The Elk Falls Suspension Bridge is seen from above in June 2020. Photo courtesy of Stephen Watson – BC Hydro

Increased water flows planned for the Campbell River system in coming weeks

BC Hydro warning public to be aware around Elk Falls and the canyon

BC Hydro has issued notice of water flow increases over Elk Falls to meet seasonal fish migration needs and accommodate John Hart Dam maintenance work as well as system seasonal water supply needs

John Hart maintenance work and redirection of flows down Elk Falls Canyon

This is the time of year for annual maintenance as needed for powerhouse water intake at the John Hart Dam, tunnels, generators, and related equipment, BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson reports.

It is timed to coincide with low water conditions. To do some work on the water intake, water flow down the tunnel will be redirected through the spillway gates at the dam down Elk Falls Canyon to maintain the downstream river flow. The four cubic metre per second (m3/s) canyon base flow will increase to about 30 m3/s on Sunday evening, Sept. 12. That flow rate will be maintained through Sept. 18.

BC Hydro is issuing a public safety notice of the flow increase down Elk Falls Canyon and a warning to stay away from Elk Falls and the canyon. Temporary safety signage will be in place around Elk Falls. People can view the falls from the safety of the Elk Falls suspension bridge.

Fish migration flows down Elk Falls Canyon

As BC Hydro does each year at this time, it will be providing 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 in the lower canyon. The first migration flow will be part of the water release next week, with the other eight occurring every Wednesday and Thursday, ending on Nov. 11. Flow in the canyon will increase from about 4 m3/s to about 7 m3/s.

During these migration flows, and generally at any time of the year, people should stay away from the water flow upstream of Elk Falls. Temporary safety signage will be in place.

Brewster Lake Road closure across John Hart Dam

The Brewster Lake Road will be closed off on either side of the dam Sept. 20-24, Sept. 27-Oct. 1, and Oct. 4-8, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

This closure is needed for crews to move equipment around on the road deck and safely conduct annual maintenance work to the three John Hart Dam spillway gates. This year the planned cycle of maintenance work is more extensive. This work ensures ongoing spillway gate reliability, including during flood risk management operations this fall and winter.

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Temporary road closure signage will be posted on either side of the dam, as well as off Highway 28 closer to town. During the road closure periods, use the alternative route of Highway 19A.

Water supply and Campbell River flows

As we all know it has been a dry spring and summer, though BC Hydro was able to hold the upstream reservoirs – Upper Campbell Reservoir/Buttle Lake and Lower Campbell Reservoir/McIvor Lake – within the targeted summer recreation bands until near the end of August. At the same time BC Hydro has held the Campbell River at its typically low summer flow rate.

As we head into the fall period and storm season, a lower reservoir level is preferred in anticipation of those storm events for flexibility in flood risk management operations.

BC Hydro is also looking to increase flows for spawning salmon in the Campbell River. Beginning in the evening of Sept. 21, we will increase the total Campbell River flow of 30 m3/s to about 60 m3/s. Depending on weather and water supply conditions, we will increase flows to 80 m3/s by Oct. 15. The October and November target flow for fish spawning, mainly for Chinook, is 100 m3/s. Hopefully the target flow can be in place sometime in October for optimum spawning conditions. Anglers in the river should be aware and be cautious of the upcoming increases in flow rates starting on Sept. 21.

RELATED: Public risking lives on BC Hydro facilities pursuing perfect selfies

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