‘Back to gravity’ for Cowichan River

Huge pumps turned on in late August to bring water from Cowichan Lake to keep the adjoining Cowichan River flowing are now off, having been shut down Wednesday afternoon.

“We’ve gone back to gravity,” said Brian Houle, manager of environment for the Catalyst Crofton pulp and paper mill, which operates the pumps.

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“To continue to run the [pumps] is costing a lot of energy, and we didn’t need to spend that electrical energy because the gates will work very well at this lake level.”

Rain helped the situation in recent days, but the crisis is not over unless more rain falls soon, he said.

“We would be beginning to pump again on about Oct. 12 if we don’t get any rain,” Houle said. “Now we’re just into that world of crystal-ball technology.”

The pumps were used because the river was under threat of going dry, a product of years of low precipitation. They brought water from Cowichan Lake into the river in a move approved by the Ministry of Forests.

There have been 11 droughts in the Cowichan Valley since 1998, with this year the worst one.

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