With river levels low and salmon about to return to spawn, Cowichan Tribes is working on two separate river remediation projects.
One project concerns channel management on the Cowichan and Koksilah rivers, related to flood and erosion mitigation. It includes removing pockets of sediment and log jams, and will also help improve fish habitat. The other project involves restoring and protecting the bank of the Cowichan River near the Clem Clem longhouse, downstream of the Tzouhalem Road bridge.
The Cowichan watershed has been central to the lives of Cowichan Tribes for millennia, but in recent years, the Cowichan and Koksilah rivers have been greatly affected by climate change as well as human impacts. In the last five years, the area has seen record droughts and floods, water levels dropping, an increase in invasive species, and a decline in fish stock.
“We know the important role of these rivers in our community’s history, and are committed to preserving them for our future,” said Larry George, director of Lulumexun (Lands and Self Governance).
The project is being supported through the Healthy Watersheds Initiative, which is delivered by the Real Estate Foundation of BC and Watersheds BC, with financial support from the Province of British Columbia as part of its $10-billion COVID-19 response.
“Our goal is to protect the river and Quw’utsun land from floods and drought while providing fisheries habitat and opening spawning grounds by removing barriers to river flow,” said Darryl Tunnicliffe, Cowichan Tribes’ manager of environment and natural resources. “We are grateful for the partnership with Province of B.C., Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, for funding through CEPF Flood Mitigation Planning as well as Healthy Watersheds Initiative to complete the over $3 million in remediation work to our watershed.”
In addition to improving the watershed health, these projects help Cowichan members find employment and gain important skills. Working alongside qualified staff and contractors, members are receiving construction, environmental monitoring and archeological monitoring training to help them build their skillsets.
Stream work was anticipated to continue until Sept. 15, with the Clem Clem and other inriver projects wrapping up by December.