Year in Review: Pumps, deer shooting, fentanyl

October through December were busy months at Cowichan Lake in 2016

A couple of young Lake Cowichan faces lay a wreath at the cenotaph in Lake Cowichan on Remembrance Day 2016. A solemn crowd gathered to mark the occasion.

OCTOBER

The pumps at the weir, which were commissioned with a public demonstration of their capabilities, were removed just a couple weeks later when experts determined that rainfall in early October was sufficient to get the lake through until the region’s wet season begins in earnest.

On Oct. 13 crews took the 20 pumps from atop the weir, following the heavy rains over Thanksgiving weekend.

“Because of the way that the lake can rise so fast, we didn’t want to be stuck with all that gear in the lake as [the water’s] just blistering through,” Houle said, referring to the high speeds at which the water can move through the weir.

Whether the pumps will be needed next year remains to be seen. Houle said it is not a given that the company will be putting them in.

“[There are] way too many variables to say to you today what we’re going to do next year,” he said, adding that he will be monitoring lake levels “like a hawk.”

Catalyst was renting the pumps from Canadian Dewatering, and Houle said keeping them any longer than necessary would be extremely costly.

The paper company has already invested $500,000 this year on the pumps, including the installation of transformers by the boat lock.

In other good news this month, the Town of Lake Cowichan learned federal and provincial funding sources are investing over $1 million in a series of water main upgrades.

“This is a huge, long-overdue improvements. Some of that infrastructure, water mains that we have were put in in the 1940s… It is nice to get to announce this,” said mayor Ross Forrest.

The upgrades will target five areas in town: Wilson Road, Park Road, Greendale Road, and the water lines running beneath the foot bridge and the Greendale Trestle.

On Thanksgiving weekend, the town welcomed its 2016 delegation from Ohtaki, Japan.

“It has already been 28 years since the culture exchange of Lake Cowichan and old Ohtaki village began,” said delegation leader Akira Ando. “In that time there have been many tragedies that have taken many lives such as the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the nuclear power station accident caused by the great East Japan earthquake… Through all of these events I am proud that for almost 30 years we have continued the cultural exchange with Lake Cowichan.”

The Lake also welcomed a different sort of delegation at the end of October — one of an undead nature. On Oct. 28, Youbou hosted its first ever zombie walk in which 20 or so community members dressed up in their goriest attire and lurched their way through town, no doubt inspiring a combination of horror, amusement and confusion in onlookers and passersby.

“It’s a social event where people get to dress and be silly,” said Kim Ring of the Youbou Community Association. “Our Halloween festivities at the hall are pretty spectacular so we wanted to amp that up a little bit more by having a zombie walk.”

NOVEMBER

On Nov. 12, Dawn Coe-Jones died after a months-long battle with sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. She was 56-years-old. News of the professional golfer’s death hit her hometown hard. Coe-Jones, whose warmth and infectious smile were almost as renowned as her prowess on the greens, grew up in Lake Cowichan and got her start playing at March Meadows in Honeymoon Bay.

Coe-Jones played college league golf as a student at Lamar University in Texas before moving on to the LPGA Tour, which she won three times: in 1992, 1994 and 1995. Although she settled in Tampa, Florida, Coe-Jones maintained a home in Honeymoon Bay, which she visited regularly along with her husband and son.

Many considered Coe-Jones an ambassador for Lake Cowichan, which she often mentioned by name during interviews and live television broadcasts.

Also this month, conservation officer and RCMP opened an investigation into the shooting of a deer in the Hundred Houses neighbourhood. Following the sound of a gunshot, witnesses saw a man in his 30s or 40s — dressed in camouflage apparel and driving a camouflage patterned ATV — flee the scene. The incident occurred in an area frequently used by neighbourhood residents and community members in general because of its proximity to the former A.B. Greenwell School and the trails that run through the forest there.

“[It was] likely shot right there, obviously within 100 metres of the houses. So that’s an offence under the Wildlife Act. You can’t hunt within 100 metres of a house,” said conservation officer Scott Norris, adding that the shooter had also violated a law against dangerous hunting.

This month we also spoke with the town about plans for a columbarium in Lake Cowichan — a final resting place for residents to keep the cremated remains of their loved ones. A lack of suitable land within local boundaries has historically prevented the town from building a cemetery, however, a columbarium requires much less space.

“There’s already been a few residents of the town asking if they could be listed; they’re holding their loved one’s ashes in an urn at home and would like to place them in a columbarium,” said APC chairman Ross Fitzgerald.

DECEMBER

RCMP in Lake Cowichan are still waiting to find out if fentanyl played a part in two sudden deaths at the Lake in recent months, but this month the detachment did confirm the powerful opioid’s presence at the lake.

“Currently we’re awaiting toxicology results on at least two sudden deaths we had here. We won’t know until we hear back from the coroner,” said Cpl. Rory Goncalves.

He declined to provide exact dates of those deaths, citing privacy concerns for the families involved, but said they were both within the last five months.

“I’m deeply disturbed that it’s in our community,” said Coun. Carolyne Austin. “There are so many vulnerable adults and youth in this community, it’s going to be hard to protect them.”

She said she’s heard drugs at the Lake are coming from Duncan, and if so she hopes authorities will find some way to head them off. She said from the town’s perspective, there’s not a whole lot council can do to solve local drug problems (particularly those related to fentanyl).

December was also the month with two severe house fires in the Cowichan Lake area. On Dec. 6, firefighters in Youbou were called to a blaze at a three-storey lakefront property on Lake Boulevard in Youbou.

On Dec. 7, Lake Cowichan Volunteer Fire Department and other detachments from around the lake were called to the scene of another structure fire, this time a mobile home on Skutz Falls Road.

Sybille Sanderson, the CVRD’s emergency program coordinator, said 2016 has been a busy year for her department. “I’ve had 20 this year. So we’ve had a lot of house fires this year. That’s higher than normal for us,” she said. “I’m not sure exactly what that is all about.”

She said that with the cold weather and snow that’s hit the Cowichan Valley this month, people must check heating appliances, stoves and chimneys to make sure they’re clean and in proper working order.

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