Funding through B.C.’s Economic Recovery Plan is aimed at restoring ecosystems, wildlife and habitats in the Cowichan Valley, ensuring health and resilience in a changing climate.
The Cowichan Watershed Board, in partnership with the Cowichan Tribes and Halalt First Nation, is receiving $500,000 for a project to improve salmonid habitats and alter flow requirements in the Koksilah and Chemainus Rivers.
“Protecting and preserving the natural environment is so important for the health and well-being of the planet and future generations,” said Doug Routley, MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan. “As the previous co-chair of the Wild Salmon Advisory Council, I’m proud we are partnering with local First Nations to support this project, which will have a huge impact on the health of our local salmon populations.”
The Koksilah and Chemainus watersheds support large populations of steelhead and salmon species. Climate change, along with water and land use practices, are impacting salmon and their habitats in the area.
“The Koksilah and Chemainus river ecosystems are being threatened by climate change, which we know will have impacts on salmon and everything that depends on them for decades to come,” noted Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour. “By bringing together Indigenous knowledge of the past with scientific study of the rivers today, we can understand how to plan for these changes. This is critical work for our Nations’ food and culture, but healthy salmon watersheds feed species all up and down the coast and are a benefit to the whole province.”
The Cowichan Watershed Board will assess salmon populations, study the water levels and restore habitat along the rivers.
The local project is one of 60 dedicated to restoring diverse ecosystems and conserving fish, wildlife and habitat recently announced by the BC New Democratic Party government. About $10 million is being dedicated to support the projects for species conservation and ecosystem restoration, which will also create more than 350 jobs.
Scheduled for completion by December 2021, the projects were identified by provincial government biologists, non-government partners and regional staff with local knowledge of priority needs.
“Healthy watersheds and ecosystems are critically important for species conservation and climate adaptation, reducing the impacts and risks caused by floods, droughts and wildfires,” said George Heyman, minister of environment and climate change strategy. “By working with partners across the province, we are restoring priority habitat to support threatened species. These meaningful projects also highlight the importance of environmental stewardship and what can be achieved when we work together.”