BC Hydro crew members recover fish from the empty underground John Hart generating station tunnels on Aug. 19, 2022. The tunnels have been de-watered to conduct regular maintenance. BC Hydro photo

BC Hydro crew members recover fish from the empty underground John Hart generating station tunnels on Aug. 19, 2022. The tunnels have been de-watered to conduct regular maintenance. BC Hydro photo

Eerie look inside de-watered underground John Hart tunnels

Maintenance work that emptied tunnels will be extended resulting in longer road closure over dam

BC Hydro has emptied the underground John Hart generating station of water this month to conduct regularly-scheduled maintenance on the tunnels.

The public got a look at the inside of the empty tunnels when the power utility posted a picture of a crew rescuing fish trapped in the huge underground tunnels on Aug. 19. Protocol requires the company to salvage any fish trapped in the system. The water is lowered slowly and the tunnels were designed with low areas to be able to collect the fish, BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson said. Mostly sculpins were recovered and the picture showed workers recovering the fish and placing them in buckets.

Meanwhile, Watson provided an update on the road closure across the John Hart Dam and on the company’s public safety notice about high flows down Elk Falls Canyon.

There is a Brewster Lake Road closure across the John Hart Dam this week to Friday, Aug. 26, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The closure is in place for crews to coordinate their work at the power tunnel intake that’s part of the four-year maintenance cycle to dewater and inspect the approximate 2.1 kilometres of John Hart underground tunnels. The tunnel inspections have gone well, Watson said.

But the company continues to work through some “complexities at the water intake” and requires additional days of road closures across the dam next week, from Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The road across the dam will be open this Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 27-28. Site road signage will be updated.

RELATED: Elk Falls water flow will increase 12-fold as BC Hydro diverts water from underground tunnels

“We were planning to redirect the water flow from Elk Falls Canyon back down the John Hart power tunnel today (Aug. 25), though this has been extended to Sept. 2,” Watson said..

The base flow in Elk Falls Canyon is 4 cubic metre per second (m3/s) and since Aug. 6, the flow rate has been about 50 m3/s. BC Hydro is extending its public safety notice to stay away from Elk Falls and the canyon water flow through Sept. 2. Temporary safety signage will be updated around the Elk Falls area. People will be able to take advantage of the majestic views of the falls from the safety of the Elk Falls suspension bridge.

BC Hydro plans to reduce the total Campbell River flow below the John Hart facilities to about 40 m3/s in early September. Towards the end of September, the company plans to increase the river flow to 80 m3/s and eventually 100 m3/s to provide good spawning conditions for Chinook salmon, and to lower the upstream reservoir water levels as the company looks ahead to storm season and the potential for flood risk management operations. BC Hydro will provide an operational update around mid-September.

RELATED: VIDEO: John Hart Dam replacement project edging closer to completion

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Elk Falls flowing about 12 times the normal flow rate at 50 m3/s in August, 2022. BC Hydro photo

Elk Falls flowing about 12 times the normal flow rate at 50 m3/s in August, 2022. BC Hydro photo

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