Catalyst’s Brian Houle is hoping experienced Cowichan Lake boaters can help pinpoint new hazards. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Warning goes out to Cowichan Lake boaters of new hazards as extreme dry conditions set to force pumping over weir

Water levels could drop 20 inches if pumping plans move forward

Catalyst is warning boaters on Cowichan Lake to operate their craft with “extreme caution” if plans to pump lake water over the weir and into the Cowichan River move forward.

Water levels in Cowichan Lake are expected to drop by as much as 20 inches if the pumping begins in mid-August, as currently planned, and that could uncover unexpected navigational hazards in the lake.

RELATED STORY: CATALYST PUMPS COULD DRAW DOWN COWICHAN LAKE 20 INCHES

Brian Houle, environmental manager for Catalyst, said the main concern is areas close to the middle, deeper, parts of the lake where boaters are used to travelling through with the presumption that there is adequate water depth and their way is clear, as it always has been before.

“Things like dead heads and rocks could be closer to the surface and, while they were never hazards before, they could be if we have to resort to pumping and lake levels continue to drop,” Houle said.

“We’ll be working with Coast Guard Canada to attach navigational hazard markers, including buoys, to the hazards as they are identified to make the public well aware of them and warn boaters to use extra caution around them.”

Catalyst’s Crofton pulp mill, which depends on water from the Cowichan River to run its operations, is planning to begin pumping water over its weir in Lake Cowichan as of mid-August if the region doesn’t get sufficient rain over the next few weeks to raise the water levels in the lake.

RELATED STORY: CATALYST CROFTON APOLOGIZES FOR “LAPSES” IN COMMUNICATION WITH TOWN OF LAKE COWICHAN

The region is experiencing one of the worst droughts in decades and water basins in the region, including Cowichan Lake, are only getting about two thirds of the water they used to get in spring and summer.

The licence that Catalyst has been given by the province to draw water from the Cowichan River requires that the company keep an eye on what’s happening on Cowichan Lake, where the river water originates, and identify hazards to navigation.

Houle said fortunately the Cowichan Valley Regional District led a topography project in the last five years to map the bottom of the lake in anticipation of just such a situation.

He said the map will be useful in helping to determine where navigational hazards can be expected when water levels drop.

“We already have a good sense of what’s there and it’s been determined that the lake is well suited for lower water levels,” he said.

“There will also be more hazards closer to shore with dropping water levels and boaters need to exercise caution there as well. But most boaters are much more cautious and careful with their navigation as they approach land.”

Houle said Catalyst hopes that enough rain will fall between now and mid-August to make turning on the pumps unnecessary and water levels in the lake will stabilize.

“It may also be that we may have to pump for just a few days,” he said.

“We just don’t know.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Greater Victoria transit usage sees gradual rise

Ridership still down 66 per cent compared to last year

Name of victims ‘ripped down’ from Victoria display

Organizers feel the act is ‘malicious’

Saanich property tax notices in the mail, residents unable to pay in person

Payment options, late penalties adjusted due to COVID-19

Saanich teen launches free online tutoring website

School Helpers matches volunteer tutors with students

VIDEO: View Royal resident spots cougar in nearby backyard

B.C. Conservation notified about early Thursday morning sighting

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Damage happens every year, forcing site manager to reallocate improvement budget to repairs

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Man found dead in his tent at Island homeless camp

Facebook posts tell of personal struggles and attempts to stay clean and sober

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Most Read