Our June 16th meeting platform Link (WebEx) failed us last night. We have used the same set up for the past 2 years without issue, however, last night it simply did not work and we could not get it resolved in time to continue. Sorry.

We did record a version of the proposed presentation which will be made available today on this website.

We plan to have another public meeting but it will take time as we need to go through the notification process which includes mail outs to all the property owners. We cannot simply email everyone as we do not have that information.

As many people do not reside on their Cowichan Lake property, we have found the virtual meeting platform to be the most inclusive way to hold these meetings.

Wrapping up the Project

The Shoreline Assessment Project is wrapping up and is essentially complete. We will be sharing the results at a virtual public meeting on Thursday, June 16, 2022 at 6:00pm. See the TAB on the home page for details.

This project and the Weir Design project are just two pieces of the bigger puzzle and does not mean the construction can begin. There are still the Provincial processes for a water license application, reviews and approvals. And then the funding needs finalizing and contracts need to be put in place. We are still a few years away.

As you can imagine, storing an extra 70cm (27″) of water for part of the year is going to have some impact. There are 876 unique individual properties around the lake. The reason I use the word ‘unique’ is because there are no two properties that are identical. Even properties that are directly beside each other have their own characteristics like where the residence is located, whether or not property titles reach into the lake, where structures and docks are positioned, what type of vegetation exist, beach materials, etc. We have attempted to look at the lake as a whole and to also understand each individual property. The amount and type of impact varies greatly around the lake. When we share our results with you it will be with an overall perspective as we just do not have the time to get into every detail. Having said that, we will make available, through the Property View tool, an Impact Assessment ‘report card’ for each property. We hope this will give you an insight into your particular situation and give you enough data to give you an understanding of what it means to you. The plan view and cross-sectional view are also important tools to give it context and scale.

The extra 70 cm of water being stored won’t alter the range of water levels we have seen in the past, however it will change how long water will reside at a particular level. It’s this change in ‘time at various levels’ that will create changes along the shoreline.

Climate continues to change. We’ve experience longer, hotter dryer summers and warmer, wetter winters and those trends will continue and even become more severe. Even without a new weir our work concludes that we will see changes to how long water will stay at various levels and we will see lake levels much lower than in the past. The ‘System’ of climate and the earth’s response, and in particular our Lake’s response, is very dynamic and always changing and evolving. We have an opportunity to adapt to these changes in the Cowichan Valley by raising the weir. We’ve done our best to understand what those changes may be to the perimeter of Cowichan Lake. The final reports will be made available on this website later this month.

What’s Happening?

The work continues in two key areas. The Shoreline Assessment project has been delayed a couple of months primarily due to our consultant being pulled away to higher priority work in support of the severe flooding throughout the Abbotsford area in November and December. However we are now back on task and will have our work done by the end of May 2022 with another virtual public meeting in June. The Property View Tool is still currently available for all to use where you can zoom into your property and see the elevations of various measures. See the ‘Property View Tool’ TAB at the home page of this site.

The Cowichan Weir License and Ownership work is also underway to determine a number of issues such as ownership, licensing, liabilities and cost structures for capital, maintenance and operation. Until this is sorted out there cannot be a license application, approvals or any construction. It is much more complex than one might think due to the many possibilities. The good news is that the right people are at the virtual table having these tough, interesting and educational discussions.

Despite having some heavy rains in November and December the lake is relatively low for this time of year and the snow pack in the mountains seems to be just below average. We really haven’t had much precipitation in January and February. We’ll see how this spring unfolds and cross our fingers that we don’t have another wicked warm heat dome or another super dry year like 2019. Times are changing and we need to consider how to adapt. Until next time – take care.

Shoreline Assessment Project October Update

With the weir design complete, there are many next steps including understanding the impact of raising the weir to the perimeter shoreline of the lake, agreeing on a Water License holder for the new Conservation License, and then going through the formal application and approval processes with the new water license holder. If approved, then construction funding would be finalized and contracts would be awarded. All of this will take a few years to get through before anything were to actually happen in the field.

The Shoreline Assessment project has been collecting data to help understand what types of impacts might be and where they would occur. The scope of this part of the project is primarily meant to understand potential impacts at the property level. The purpose of raising the weir is to help with aquatic habitat (particularly salmon) and vegetation which is why it will be considered a conservation license. The definition from the Water Sustainability Act – “conservation purpose”┬ámeans the diversion, retention or use of water for the purpose of conserving fish or wildlife and includes the construction of works for that purpose”. The current understanding is that the additional water storage will also benefit the unique Cowichan Lamprey which has been listed as endangered under SARA (Species At Risk Act).

One of the outcomes of our work is to create a publicly available ‘Property View Tool’ where an owner could zoom to their property and see the various lines or markers on their area – much like Google Maps but with lines that represent our work. We will have the low water mark, property title boundaries, existing weir elevation, new weir elevation, average high water mark, 1 in 200 year flood line, the present natural boundary and a modelled future natural boundary. We plan to share that tool with you on Wednesday NOVEMBER 17, 2021 at 7:00pm via a virtual meeting. More details on how to join will be coming in the mail and in the homepage TAB of this website.

