BC Hydro to survey recreational river users

BC Hydro has started a public recreation use survey along the Campbell River watershed

BC Hydro has started a public recreation use survey along the Campbell River watershed.

The survey will canvass people on their perceptions of recreation use and compare those perceptions to reservoir levels.

“As part of the Campbell River water use plan and BC Hydro’s water licence requirements, BC Hydro is starting a public survey over the next nine years or so to identify correlations between BC Hydro operations, such as flow rates and reservoir elevations, to recreation use and public perceptions,” says BC Hydro’s Stephen Watson.

“Most of the recreational perspectives have been provided through professional opinion by key stakeholders and agencies, dating back from 2000 to 2003.

“This study will survey thousands of people who use the watershed for recreation to get far more detailed information in comparing hydroelectric operations to public use values. It will provide a much better understanding of the recreational water use interests.”

The study area consists of recreation areas within the Campbell River system and will focus mainly on areas of high usage such as the BC Parks and Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) recreation sites.

Sites have been determined based on community engagement with representatives from relevant agencies and stakeholders.

A 15-minute questionnaire has been designed and will be administered to recreational site users by two surveyors.

Key areas of questioning will include types of recreational activities at the reservoir, quality of recreational experience, use and familiarity of the area, perspectives on BC Hydro operations in relation to recreation, and demographics.

Other data collected will include average reservoir levels, river discharge, and local climate data such as the number of sunny days.

“In early 2013, as an outcome of the water use plan, BC Hydro modified its hydroelectric water flow regimes on the Campbell River system and it’s time to assess those changes and fill in data gaps,” says Watson.

“We expect significant water abundance variations and reservoir conditions year to year, and this year is obviously a record dry summer. We will get a full range of conditions over the years.”

The survey also involves a study method called a discrete choice experiment to measure the importance individuals place on features affected by BC Hydro operations.

This relates to water elevation in reservoirs, flow rates in rivers, to the amount of water passing over Elk Falls, and other factors when choosing a recreational destination.

The survey presents respondents with a combination of photos and text, and asks respondents to choose their preference.

Through this process, the study will be able to examine preferences and trade-offs, providing a means of assessing the role BC Hydro operations play when people are choosing which recreation site to visit.

The study started in August and will continue at intervals through the summer, fall, winter and spring seasons around the Campbell River watershed.

Data will be collected over an eight to 10 year period. The cost of the monitoring program is $1.2 million.

The survey will be administered through a First Nations contract with Laich-Kwil-Tach Environmental Assessments Limited Partnership.