Vision: After the flood

Cowichan is two-thirds of the way to its flood protection goals.

Officials celebrated the completion of phase two of a massive three-tiered diking project during a ceremony in June.

Decades of water channel modifications and closures, an accumulation of large amounts of gravel and log jams combined to chase more than 200 Duncan area residents from their homes in November, 2009.

Different levels of government spent about $1.5 million responding in its immediate aftermath.

It was a scenario they didn’t want repeated. In the months that followed they implemented a plan, that ironically enough, had been completed the month before the major flood.

Nearly five years later, those efforts are bearing fruit.

“The whole point of developing the management plan was to be proactive, to protect our assets,” Duncan’s mayor, Phil Kent said. “But we can’t let our guard down, the environment is always changing.”

Phase one involved working on a number of dikes to protect the areas that were flooded in 2009.

Phase two involved looking at the remaining dikes, repairing some, moving others and as Kent says, returning the flood plain to a more normal, natural state.

Phase two’s completed Tier 2 North projects, being managed by North Cowichan, are north of the Cowichan River, including the Lakes Road dike, Beverly Street dike, York Road pump station and the Quamichan Village bank stabilization.

The Tier 2 South projects, being managed by the Cowichan Valley Regional District, are south of the river, including the South Side Spur dike upgrade, Connector dike, Mission Road dike upgrade, Hatchery Road dike and Hatchery dike repair.

Work has also been completed to protect Quamichan village and its road and sewage infrastructure from the Cowichan River, just below the Joint Utilities Board Central Sewage Treatment facility.

The federal and provincial governments provided $5.16 million, with the feds adding an additional $1.19 million via the federal gas-tax fund. The local government partnership contributed the rest — $3.15 million.

Of particular concern among all parties was the impact the flood, log jams and gravel and sediment were having on fish, which were spawning at the time.

At one location, during a period of a year, a log jam had reached 1 1/2 stories high. Thousands of metres of gravel had to be removed.

“We only had three weeks to remove it, it was a miracle that we did it, everyone worked well with  Fisheries,”  Rob Hutchins, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s chairman said.

That leaves phase three.

That phase involves ongoing gravel removal maintenance over three years; removal and maintenance of log jams; and community consultation and discussion regarding long-term objectives and flood management issues including governance and financial arrangements.

While the new diking was being built, the CVRD, thanks to a $1.13-million grant from the province, has also been working on developing a long-term planning strategy for the Cowichan and Koksilah flood plains.

Kate Miller, manager of the CVRD’s environmental initiative division, said it’s expected the report and its recommendations will be tabled this winter, with the CVRD’s board.

“All of the work that has been done has been done to the latest standards,” Kent said. “We’re well protected, but there are no guarantees.”

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