Kayakers in the Puntledge River on May 2 (photo by Heather Buckingham)

Kayakers in the Puntledge River on May 2 (photo by Heather Buckingham)

BC Hydro updates water supply forecast for Courtenay river

BC Hydro has updated its water supply forecast for the summer. There’s continued dry weather conditions within the Puntledge River watershed, though the ongoing snowmelt is helping to move the Comox Lake Reservoir water level upward, and achieve its goal of a full reservoir in June.

The amount of precipitation in the upper Puntledge watershed for February was 38 per cent of normal, March 97 per cent, April was at a very low 30 per cent, and May to date, 44 per cent of normal. The snowmelt is providing a major part of the recent water inflows into the watershed.

Hydro’s first water supply forecast for the February to September period this year was 96 per cent of normal in February, though it’s been dropping each month with the drier conditions. The latest monthly forecast update, for May, is 80 per cent of normal. However, the residual forecast from May until September is about 89 per cent of normal given the snowpack that has not yet melted.

In early May, Hydro provided a one-day kayak flow event given the forecast of higher flows into the reservoir. About 25 kayakers from the area took advantage of the excellent conditions on the renowned Puntledge River and all the play features. Depending on the forecast and water inflows into the reservoir, and if it’s near the full level, there’s a possibility for an additional day or so of kayak flows near the end of the month.

The Comox Lake Reservoir is at 134.25 metres. The reservoir level may annually fluctuate from about 131 metres to around 135.3 metres. Hydro’s goal, which the forecast supports, is to reach the full level in June.

The 24 megawatt (MW) Puntledge River Generating Station is operating at full capacity, with the water release from the dam at about 33 m3/s.

Over the next week, the forecasted average water inflow into the reservoir may be around 55 m3/s.

Hydro has been engaging with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and its annual release of hatchery Chinook smolts. To assist the smolts in moving downstream, Hydro will more than double the water release down the Puntledge on May 26 to give the smolts a better success rate in migrating past seals in the lower river. Discharges from the dam will be around 50 m3/s. BC Hydro is issuing a public safety warning for people to keep away from the banks of the Puntledge May 26. Temporary safety signage will be in place.

A reminder that the annual Puntledge River siren system test is this week, Tuesday to Thursday. The siren test is to ensure the public warning system is working as designed, with testing of the individual sirens on Tuesday, then make any repairs if needed on Wednesday, and then initiate the siren system test with a water release from Comox Dam on Thursday morning.