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Workers to pump water into Cowichan River amid drought

Catalyst Paper workers install pumps along the weir on the Cowichan River. (CTV News) Catalyst Paper workers install pumps along the weir on the Cowichan River. (CTV News)

A crew from Catalyst Paper is installing 18 pumps along the company's weir on the Cowichan River.

The weir’s floodgates are fully open and that has some water flowing into the river but with no substantial rain in the forecast, that won’t be the case for long.

Currently water is flowing at 4.3 cubic metres per second, below the minimum ideal number of 4.5 cubic metres.

Cowichan Lake is currently at zero storage, meaning water won’t be flowing through the gate as the water dips below the bottom of the weir.

The plan is to pump water from the lake, over the weir and into the river, beginning either Wednesday or Thursday.

Lake Cowichan Mayor Tim McGonigle the river is in a dire situation as a prolonged drought is stretching into the critical salmon-migration season.

“The big concern there is usually with the weir, they will send a pulse to get the fish from Cowichan Bay up into the upper tributaries, and without that storage that would probably not occur this year unless we get significant rainfall,” said McGonigle.

The plan to pump water also comes with a safety warning to boaters as the lake's water level will drop below its usual low.

“We have deadheads out there that will probably appear that have never been seen before,” said the mayor. “If there is pumping for a considerable amount of time, then we’ll see the lake levels at the lowest level that we’ve seen since the infrastructure has been placed.”

The weir was built in 1957. Lake Cowichan has an application in with the province to raise the weir by 70 centimetres. The design has been completed, now the only thing holding up the weir expansion is funding from the province.

In the coming days, water will begin to be pumped over the weir until a substantial amount of rain can bring the lake's water levels back up. But with no rain in the forecast, that could take a while. Top Stories

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