Due to the mild winter and lack of snowpack, BC Hydro has announced that it will not perform its usual spring spill.
“The snowpack has been trending near record low levels and in early April, it became the lowest snowpack for that time of year since records started in 1981,” said BC Hydro communications officer Stephen Watson, in a May 7 press release. “At one snow measurement location at 1,600 m elevation, no snow has accumulated since mid-January.
“Unfortunately, the low precipitation, the record low snowpack and the dry forecast ahead, the water conditions are quickly moving to extreme. We are seeing water inflows into the reservoir similar to July, not early May.”
The announcement from BC Hydro came five days after the announcement from organizers of the Puntledge Paddle Festival that they would be cancelling the event this year.
“We had been in discussions with BC Hydro and they told us that it (spill) was probably was not going to happen so … in interest of the community and water conservation we (cancelled the event),” said festival organize David Prothero.
The Puntledge River Hatchery is also affected by the announcement, as the chinook smolt release is scheduled to coincide with the annual spill, in an effort to help push the young fish past the seals and into the ocean.
“With due discretion on what could be extremely low water conditions this summer, all parties came to the conclusion that the multi-day annual Puntledge Paddle Festival and the multi-day water release for chinook smolts will not happen this year,” said Watson, in the press release. “This is the first time this has occurred since the water use plan was implemented in 2004.
“BC Hydro will likely maintain its current discharge of about 15-16 m3/s from Comox dam, and run the generating station at about 20 per cent of capacity, for the weeks and months ahead. This flow level keeps key fish habitat covered within the river. Operational adjustments will be made as needed. BC Hydro will continue working with Fisheries and Oceans Canada in the coming weeks to discuss upstream inflows, Puntledge River flow conditions, and any minor adjustments that may be provided to optimize salmon out-migration.”