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BC Hydro urging residents to stay clear of the Puntledge River

Multiple storm systems between Nov. 3-17 will force controlled water release from dam
A photo of the Comox Dam taken Oct. 31, 2023. Photo submitted

BC Hydro has issued a public safety advisory to stay away from the Puntledge River from Nov. 3-17.

There are a series of moderate storms forecasted to move over the region and water inflows into Comox Lake Reservoir will be increasing. Water releases from Comox Dam down the Puntledge River will be fluctuating over the next two weeks and will depend on the actual water inflows from the storms.

October had some storm activity and resulted in extra water releases from the dam to control the reservoir water level. The precipitation that fell in the upper watershed for the month of October was 95 per cent of normal. The reservoir water storage is within normal ranges for this time of year and there is some flexibility to absorb water inflows from the upcoming storms. To maintain that flexibility BC Hydro will need to release extra water downstream.

“We are entering the wettest three months of the year from November through December, and there are also ocean king tides during this period,” said BC Hydro spokesman Stephen Watson. “We have flood risk management operations in place during storms that consider how much water storage we have in the reservoir, how high the Browns and Tsolum rivers are flowing, the ocean tides, and possible storm surge up the estuary from high winds. During the high tides during a storm event, we generally reduce water flows for about four hours and then ramp up once the tide is moving out. We also communicate closely with the Comox Valley Emergency Program.”

The water release from the Comox Dam is generally around 35 cubic metres per second for full electricity generation at the powerhouse and for fish habitat flows. Over the next two weeks the flows may be in the 50 m3/s to 90 m3/s range. Going into this weekend the water release may be closer to 50 m3/s.

“These flow ranges are typical during storm season, and is how we operated last month when we released water for flood risk management considerations around the reservoir and downstream,” said Watson.

The Browns and Tsolum rivers will also be adding water into the river system downstream.

Temporary danger safety signage advising of the higher river flows have been posted.

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