This is the time of year when the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) releases the chinook smolts from the Puntledge River Hatchery for them to migrate into the ocean.
In previous years, to assist them in moving downstream, the release was well-timed to the increased water flows, coinciding with the annual kayak festival. With the kayak event cancelled this year due to land accessibility issues, BC Hydro will release higher volumes of water down the Puntledge River to give the smolts a better success rate in migrating past seals in the lower river. The public is advised to keep away from the river banks of the Puntledge River on May 29.
“Fisheries and Oceans Canada has requested increased water flows in the Puntledge River as a possible means to prevent seals from eating juvenile and adult salmon during key migration periods, and to improve fish survival,” said DFO Puntledge Watershed manager Laurent Frisson. “DFO appreciates this co-operative effort with BC Hydro, and their assistance in protecting the unique Puntledge River Summer Chinook population.”
About 1.8 million fall chinooks and about 300,000 summer chinooks will be released on Tuesday.
Since February, BC Hydro has conserved water in the Comox Lake Reservoir due to the very dry weather conditions.
The one-day higher flow will result in less power generation, yet still enable BC Hydro to have the reservoir full in June. The reservoir level is currently at about 135 metres and about 30 cm from being full to capacity – it may be near that level by end of day Tuesday. The reservoir hit a low of about 131.4 metres in March.
“On May 22, we reduced the Puntledge River flow, and power generation, from about 26 m3/s to about 18 m3/s to conserve water for the Chinook smolt release,” said BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson, in a press release.
“Beginning Tuesday night, water flows from the dam will increase from about 18 m3/s to about 60 m3/s. That flow rate will hold until reduced back to about 26 m3/s on Wednesday night. The forecasted water inflows into the system over the next week from a depleting snowpack is around 35 m3/s and slowly dropping.”