Hopes are being raised that establishing Quamichan Lake as a national rowing centre could also mean substantial measures may soon be taken to deal with the lake’s blue-green algae problem.
Rowing Canada Aviron announced on Jan. 16 that North Cowichan will host its future national training centre, with team athletes from across the country training at Quamichan Lake.
The RCA said plans are to establish a permanent national training centre in the area by the fall of 2020.
But there had been at least four reported dog deaths around Quamichan Lake in 2016, with all suspected to be caused by ingesting toxic blue-green algae from the lake, and neighbours of the lake have been advocating for measures to be taken to deal with the problem since then.
Last March, the Municipality of North Cowichan brought in a former biologist for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, along with a Masters student from the Ecological Restoration Program at the BC Institute of Technology, to undertake research on the lake and come up with a plan to deal with the algae.
A restoration plan is scheduled to be tabled in the spring and expectations are that it will provide options and recommendations for enhancing the health and water quality of Quamichan Lake.
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said the designation of the lake as a high-profile national rowing centre could add some increased urgency to deal with the issue.
“Now that the lake is a rowing centre, it should give us more political clout with senior levels of government to assist in its clean up,” he said.
“We’re talking about national teams that head to international competitions like the Olympics, so it’s more than just the municipality’s problem now. We’re hoping both the province and Ottawa will bring some money to the table in our ongoing efforts to deal with the health of the lake.”
Siebring said other communities that made bids to host the national rowing centre, including Saanich, have the same algae issues with their shallow, urban lakes.
“In fact, this algae is showing up in almost every urban lake in Canada,” he said.
“We were successful in our bid for the rowing centre for a whole bunch of other factors.”
A task force set up by North Cowichan soon after the death of the dogs concluded that the nutrients that are causing the algae outbreak in Quamichan Lake are coming from a number of sources, including urban runoff, and runoff from nearby agricultural lands, construction areas and logging sites.