Quamichan gets hefty $50,000 planning grant

Sarah Simpson, Cowichan Valley Citizen, November 12, 2008

The Quamichan Watershed Stewardship Committee has received nearly $50,000 from the federal Eco-Action community funding program.

Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder visited the committee lakeside on Nov. 5 to see first-hand the problems facing Quamichan Lake and to congratulate their caretakers on the successful grant application.

"Your group has made tremendous progress since its inception only two-and-a-half years ago," she said. "It is a good example of doing things differently and demonstrates a successful partnership between all of the stakeholders and the power of community involvement."

Roger Hart, Jim Cosh and Jean Crowder talk about the future of Quamichan Lake.

Stewardship committee chairman, Roger Hart, and treasurer, Jim Cosh, joined Crowder on her trip to the lake. Hart explained that the health of the 18.8-square kilometre watershed has been deteriorating for over 50 years and the community needs to take action before it reaches an irreversible death cycle.

And to allow the eco-system to die would mean its non-human inhabitants would also suffer, if not perish entirely.

Quamichan Lake is a relatively small shallow eutrophic (nutrient rich) lake drainage basin of approximately 1,708 hectares, with a lake surface area of 313 ha (70 acres) maximum depth four metres. The lake is home to stickleback, rainbow and cutthroat trout, brown cat-fish, a variety of frogs, mink, otter, beaver, trumpeter swans, heron, eagles and osprey. That wildlife is in harm's way.

But, with the funds received from Eco-Action, together with $10,000 funding from the Pacific Salmon Foundation and substantial in-kind and cash donations from the community, a management plan that will take the whole watershed into consideration and provide a blueprint for restoring the lake to health is being developed.

Over the next 10 months the Stewardship Committee will work to develop a management plan that firmly reflects a whole watershed focus and a final management plan will outline clear activities to improve the health of Quamichan Lake and positively influence the watershed area.

"We have a eutrophic (nutrient rich) lake because in the past we didn't strike the right balance between development and maintaining a healthy watershed," said Hart. "While we believe that we will successfully restore Quamichan Lake to a point where children will once again safely swim in the water, we need to learn from our mistakes and ensure that our future development enhances our quality of life."

The plan will be developed in partnership with all of the stakeholders, including the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the B.C. Ministries of Environment and Agriculture, the Municipality of North Cowichan, local farmers, and residents of the watershed.

© Cowichan Valley Citizen 2008