The Cowichan River Stoltz Bluff Restoration Project
A Remarkable River Restoration Project
The 2006 rebuilding of the Stoltz Bluff on British Columbia’s Cowichan River is one of the most remarkable river restoration projects in Canada.
The challenges were daunting: divert a one kilometer stretch of the Cowichan River; dry out the channel; move more than 40,000 cubic metres of river sediment; keep 30,000 stranded fish alive; bypass 3,000 recreational river users during the summer, and return the river to its original course.
Why Undertake This Massive Project?
Silt from Stoltz Bluff had been eroding into the river for many years, resulting in a buildup of fine sediment that diminished the water quality and destroyed critical spawning grounds and fish habitat. In some years, the survival rate of Cowichan Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Salmon dropped below six percent.
Something had to be done.
Working in Partnership
Cowichan elders teach: “Nuts’amat Shqwaluwun” which means “Working together with one heart and one mind”. This teaching captured the approach for this project.
A coalition of local partners used the Cowichan’s heritage river designation to mobilize community and financial support. Facilitated by the Cowichan Stewardship Roundtable, the restoration project involved Cowichan tribes, federal and provincial government agencies, industry, NGO and community representatives.
The project was completed in 2006 and since then, spawning grounds have been restored, water quality and fish numbers have improved significantly and recreational use of the Cowichan River has been greatly enhanced.
An Award-Winning Project
The CHRS National River Conservation Award of Merit was awarded to members of the Cowichan River project team in 2009 in recognition of their remarkable undertaking and of the multi-agency community stewardship approach to this river conservation project.
The 47 km main stem of the Cowichan River, which is known as the Khowutzun in the Coast Salish language, was designated to the CHRS in 2003, based on the outstanding cultural and natural heritage values of the river, as well as its recreational values. Many groups are involved in the management of this river, including the Cowichan Valley Regional District, the Cowichan Watershed Board, and the Cowichan Tribes.