Stability of a large cottonwood tree along the Chemainus River causes concern during heavy rainfall for the potential to block the flow of the river. (Photo by James Thomas)

Stability of a large cottonwood tree along the Chemainus River causes concern during heavy rainfall for the potential to block the flow of the river. (Photo by James Thomas)

Deep problems still mar river

Flooding will continue to be a concern until logjams and sand bars are cleared

We’re still in the same boat, so to speak, as a year ago pertaining to the Chemainus River.

Little has been done in the latter part of 2020 to change the course of the river to prevent the devastating flooding that occurred earlier in the year. Recent heavy rains almost created a repeat situation for residents of Chemainus Road living near the river, Westholme and the Halalt First Nation, but the weather fortunately improved in time for water levels to subside.

There were still reports of some water getting into the basements of houses on Halalt Road.

About the only course of action taken in the late summer was the removal of some logs under the Chemainus River bridge by the Municipality of North Cowichan. That significantly helped the water flow under the bridge.

Related story: Logjams and gravel bars the bane of Chemainus River’s existence

Logjams and gravel bars are a huge problem all along the river and need to be cleared much sooner than later or these floods are going to keep occurring. A bigger problem is the multi-jurisdictional aspect of the river that essentially involves all levels of government, the Halalt First Nation and private landowners to come up with a coordinated plan.

Private landowners and the Halalt can only do so much, but are obviously anxious to see the situation remedied. The municipality is active in doing everything in its power.

“The Chemainus River is a major watercourse within the Cowichan Valley Regional District and that portion of it within North Cowichan is small compared to the rest of the watershed,” explained North Cowichan’s Director of Engineering Dave Conway for an article in the Courier in September. “Recently many senior staff met with the Halalt to discuss immediate, short/medium and long term objectives that would improve the health of the river but this is a much larger project than the municipality could do on its own or could accomplish within municipal boundaries. Even within the boundaries there are exclusions such as the Halalt lands along the river.”

The provincial and federal governments have long known about the problems associated with the river, but have not given it any sense of urgency. The chances of further significant flood events will remain high as long as this apathy continues.

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Logjam under the Chemainus River bridge on Chemainus Road is cleared by North Cowichan work crew. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Logjam under the Chemainus River bridge on Chemainus Road is cleared by North Cowichan work crew. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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