The whole purpose of raising the weir is to store more water in early spring so it can be released throughout the dry summer and fall months. Therefore, more water will exist along the shoreline than it would be without the weir raise. Of course the water level will continually decline throughout the summer as the water is released. One additional benefit of storing more water is that we will see fewer extreme low water events and the probability of having to pump out of the lake to support the river will also be reduced. Low water scenarios has its own set of concerns such as riparian vegetation drying up, reduced fish habitat, tributaries sitting relatively higher impacting aquatic access, grounded docks, and navigational issues.

Water affects the shoreline in different ways and is highly dependent on wind/wave energy, the type of material the shoreline is made of, the slope of the beach and how long the water stays at different elevations. We are measuring and modelling this information to help determine impact upon raising the weir. This information is still being collected and calibrated and the work won’t be completed until February 2022. We plan to share a final update of our assessment work in March of 2022. Stay tuned.

Thanks for your attendance and questions. Q and A’s posted here.

For those of you who could attend the July 8th virtual meeting I appreciate your interest, your questions and most importantly spending your valuable time with us on this topic.

It was difficult to capture and hear all the questions and answers from that session so I’ll list them here.

Question: With concern regarding record breaking high water level in Feb 2020, how will future high water levels be affected? Answer: The current and the new weir will continue to be submerged during the high water flood events and do not control the flood levels. There is a downstream natural restriction near the Greendale Trestle that controls the high water lake levels. Therefore future high water levels will be unaffected by the new weir but may be affected by ongoing climate changes.

Question: Will the Canadian Government Data Graph 08HA009 for Cowichan Lake need to be adjusted to reflect the new datum? Answer: We have contacted the Government and they are planning to upgrade all their hydrographs to the new datum.

Question: If channels are excavated, is there a plan to incorporate archeologic studies, especially on the island. Answer: Yes, archeologic studies will be planned during the excavating work.

Question: Is the designed walkway structure earth quake safe? Answer: Yes, the walkway and supporting weir foundation is designed to meet all current earthquake requirements.

Question: Can the recreational paddlers provide input on the portage steps? The proposed design looks less than ideal. Answer: The portage you saw was an example photograph of one that uses steps. The design being considered does not have the haunches on the side you see in the photo. The current design for the portage use 0.5m by 1m wide and 3m long. If you would like to provide feedback there is opportunity.

Question: Will adaptive management be considered with respect to changes to design or features of the design as more information becomes available? Answer: With respect to adaptive management, the new weir design include as lot of flexibility for operations and there is flexibility in how the fishways can be operated.

Question: What improvements are being proposed for the boat lock? What price tag is associated with that? Answer: The only thing that will remain from the boat lock is the current concrete foundation which will need some enhancements to meet earthquake codes. All other components will be replaced with new parts and systems and should operate more quietly. Re-using the existing foundation and upgrading the boat lock is considerably less expensive than removing it and rebuilding altogether.

Question: Will the boat passage be dredged and cleared of logs? Answer: Yes, when the boat lock foundation is refurbished for reuse, the passage will be cleaned up.

Question: If there is a pinch point in the river, would the lake level be reduced to get as much water past before the lake crests the weir? Answer: When the weir is no longer being controlled (end of October) the gates and boat lock are left wide open to allow full flow through the weir. The lake level is then dependent on precipitation events and river pinch points.

Question: Have you received any comments from the downstream First Nation about potential impact to their rights and title interests? Any mitigation to your plans? Answer: As Cowichan Tribes in one of the partners and potentially an owner we are wanting to make sure that all steps are done properly at every stage.

Question: Where are the wind and wave data buoys located? Why were those locations chosen? Answer: One buoy is located in the South Arm near Woodland Shores and the second is located in the North Arm between Whittingham Point and Billy Goat Island. It was difficult to only choose two locations on such a large lake but we thought these locations would ‘catch’ a lot of the wind action and some boat wakes.

Question: If the operations in March would change water levels, the goal of raising the weir, why has that not been a priority in recent years? Answer: The current weir is typically at full storage in March. Analysis is done each spring to determine if early control is viable based on snow pack and weather forecast and lake levels. A higher weir would allow for earlier control of the increased storage.

Question: You reference the 200 year flood line. What year was that established? Answer: 1984. CVRD Document Risk-Assessment-of-Floodplains-and-Coastal-Sea-Level-Rise. Recent analysis also supports this flood line.

Question: I think that your 3 meter swing between low water and high water is a little low. I’m thinking it is more like 15 feet or 5 meters. Although I have never measured it. Answer: The average high water mark over the past 60 years is 164.2m. The low water mark is 161.0m. So a 3.2m difference.

Question: As a WSP objective in the future, can we ensure that there will be maintains connections between cold water refugia and riffle habitat? Presumably the weir can help meet that objective. Answer: Cold water refugia exists in both the river and the lake. The weir will not affect those natural refugia. The new weir fish passages will provide for more opportunity for fish to move back and forth from river and lake, allowing them to better find refugia. Also, by storing more water for release throughout the summer, the minimum flow rate will be achieved more frequently and allow for more fish survival.

Question: Will this video be posted online for review? Answer: Yes it will.