Changes to BC Hydro’s Campbell River hydroelectric operations kick into gear this month and next as part of its new water use plan.
This includes a one-day doubling of the river flow to prepare for the anticipated fall rains and to provide salmon with good accessibility to spawning habitat within the Campbell River, and a new series of fish migration flows down Elk Falls Canyon to facilitate chinook and coho access to spawning habitat up to Elk Falls.
“BC Hydro asks recreation users to please be cautious with the upcoming higher river flows,” said BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson.
Since the 1990s, on Sept. 15, BC Hydro would begin to increase the discharge out of the John Hart Generating Station from about 40 cubic metres per second (m3/s) to about 100 m3/s over a two-week period. The new licence allows the increase to occur over one day and BC Hydro will move from the current river flow of 37 m3/s to about 80 m3/s on Sept. 22. The river flow will begin to increase that day at 11 p.m. and reach the targeted higher flow by the morning of Sept. 23. The riverbed is fully covered with water at 79 m3/s so this will provide for good chinook spawning.
Pushing out the higher river flows by a week provides an added period of excellent river accessibility for the pink salmon fishery.
BC Hydro is not yet going to the full 100 m3/s range out of consideration for the dry weather forecast. It is likely the higher river flow will be achieved in October.
The Upper Campbell Reservoir/Buttle Lake is currently at 218.4 metres and is currently forecast to be around 217.6 metres by the end of the month should the weather forecast hold. BC Hydro will adjust operations as needed by the weather conditions.
“We typically like the reservoir below 218 metres by October,” Watson said.
BC Hydro’s focus this fall will be on flood risk management and a close watch for any incoming large storm systems.
Beginning each Tuesday and Wednesday, starting Sept. 17 and 18, for nine consecutive weeks ending Nov. 13, BC Hydro will increase the water release down Elk Falls Canyon from 4 m3/s to 7 m3/s. The water increase will happen overnight, and river safety advisory signage will be placed upstream of Elk Falls.
The migration flows down the canyon earlier this year targeted steelhead, and this flow release is targeting spawning salmon to access holding pools and gravel beds below the falls.
BC Hydro modified its Campbell River hydroelectric operations in January based on the significant consensus-based input from First Nations, agencies and stakeholders to ensure that water resources met a range of social, recreational, environmental, operational and financial objectives.