Campbell River has broken the rainfall record with its driest year yet.
According to BC Hydro, from October 2013 to present, the precipitation in the Campbell River system has been the lowest in 33 years of recordings.
“Only 1,250 millimetres of rain has fallen since October, and the second driest year on record had about 1,500 mm – a significant difference in itself,” said Stephen Watson, spokesperson for BC Hydro in a news release. “Total precipitation has been 59 per cent of average. Total water inflows into the Campbell River system have been about 63 per cent of average, and those records go back about 45 years.”
Because of the dry conditions, the John Hart Generating Station has not run at full capacity (around 125 m3/s) since last October.BC Hydro will also not be increasing flows in the Campbell River as early as it usually does, around the third week of September, because of the unusual conditions. Watson said while a lack of rain can pose problems, BC Hydro has been proactive in finding a solution.
“BC Hydro has been conserving water since last winter and that action has helped (us) manage through this extended and ongoing dry period as we balance the water use interests between the reservoirs and Campbell River,” Watson. “While conditions are not ideal, it could have been worse across the watershed had BC Hydro not been so proactive.”
BC Hydro is maintaining flows in the Campbell River of about 40 m3/s from now until mid-October when river flows are anticipated to increase to 80 m3/s to fully cover the riverbed for spawning chinook salmon. As things stand right now, total water inflows into the whole river system are not even a quarter of the downstream discharge through John Hart, at just eight m3/s.
Upper Campbell Reservoir/Buttle Lake and Lower Campbell Reservoir are below the typical range for this time of year. However, given the extended dry conditions, Watson said BC Hydro managed to keep these reservoirs just within recreational levels for the public through most of the summer.
“The Upper Campbell Reservoir will begin to draft as we enter the shoulder season through into October, subject to a change in the weather conditions,” Watson said. “BC Hydro will keep the Campbell River lower than target until mid-October when an increase in flow is planned, but still not all the way up to the target flow which is based on more average water inflow conditions.”
Watson added that the Upper Campbell Reservoir/Buttle Lake is currently 216.9 metres, or about 1.8 metres below the median for this time of the year. Lower Campbell Reservoir/McIvor Lake is currently 175.9 metres, or about 1.3 metres below the median for this time of the year.
BC Hydro is providing a minimum flow of 0.6 m3/s down the Quinsam River in consideration of the record number of pink salmon returns. BC Hydro has not diverted water from the Quinsam River since June 3.
Elk Falls Canyon
Each year at this time BC Hydro provides nine, 48-hour pulse flows down Elk Falls Canyon to benefit migrating salmon.
“Elk Falls is a natural barrier to fish passage, though there is good habitat between the generating station and the falls,” Watson said. “The pulse flows will happen every Tuesday and Wednesday for nine weeks beginning September 16. Flows in the canyon will increase from about four m3/s to seven m3/s. BC Hydro may reduce the flows out of the generating station an equal amount during these pulses to conserve water.”
BC Hydro advises the public to stay away from the Campbell River upstream of Elk Falls while the pulse flows are taking place. Safety warning signage will be in place.