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

Big Beach parties spark concern in Ucluelet

“You find needles, left over party debris, bottles and still burning fires.”

Ucluelet’s Terrace Beach Resort is for sale

The commercial offering of 21 suites and cabins was recently listed for $4,495,000

Young tourist caught untying boats from Ucluelet dock

“He was just untying the boats and watching them float away,” said Harbour Master Kevin Cortes.

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Ghost gear accounts for up to 70 per cent of all macro-plastics in the ocean by weight

Ucluelet RCMP warns of scammers impersonating police

“Police will never demand payment of any kind to get rid of an arrest warrant.”

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Shellfish industry get funds to clean up at Island sites and beyond

Businesses can apply to cover half of costs to clean up so-called ‘ghost gear’

BREAKING: Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

Most Read