BC Hydro is warning Campbell River users of river flow fluctuations until Feb. 15.
Anglers entering the river below the John Hart generating station until mid-February are advised to be cautious of changing river levels. The upcoming six-week period is the only time that BC Hydro can adjust operations to meet electrical system demands, thanks to the life cycle of fish that return to the river. Since electricity demand is higher in the winter, flows can change quickly. BC Hydro typically conserves water at night and increases power generation during the day to cover domestic load needs and take advantage of favourable market conditions. This helps maintain hydro rates across the province.
During the winter, alevin and salmon eggs are in the gravel and adult salmon have finished their spawning cycle. The minimum river flow for the salmon is 80 cubic metres per second, and during this time, thanks to good water levels in the system, BC Hydro can increase that to 128 cubic metres per second.
That being said, the river flows can change quickly at all times of the year, and people should obey the public warning system in the river. When sirens are activated, people need to temporarily move out of the river channel until the higher flow passes, BC Hydro said in a release.
Fall 2020 was drier than normal, according to the seasonal update from BC Hydro. The cumulative precipitation in the upper Campbell River watershed was 77 per cent of normal for October. November was 93 per cent of normal and December was 90 per cent of normal.
The level has increased over the past week because of the series of weather systems that have hit the area over the holiday season.
“With more water in the system, the John Hart powerhouse is expected to run near full capacity for the near-term,” the release from BC Hydro reads.
November, December and January are typically the wettest months of the year. The Upper Campbell Reservoir and Buttle Lake system fluctuates between 212 metres above sea level and 220.5 metres above sea level. It is currently at approximately 218.65 and is rising. Lower Campbell Reservoir and McIvor lake fluctuates between 174 and 178.3 metres, and is currently at 177.5.
“Weather conditions can change quickly and so could the changing conditions in the reservoirs and Campbell River. In the previous three years, in the month of January, we spilled extra water downstream of the John Hart facility due to storms,” the release reads. “We’ll see what this January brings.”