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BC Hydro warning Campbell River water recreation users

River flows may fluctuate quickly as the energy provider responds to electricity demands
The Campbell River water levels on May 31, 2017 were quite high due to BC Hydro managing high flows cause by rapid snowmelt entering the upstream reservoirs.

BC Hydro is advising anglers and other people using Campbell River for recreation to be wary in the coming weeks.

As the area enters the winter months, customer energy demand is at its highest.

“From January 1 to February 15 we have increased flexibility to adjust operations at the John Hart facility to respond to electric system demands, planned outages within our grid system, and to make the most economic use through market conditions of water stored in our reservoirs,” said BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson. “This means Campbell River flows may adjust from 128 cubic metres per second down to 80 m3/s within a short period of time, or vice versa.”

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Temporary signage has been posted along the river banks advising caution.

“There is only a six week period of the year where BC Hydro can quickly, within our water use plan, adjust operations at the John Hart facility,” Watson explained. “This is tied to the fish life-cycle as alevin and salmon eggs are in the gravel – there are no adult salmon.

“Fish habitat is fully covered with water at about 80 m3/s.”

Fishermen hoping to catch a few steelhead in or around the river should be aware of this operational flexibility and be cautious.

“Steelhead will be entering the system but have not yet spawned,” Watson said. “Generally, we look to ramp up the flows in the early morning before daylight, and then ramp down flows in the evening, but there could be variations.”

For water supply conditions within the Campbell River systems, October and November were much wetter than normal, while December has been drier than normal. Precipitation within the upper watershed, with 41 years of data, was 136 per cent of normal in October, 148 per cent of normal in November, and to date in December, 75 per cent.

“The John Hart powerhouse was running at capacity during the fall storms and on December 15 was reduced to about 80 per cent of capacity - about 107 m3/s of water flow through the system and down the Campbell River,” Watson said. “Over a period of days we’ve moved to full generation, or about 128 m3/s, with the very cold temperatures.”

Water inflows into the watershed are around 40 m3/s with the drier and cooler weather over the past few weeks. Should conditions remain cold and dry, BC Hydro may reduce river flows.

“The Upper Campbell Reservoir/Buttle Lake fluctuates between 212 metres and about 220.5 metres,” Watson said. “It hit a peak of about 219.9 metres this past fall, but has been slowly dropping and is currently at 218.1 metres.

“The Lower Campbell Reservoir/McIvor Lake fluctuates between 174 metres and about 178.3 metres, and is currently at 177.6 metres.”

He noted snowpack in the upper watershed is currently slightly above normal.

“Our February to September 2022 water supply forecast may be provided in early February,” Watson said.

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