CVRD to apply for funds to raise weir

Andrea Rondeau, The Citizen, April 1 2015

The Cowichan Valley Regional District will be applying for federal funding to help pay for a possible raising of the weir at Lake Cowichan.

Directors voted last week in favour of getting the ball rolling on a process that is expected to take several years, by preparing an application for the Strategic Priorities Fund.

The deadline to submit an application for the grant money is April 15, which is what prompted the CVRD to take this step even though design and engineering work as well as community consultation has not yet taken place on the proposed project.

"Communication is going to be key," acknowledged Dir. Ian Morrison.

A presentation by staff summed up the contents of numerous studies that have been done on the lake, river, and weir since 1991, when the idea of raising the level of the weir to allow more storage of water in Cowichan Lake to offset low river levels in the dry summer months was first proposed.

In spite of intermittent years of serious drought that have threatened the river, the action has never been taken. The lack of movement can be largely attributed to politicians not wanting to anger worried Cowichan Lake waterfront property owners, acknowledged several directors.

Property owners are concerned that raising the level of the weir could eat into their properties, or cause flooding.

"We need to acknowledge that's the elephant in the room," said Alternate Dir. Al Siebring.

"I think we are in a very different place than we might have been five or 10 years ago," said Morrison, stating that he believes that not only are residents willing to take into account the needs of the larger community, there is technology now that can be used to prove to property owners exactly what the impact will be on them.

Previous studies have indicated storing more water behind the weir will have little effect on lakefront properties, but longtime residents have always expressed doubt of the truth of those assurances.

Dir. Klaus Kuhn said previous consultation with stakeholders when producing these studies has failed to adequately represent the views of lakefront property owners, who are "the most important stakeholders".

The recommendation was to base the application on raising the weir 57 centimetres, however an amendment to make the height proposed more fluid will come to the board when they formalize their assent this month.

© Cowichan Valley Citizen