The Campbell River will be in the pink June 21 and 23. Literally.
As part of a river flow test down the Elk Falls Canyon, BC Hydro will turn the Campbell River’s water pink.
“To better understand possible fish habitat implications, we’ll be using a pink, water-soluble fluorescent dye called Rhodamine, which is commonly used as a ground and surface water tracer in hydrological studies,” says BC Hydro’s Senior Environmental Coordinator, Don Reid. “This pink dye is benign and will be placed into the river just above Elk Falls. The water going over the falls will turn pink for less than a minute. The river will turn pink for a brief time three to four times per day, and as it moves downstream the colour will dilute and diminish.
The dye is not anticipated to have any impacts to fish and fish habitat. Depending on how quickly the coloured water moves down the canyon, over a range of river flows, we will have a better picture of fish rearing habitat or refuge areas. As part of the test, we’ll also place a small number of coloured gravel cobbles in key areas of the canyon to measure gravel movement.”
BC Hydro is carrying out studies in preparation for the environmental assessment process for the John Hart Generating Station Replacement Project.
On June 21, BC Hydro will be increasing the canyon water flow from John Hart Dam from the base flow of about four cubic metres per second (m3/s) to a maximum of 120 m3/s and bring the canyon flow back to four m3/s by the end of the day. On June 23, they will repeat the same river flow test process.
The controlled flow tests are required to better understand total gas pressure (TGP), fish presence, fish habitat at various flow levels, and canyon gravel movement thresholds, Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson says. TGP is the opposite of the bends that people can get when diving. It occurs when too much air is forced into the water column where it may enter a fish’s body potentially leading to mortality. High water flow velocities can move gravel and impact fish habitat.
BC Hydro has a water license that allows for a maximum seasonal river flow. This means they will modify generating station discharge and water releases from the John Hart Spillway Dam so that appropriate water levels flow past First Island. At one point on both June 21 and June 23, there may be no water discharge from the generating station so that river flows downstream remain unchanged.
“Safety is our top priority so public river recreation from our property won’t be allowed during the tests due to potentially hazardous flow fluctuations, and people need to stay out of the upper Campbell River, particularly above Elk Falls,” Watson says.
Public safety signage will be placed along the river to provide notice of the higher river flows at and above the generating station given the active recreation season.
BC Hydro environment experts are leading a consultant team to learn as much as possible from the tests.
“This flow test will provide important study information to the John Hart Generating Station Replacement Project, which we expect will spill water into the canyon during the construction of the replacement facility,” Reid says. “The transfer of water flows from the current facility to the replacement generating station will require a spill, and each of the three John Hart pipelines that carry large volumes of water will be taken out of service at least once during final construction and commissioning, so we need to know what the impact may be on the environment, and if so, how to mitigate it.”
Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Ministry of Natural Resource Operations have approved the flow tests.
Public awareness signage explaining the pink colour hue will be placed downstream of the generating station to the logging bridge.
“We remind the public that releasing anything into the river without consulting the proper agencies is strongly discouraged,” adds Reid.
It’s possible that if all relevant data collection is obtained and is conclusive from the June 21 test, then the June 23 flow test would be cancelled. BC Hydro will slowly increase the canyon water flow over the day.