Province, Vancouver Island First Nation sign groundbreaking watershed protection deal

Cowichan Tribes inks deal to develop plan for threatened Koksilah watershed in south Cowichan

Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour said it’s time to begin doing extensive and proactive work to help ensure long-term water sustainability in the Koksilah watershed.

Seymour said the First Nation and various levels of government have been working reactively to flooding and droughts in recent years in the watershed, located south of Duncan, and it’s time to move forward with a comprehensive water management plan for the future.

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

Doug Donaldson, B.C.’s Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau and representatives from local governments were on hand on Feb. 7 at the First Nation’s council chambers for the signing of an interim agreement for a new government-to-government partnership between Cowichan Tribes and the province that is intended to help ensure long-term water sustainability in the Koksilah watershed.

Seymour said now that the agreement has been signed, the staff at the First Nation and at the ministry will have a lot of work ahead of them.

He said the agreement is just the start and strategies will be developed as the plan moves forward.

“The Koksilah River has been experiencing exceptionally low flows in the summer months in recent years, and in August, a temporary protection order was issued for the first time to limit groundwater use in the watershed, particularly for farmers,” Seymour said.

RELATED STORY: PROVINCE BEGINS RESTRICTING WATER USE ON KOKSILAH RIVER

“Climate change is causing repeated droughts year after year and massive flooding like we saw this week. We can’t wait any longer. We need to work together, government to government and with all the affected people in the community, to deal with this and plan for a better future. A water sustainability plan sounds like a possible way forward, and we’re pleased to have the opportunity to pursue that together with the province in our territory.”

RELATED STORY: STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED FOR COWICHAN VALLEY AFTER HEAVY RAIN, FLOODING

Donaldson said the temporary protection order that his ministry issued to limit groundwater use in the Koksilah watershed in August was one of his first as minister.

He said the interim letter of agreement between Cowichan Tribes and the province signals a good day for the future of the watershed.

“This agreement is an excellent example of how governments can work together to benefit residents and help protect valuable natural resources,” Donaldson said.

“Effective stewardship of the Koksilah watershed is a goal that we all share.”

Larry Barr, a ministry spokesman, said an initial $75,000 has already been earmarked to help with the development of the sustainability plan.

“There was only one similar sustainability plan that was being developed in B.C., but it was never completed, so the plan may take awhile to finish,” he said.

“When completed, it will be the first of its kind in the province.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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