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Catalyst mill to pump water from Cowichan Lake in drought relief efforts

August 28, 2019  By P&PC Staff

Catalyst Paper’s Crofton pulp and paper mill in British Columbia will manage the pumping of water from Cowichan Lake into the Cowichan River to help alleviate the effects of drought.

The pumping is set to begin on August 29. Water will be pumped at a rate designed to maintain current flow conditions in the Cowichan River.

The Cowichan Basin, located on Vancouver Island, has experienced 11 droughts since 1998, with 2019 being the most extreme year to experience spring water shortages. A winter with half of the expected snow pack followed by a drought beginning in early February are the root causes of this year’s conditions.


This has led to record low lake levels and severely reduced flows, which now requires water pumping of Cowichan Lake into the river to preserve the river and its habitat.

The BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has authorized Catalyst Crofton to redirect the water. Pumping will occur until water levels naturally restore themselves later this fall.

“Best efforts will be made to minimize any impacts from water pumping to protect the Cowichan River and the lake,” says Brian Houle, Catalyst Crofton’s environment manager, in a release. “We have engaged authorities and consultants to provide oversight and surveillance during pumping operations.”

To protect those using the lake and river, a local guide familiar with Cowichan Lake will deploy buoys to highlight any new hazards to navigation.

“Catalyst Crofton has been collaboratively managing Cowichan River since 2002 with First Nations, local government and other key stakeholders,” says Chuck Walls, Catalyst Crofton’s general manager. “Working together, we can get through this latest drought. Our top priorities are the protection of Cowichan Lake, Cowichan River and the town’s water supply.”

The general area around the weir spill gates, the weir and the pumps in the lake and their discharge area in the river will continue to be inaccessible.

Catalyst Paper is owned by Paper Excellence Canada.

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