Susan Down, Local News Eye Cowichan, September 2, 2016
Despite the recent rainfall, the low flow of the Cowichan River is still a concern as local crews prepare to install pumps while fisheries scientists plan to set up a salmon-counting fence.
Catalyst is continuing preparations for the first-ever pumping event on the river, a dramatic emergency measure to keep spawning salmon healthy and ensure continued operations at the Crofton pulp mill during a drought year. The 20 pumps are set to arrive Sept 12 with pumping to begin about Sept 20.
The project is estimated at $500,000 with another $150,000 worth of electricity used if the pumps run for the allotted 49 days. The switch from last year’s plan to go with diesel-powered pumps, means the whole project will cost about half the $1.3 million of the 2015 estimate – all paid by Catalyst. (video from last year)
In addition to the permit required from the provincial government, Catalyst has a second permit from DFO to salvage Vancouver Lamprey (see previous story) in Lake Cowichan, considered a species at risk. See permits on Catalyst website
Cowichan Watershed Board volunteers fill another truck with garbage during the Aug. 27 Cowichan River clean-up, held annually.
Meanwhile, further down the river, last-minute DFO funding has come through allowing the Allenby Road chinook counting fence to be installed again this year. The fence diverts salmon to a narrow channel where underwater cameras record the movement. A joint project with the Cowichan Tribes, the fence is staffed 24 hours a day, providing more than 500 person-days of employment. A white board provided the public with the most recent numbers on fish activity. The fence will operate from Sept. 19 to Oct. 28, says DFO stock assessment biologist Steve Baillie.
Canada is required to track indicator stocks (the Cowichan fall chinook salmon is considered an indicator of the health of the lower Georgia Strait area) as part of the Pacific Salmon Treaty. Cowichan chinook data is also critical as the basis for the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Salish Sea Marine Survival Project (SSMSP).
A new tracking device – the passive induced transponder (PIT) tag detection – being tested by the BC Conservation Foundation and PSF could ultimately replace the counting fence after several years of overlapping data.
Finally, there is a bit of good news pending for fishermen: now that water temperatures have dropped, the ban on sport fishing in the Cowichan River is expected to be lifted Sept. 16.