There was water everywhere in Campbell River Tuesday morning after storm conditions hit the city overnight. Road flooding occured on 16th Avenue.

BC Hydro on flood watch

The Upper Campbell Reservoir/Buttle Lake rose almost one metre in 24 hours from Monday to Tuesday

BC Hydro is delicately balancing water levels in the Campbell River and behind John Hart Dam in a tense effort to manage a ‘perfect storm’ of flood conditions.

“We may likely need to further increase the discharge through the Elk Falls Canyon as we try to manage through these flood risk management conditions,” BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson said Tuesday morning.

BC Hydro had spent Monday night keeping a nervous eye on the Campbell River watershed after a combination of heavy rain, winds and high tides hit Monday night and Tuesday morning.

The Upper Campbell Reservoir/Buttle Lake rose almost one metre in 24 hours from Monday to Tuesday. As the reservoir level increases, BC Hydro’s downstream operational flexibility diminishes, Watson said.

Two waves of subtropical storms hit the Campbell River area this week bringing the wind and rain. Meanwhile, the flood watch continues.

“This was a major rain event and the wet weather continues – this will be a multiple day event,” Watson said.

BC Hydro increased the spill down Elk Falls Canyon to 180 m3/s on Monday night to provide a total Campbell River flow above the Quinsam River of 300 m3/s. In consideration of the uncontrolled Quinsam River and the high tide Tuesday morning, BC Hydro backed off power generation from the John Hart Generating Station considerably during that sensitive period and just barely managed to keep the flows within the river bank.

Since the weekend, BC Hydro had been spilling water down Elk Falls Canyon from the John Hart Dam and that looks to continue for at least the next nine days to balance high reservoir elevations and flood risk along the Campbell River. BC Hydro was anticipating the available reservoir storage to be taken up fast over the weekend, and with it, BC Hydro’s flexibility to back off during high ocean tides.

Wind and wave action combines with high tides to drive driftwood onto the Seawalk along the Island Highway Tuesday morning (Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror).

BC Hydro will operate the John Hart dam and generating station in consideration of the high ocean tides each morning and unregulated Quinsam River discharge. BC Hydro said it will try to keep river flows above the Quinsam River at or below 350 m3/s. This means the Elk Falls Canyon flow may reach 230 m3/s as BC Hydro modifies its operations as needed to deal with these major storms.

“The public is advised to stay away from the Campbell River and Elk Falls during these high flows,” Watson said. “We have reached out to the City of Campbell River, Strathcona Regional District and Emergency Management BC so that we are all coordinated.”