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Watch for increased flows as BC Hydro manages Campbell River system

Flows to increase for maintenance work and annual fish migration considerations
The Elk Falls Suspension Bridge is seen from above in June 2020. Photo courtesy of Stephen Watson – BC Hydro

BC Hydro is updating the community on activities that will impact water flows in the Campbell River beginning next week.

Three developments to watch out for are:

  • maintenance work at the John Hart facility that will change flows down Elk Falls Canyon,
  • the upcoming weekly salmon migration and spawning flows down the canyon, and
  • a more than twofold total Campbell River flow increase on Sept. 22 to provide better salmon spawning habitat.

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

BC Hydro needs to do further maintenance to the John Hart powerhouse works that they were unable to perform, due to COVID-19 protocols, during the July powerhouse outage period.

This work can now proceed, says BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson. We will also have scuba divers doing inspections near the water intake to the underground tunnel to assist in the ongoing planning for the John Hart Dam Seismic Upgrade Project. To do this work, water flow down the tunnel will be redirected through the spillway gates at the dam down Elk Falls Canyon to maintain downstream river flows.

The 4 cubic metre per second (m3/s) canyon base flow will increase to about 35 m3/s the evening of Sunday, Sept. 13. That flow rate will be maintained through Sept. 16.

“We are issuing a public safety notice of the flow increase down Elk Falls Canyon and to stay away from the upstream side of Elk Falls. People can view the falls from the safety of the suspension bridge.

Fish migration flows down Elk Falls Canyon

As the company 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 occur every Wednesday and Thursday beginning Sept. 15 and 16, and end on Nov. 12. 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 awareness signage will be placed at Elk Falls during the maintenance workflow increase, and the weekly fish migration flows.

Campbell River flow increase

Beginning in the evening of Sept. 21, BC Hydro will increase the total Campbell River flow of 35 m3/s to about 80 m3/s.

This flow rate will fully cover the riverbed and provide good river conditions for spawning salmon. The target flow for fish at this time of year is 100 m3/s, mainly for Chinook, though drier watershed conditions will delay this until we get more rain. Hopefully, the target flow can be in place sometime in October for optimum spawning conditions, Watson says.

Fishers in the river after some of those salmon should be aware and be cautious of the increasing flow rate on Sept. 22 and the substantial change in river flow hydraulics when in the river with waders.

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