichan Watershed Board, have been working together since April in an effort to coordinate water monitoring and planning for the anticipated low flows in the Koksilah River that were expected this summer.

Last year, the province issued a Fish Protection Order in August when water flows in the Koksilah River fell to 180 litres per second, which curtailed the irrigation of forage crops, like hay and corn, to some of the farmers in the Koksilah watershed, impacting their crop quality and yield.

But Rutherford said that this year, the Agriculture Research and Development Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the BC Agriculture Council, initiated a plan on behalf of farmers located within the Koksilah watershed to assess and address low water flows in the river.

RELATED STORY: FARMERS WORRY ABOUT WATER AVAILABILITY IN COWICHAN VALLEY’S KOKSILAH WATERSHED

“They developed alternating irrigation schedules for the farmers so they wouldn’t all be using water from the river at the same times, and that made a difference in the water levels,” Rutherford said.

“My hat’s off to the farmers because I’m sure that it cost them to do this. Moving forward, while the solutions for the Cowichan River involve the construction of the new weir, there appears to be no ‘techno-fit’ like that for the Koksilah River.”

Rutherford said that the management of the Koksilah River and its watershed requires a different type of management, and there are high hopes for the partnership between the Cowichan Tribes and the province.

“It’s the same problem as with the Cowichan River, but requires a different solution,” he said.

“We need to up our game, and the work that is underway should give us a better idea of where we are and what needs to be done to properly manage the Koksilah River.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

B.C. Drought

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Campbell River Arts Council Executive Director Ken Blackburn was one of a dozen or so divers who took part in the McIvor Lake cleanup day put on by the Campbell River Tide Rippers dive club Oct. 4. Photo courtesy Campbell River Tide Rippers
Campbell River dive club takes 200kg of trash out of McIvor Lake

‘Sometimes we come across things that make you wonder what people were thinking’

Campbell River Hospice Staff practice Reiki with a client at the hospice. Photo supplied by Campbell River Hospice Society.
Campbell River Hospice Society holds fundraiser raffle

Two draws per week until mid-February

Lyric John-Cliffe and Cory Cliffe sing a traditional Laichkwiltach canoe song by the Campbell River Estuary. Photo by Binny Paul/Campbell River Mirror
Passing the baton of environmental stewardship to seven generations on a Vancouver Island estuary

Coastal guardian watchman Cory Cliffe from Wei Wai Kum First Nation and niece Lyric John-Cliffe talk about conservation and traditional knowledge

Mayor Andy Adams receives the First Poppy for 2020 from Campbell River Legion Branch 137 Vice-President Alain Chatigny CD. The annual Poppy Campaign officially starts Oct. 30. Photo submitted
Poppy Campaign kicks off Oct. 30

Mayor Andy Adams received the First Poppy for 2020 from Campbell River… Continue reading

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
RCMP caution about sharing intimate images

Images are hard to take down once posted, warn RCMP

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Surrey RCMP cruisers outside a Newton townhouse Tuesday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Toddler in hospital, woman dead following stabbings at Surrey townhouse

Police say two-year-old was among victims found at townhouse complex in the 12700-block of 66 Avenue

A Tim Hortons employee hands out coffee from a drive-through window to a customer in Mississauga, Ont., on March 17, 2020. Tim Hortons is ending the practice of double cupping hot drinks, a move the fast food restaurant says will eliminate hundreds of millions of cups from landfills each year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
The end of double cupping: Tim Hortons ditches two cups in favour of one with sleeve

Most recycling facilities in Canada don’t recycle single use paper coffee cups because of a plastic lining

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer doctor Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s chief public health doctor says in the age of social media, fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic has been spreading faster than the virus itself. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
VIDEO: Fake news creates serious issues for battling pandemic, chief public health doc says

Both Tam and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to be responsible about the information they share

Nanaimo RCMP are asking for the public’s assistance in locating Michael Leighton, who is wanted on 11 warrants on Vancouver Island and is a suspect in a recent break, enter and theft in Nanaimo. (Photos submitted)
RCMP looking for break-and-enter suspect with 11 warrants on the Island

Nanaimo RCMP say Michael Leighton a suspect in theft of pistol and $40,000 worth of coins

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

Most Read