Reliability and public safety are the main drivers for BC Hydro for maintaining the three facilities on the Puntledge River hydroelectric system. A new capital project will help to maintain that reliability and improve public safety.
“There is high recreational use along the Puntledge River with swimming, tubing and sunbathing, and then in the fall and winter there’s a big focus on flood risk management as we deal with large storm events hitting the area,” said BC Hydro spokesperson, Stephen Watson. “So whether it’s July and there’s perhaps 500 people along the river system between the Comox Dam and the estuary, or it’s December when we’re adjusting flows from the two spillway gates at the Comox Dam to respond to high ocean tides and a storm event, we require our equipment to operate dependably. Our facilities need to operate as intended, and that includes minimizing or even preventing the chance of an unplanned flow event from our facilitates to protect public safety and fish habitat, and being able to safely hold back or release water downstream as operationally needed during storm events.”
The Puntledge River Flow Control Project, at a cost of up to $47 million, has been in the planning stages for the last few years. BC Hydro is ready to begin the procurement process and a Request for Proposals in thehfall, start construction in summer 2024, and complete the project by early 2026.
The components of the project include improving the operating reliability of the Comox Dam spillway gates, the Puntledge Diversion Dam intake gates that pass water down the penstock to the powerhouse, the fish screens within the penstock, key equipment and large water valves at the powerhouse, and improving the available watershed tools and information for making continued good and timely operational decisions.
All the work is on BC Hydro facilities and property. No river flow changes are needed for the upgraded works though there will be penstock and powerhouse outages in the summer of 2024 and 2025. Some early site preparation works will take place leading up to the project construction work.
Over the last eight years BC Hydro has made a number of upgrades. This includes upgraded water flow monitoring gauges around the watershed; upgrading and replacing the siren warning system; and the recently completed Puntledge Penstock Recoating Project.
BC Hydro provides maintenance to its facilities two or three times per year.
“We communicate with the community on a regular basis on our operations so people are informed, particularly when river flows are up and to be safety aware,” said Watson.
BC Hydro’s Puntledge River hydroelectric system consists of the Comox Lake Reservoir, Comox Dam, Puntledge Diversion Dam, 5 km-long woodstave and steel penstock, and 24 megawatt powerhouse. Hydroelectric power on the Puntledge was first completed by Canadian Collieries Dunsmuir Limited in 1912 for coal mining operations. The BC Power Commission, the predecessor to BC Hydro, took it over in 1953 and undertook major facility upgrades. The powerhouse is an important local electricity supply source for the Comox Valley.
For more information on the Puntledge River Flow Control Project, contact Watson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-250-755-4795.