Minister Catherine McKenna announced $24.2 million in funding last week
ROBERT BARRON Nov. 18, 2020 6:00 a.m. LOCAL NEWS
Part of the $24.2 million federal grant to assist with the protection of the Cowichan watershed will be used to support work to replace the old weir on Cowichan Lake.
A press release from the Cowichan Watershed Board doesn’t specify how much of the funding, announced last week by Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Catherine McKenna, will be earmarked for the replacement of the 50-year-old weir.
But the estimated total cost of replacing the weir has yet to be determined as engineering and design work is currently underway under the leadership of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, in partnership with Cowichan Tribes, Catalyst Paper and the Cowichan Watershed Board.
Last year, senior levels of government announced they are kicking in $4.08 million over three years to help pay for the preliminary work required to build the new weir.
Much of that funding has been earmarked for the development of detailed engineering designs and permitting for the new weir, as well as strategies for the removal of the existing weir.
The new modern weir will be designed to store enough of the lake’s naturally high winter water levels to keep the river flowing adequately throughout the dry season, and sustain the iconic Cowichan River salmon runs.
The new structure will also be able to supply cooler water to the river in order to avoid potentially lethal high temperature levels for salmon and trout during hot dry summers.
Much of the $24.2 million federal grant announced last week to support the Cowichan Watershed Resiliency Program will also be used for other projects to reduce the impact of climate change on the Cowichan watershed’s ability to deal with increased winter storms and summer droughts.
Another $5.3 million for the program will be contributed by Cowichan Tribes and contributing partners.
Insufficient summer and fall river flows are threatening the watershed’s once famous wild salmon runs, and winter storms have caused terrible flooding in homes located near the river, particularly those of Cowichan Tribes’ community members.
Many Cowichan Tribes homes are impacted repeatedly by flooding causing health and safety issues.
Last February, 175 homes were affected, with some residents evacuated in fast moving water.
The resiliency program will run over the next seven years, led by Cowichan Tribes in collaboration with other local partners.
Capital infrastructure works, gravel removal, riparian restoration and other measures will be implemented as part of the program to protect these communities and the river ecosystem from increasing winter floods.
Aaron Stone, co-chairman of the Cowichan Watershed Board and chairman of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, said the Cowichan watershed is the heart of the ancestral territory of the Cowichan peoples who have been the stewards of this ecosystem since time immemorial.
“The Cowichan Watershed Board and the CVRD applaud this funding to support the ongoing leadership by Cowichan Tribes for the watershed’s health and resilience in the face of climate change, and all the communities that depend on that for our well-being,” he said.