After more than a century of logging, agriculture and development, Vancouver Island’s Koksilah River watershed and its salmon are in serious decline. A groundbreaking water sustainability plan that brings together diverse interests could not only restore the river, but point a new way forward for watersheds across B.C. The rain is pounding relentlessly, stirring up silt in muddy side channels of the Koksilah River on eastern Vancouver Island, where a few picked-over chum salmon carcasses attract the attention of eagles. In the adjacent, fast-flowing main channel, mergansers gracefully ride the rough water while an ambitious seal has made its way kilometres up-river to snack on what remains of the season’s salmon run. Ignoring the December chill, Tim Kulchyski, Cowichan Tribes fisheries biologist and resource consultant, wades into a channel wearing shorts and Crocs to gauge the water’s flow and assess the decaying fish. Surrounded by scenic forests, acreages and farms, the Koksilah originates on the slopes of Waterloo Mountain, southwest of Shawnigan Lake, and flows through the Cowichan Valley eastward for 44 kilometres before emptying into the Strait of Georgia. The river races through rocky canyons, waterfalls and rapids, descending a total of 550 metres before reaching the shared […]

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