A Cowichan Watershed Board member is worried that this could be a record drought year and there is science behind that statement.
Catalyst Paper runs the weir in Lake Cowichan and Environment Manager at the Crofton operation Brian Houle is indicating that the lake level is at 28 per cent capacity right now.
Cowichan Watershed Board member David Slade said if there is a silver lining to the critically low water levels, it’s that plans to raise the weir may be expedited.
“It may just continue to accelerate the process to a higher weir and that’s what we need, we need the ability to hold back water,” said Slade. “Honestly though, even if we had a higher weir right now, we’d be in the same situation unless we had the flexibility to start holding water back sooner in the season.”
Slade said, ordinarily, the Cowichan Weir is under about a metre of water right now, but he wouldn’t be surprised if it was exposed, adding that the lake levels and snowpack are way below seasonal norms.
“We should be at full storage and we’re at 30 per cent and the snowpack is at about 25 per cent of what would be considered normal and it’s been declining in the last few weeks,” said Slade. “Normally, it would continue to build for another month before it actually started to melt. It’s melting already, which is abnormal.”
Slade said it’s important to strike a balance because if you lower water levels to quickly it leaves vitally important salmon fry and eggs stranded.
In a statement, the province said it’s currently working with the Cowichan Watershed Board, Cowichan Tribes, and Catalyst Paper to plan the next steps and to investigate potential funding sources.