The pumps at the weir on Cowichan Lake won’t have to be used this year due to the wetter than usual conditions. (File photo)

Pumps not needed to keep Cowichan River running this year

Wet year so far has resulted in higher water levels

There is very little chance that pumps will have to be used this year to pump water into the Cowichan River to raise its water flows, according to Brian Houle.

Houle, the environmental manager for Catalyst Crofton which operates the weir at Cowichan Lake, said the wet weather experienced last winter and early summer have raised water levels in Lake Cowichan enough to negate the need for pumps this year.

“For the past 10 years, I have been wishing for rain in the summer season but, despite all the predictions of rain in those months over the years, it rarely showed up,” he said.

“The snow pack in the mountains is still below average this year, but we had the biggest rain storm in 50 years in January, and February, March and April were just horrible with all the precipitation and then it was pretty wet through the spring and early summer. So, overall, we’ve been having a wetter year than usual.”

Last year Catalyst had to begin pumping water into the Cowichan River over its weir at Cowichan Lake on Aug. 29 for several weeks to maintain water flows in the river.

RELATED STORY: WATER PUMPING HAS STARTED AT COWICHAN LAKE

It was the first time the company, which depends on water from the Cowichan River to run its pulp and paper mill operations in Crofton, has had to take such action since the weir was first constructed in the 1950s.

The region experienced one of the worst droughts in decades last year, and water basins in the region, including Cowichan Lake, were only getting about two-thirds of the water they used to get in spring and summer.

Houle said there is little chance the pumps will have to be used this year because the flow of water the river is currently at 7.1 cubic metres a second, which is enough to satisfy the water licence Catalyst operates under.

RELATED STORY: WATER DOWN TWO INCHES IN LAKE AS PUMPS FEED COWICHAN RIVER

“Of course, anything can happen, but unless there’s no rain through to October, I don’t see the need for the pumps this year,” he said.

“But it’s hard to say what the weather and the conditions will be like next year.”

Houle said the high water levels may also help ensure a good return of chinook salmon in the Cowichan River this year.

“The returns of the chinook in the river have been fairly good for the past two years, and that’s a pretty good trend, but that’s not as common in other rivers on the coast,” he said.

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robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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