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HomeNewsCowichan ValleyWith Funding for New Weir Allocated Discussions to Focus on Next Steps

With Funding for New Weir Allocated Discussions to Focus on Next Steps

With 14-Million dollars allocated in last Thursday’s BC budget for construction of a new Cowichan Lake weir, discussions are expect to accelerate on the development of a proposed new plan for watershed governance.

The provincial funding announced in Budget 2024 will match a 24-Million dollar contribution from the federal government for the Cowichan River Resilience project, which includes funding for the new weir.

Tom Rutherford, Strategic Priorities Director of the Cowichan Watershed Board, says Thursday was a “good day” and the next steps involve issues such as a new water licence.

Rutherford says they will meet with the Deputy Minster of Water, Land, and Resource Stewardship on Friday.

We will start to dig into a couple of things,” Rutherford says, “one is the licencing arrangement and how the province can see themselves backstopping the local partners with respect to liability, and the other is we’re looking for a recognition of Cowichan Tribes rights around water management in their territory.”

He says what is being proposed is a “little bit of a different arrangement than traditionally when the crown government calls the shots, we’re sort of looking for a more collaborative approach.”

Rutherford is optimistic the allocation of funding is an indication the province is willing to consider “novel and innovative ways” to approach the licence and support the partners on the issues of liability surrounding the licence and the weir.

Cowichan Tribes Chief, Lydia Hwitsum, Co-Chair of the Cowichan Watershed Board, says she is pleased to see the provincial finally step forward with funding.

Hwitsum says raising the Lake Cowichan Weir is “a positive step for this essential project to sustain the health of the Quw’utsun Sta’lo.”

She says they look forward to the next steps with the province in “advancing liability protection and a collaborative approach to water governance that respects Cowichan Tribes inherent rights.”

Aaron Stone, Chair of the Cowichan Valley Regional District and Co-Chair of the Cowichan Watershed Board, says the funding commitment is the “result of a long journey of collaboration between the CVRD and Cowichan Tribes,” and shows the shared benefits of working together on reconciliation.

Stone says the local governance model is focused on “ensuring the health of the entire watershed for the economic, ecological and cultural values it represents to all of the people, fish and connected ecosystems” dependant on the Cowichan river.

The new weir, 70 centimetres higher than the current structure, will better ensure a sustainable flow of water into the Cowichan River as climate change continues to reduce the annual snow pack and increasingly causes droughts.

During last summer’s lengthy drought, the Cowichan River experienced a massive fish die-off in July, followed by the need to use pumps on the weir to maintain minimum river flows in September.

It’s estimated construction of the new weir will take up to two years.

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