The pumping of water from Cowichan Lake into the Cowichan River will begin as early as Sept. 11 while extremely dry conditions persist.
Catalyst Crofton will manage the pumping that will continue until water levels are naturally restored later this fall.
According to a press release from the Catalyst mill’s parent company Paper Excellence Canada, water will be pumped at a rate designed to maintain current flow conditions in the Cowichan River. That’s about 4.5 cubic metres per second.
The release states the Cowichan Basin has experienced 14 droughts since 1998. A winter with below average snowpack followed by a drought beginning in mid-May are the root cause of this year’s conditions. Low lake levels have resulted and reduced flows which now requires water pumping from the lake to preserve the river and its habitat.
The pumping is authorized by the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
“Best efforts will be made to minimize any impacts from water pumping to protect the Cowichan River and the lake,” explained Brian Houle, Catalyst Crofton’s environment manager. “We have engaged authorities and consultants to provide oversight and surveillance during pumping operations.”
A local guide familiar with Cowichan Lake will deploy buoys to highlight any new hazards to navigation, protecting those using the lake and the river.
The general area around the weir spill gates, the weir and the pumps in the lake and the discharge area in the river will continue to be inaccessible. Boaters should exercise caution, especially near shoreline areas looking for navigational hazards.
The provincial water manager is guiding Catalyst Crofton to work with Transport Canada to ensure boater safety on the lake due to low water level hazards that could impact navigation.
Canadian Coast Guard officials are also assisting with the impacts on the lake and guiding Catalyst on deployment of buoys that will be needed for the marking of any temporary hazards.
“Catalyst Crofton has been collaboratively managing Cowichan River since 2002 with First Nations, local government and other key stakeholders,” stated Bruce Eby, Catalyst Crofton general manager. “While curtailed, the mill’s water requirements are significantly reduced. However, we continue to work with our partners on our shared priorities of habitat protection of the Cowichan River and the water supply for the town of Crofton.”
The mill has been curtailed throughout July and August and into a third month in September due to market conditions.