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BC Hydro testing warning sirens along Puntledge River May 14-16

A siren bank and strobe lights beside Barber’s Hole on the Puntledge River hydroelectric system. Photo supplied.

BC Hydro will be conducting its annual public warning system tests between May 14 and May 16.

Temporary signage advising of the siren tests will be placed along the Puntledghe River system.

“We are testing our public warning system to ensure it works as intended,” said Ted Olynyk, BC Hydro manager of community relations for Vancouver Island-Sunshine Coast. “We will manually test each siren on May 14. Each siren may engage for a few minutes. If any adjustments or repairs are needed they will be made on May 15. The full siren system test will take place on May 16. This will be accomplished by releasing a pulse of water from Comox Dam to trigger the warning system. BC Hydro staff will also be along the river to monitor the warning system.”

This test is also a reminder of potential hazards along the Puntledge River. The sirens and strobe lights are placed along the Puntledge River from the Comox Dam to Puntledge Park to warn of river flow increases. Permanent river safety signage is in place to advise what the siren sound means, and when heard, to move out of the river channel.

“The Puntledge River is part of a hydroelectric system where river flows may change quickly, whether planned or unplanned,” said Olynyk. “As the weather warms, it is natural for people to want to escape the heat and cool off in the water. About 500 people may be along the Puntledge River system at any given time on a summer day. It takes only 15 to 30 centimetres of fast-flowing water to knock a person off their feet.”

The Puntledge River hydroelectric system includes the Comox Dam, where the water released travels 3.7 kilometres down to the Puntledge River Diversion Dam. From there, a minimum fish habitat flow is provided down the river with the majority of water directed down a five-kilometre penstock to the generating station.