Comox Lake inflows lowest in 50 years

The dry and cool fall season has provided record low water runoff for this time of year into the Puntledge River hydroelectric system.

The dry and cool fall season has provided record low water runoff for this time of year into the Puntledge River hydroelectric system.

Water inflows into the Comox Lake Reservoir from Oct. 9 to date have been the lowest in 50 years of record. BC Hydro is operating the 24-megawatt Puntledge River generating station at 25 per cent of capacity to conserve water.

This is normally a time of year when we are running our Vancouver Island hydroelectric facilities near full capacity and have a careful eye for flood risk management. Not this year.

The Puntledge River is flowing at about a third of normal for this time of year and the reservoir is at about 132.3 metres and dropping slowly. The reservoir is about 1.4 metres below normal and the fourth-lowest on record for this time of year.

The reservoir level where things may become more critical for meeting downstream river flows is around 131.3 metres. 135.33 metres is considered full.

BC Hydro was running the generating station at full capacity as a result of the significant storm at the end of September, but following that event and the dry weather setting in, generation output was dropped to 40 per cent on Oct. 22, and to 25 per cent on Nov. 28 to manage the conditions.

The forecast is somewhat unsettled this week and will make little difference in the situation. The weather next week is forecast to be relatively dry.

BC Hydro has been working with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations in keeping them apprised of the conditions.

The Puntledge River is flowing at about 16 to 17 cubic metres per second (m3/s) and this is just enough to keep the river margins and salmon eggs fully covered with water. The inflows into the reservoir upstream have only been about seven m3/s and the reservoir has been dropping about three centimetres per day.

The longer-term concern is the potential for winter drought-like conditions that happened from mid-December through to spring last year, where the cool and dry conditions made it challenging for BC Hydro to meet downstream environmental flows for fish.

The reservoir level was higher last year, meaning we have less water storage this year should this dry pattern continue. However, one large storm system could quickly change the water abundance conditions.

There is no concern for meeting domestic water supply withdrawal requirements for the Comox Valley Regional District.

BC Hydro may provide further operational updates to the community in the future.

The nearby Campbell River system is also operating to conserve water, and is running at about 50 per cent of power generation capacity to also keep salmon eggs in that river system covered with water while managing upstream reservoirs.

Fish screen cleaning

Fish screens positioned in the penstock or pipeline at the Puntledge Diversion Dam requires two cleanings per year.

This dam is where the water is pulled from the river, about 3.7 kilometres downstream of the Comox Dam, into a pipeline that travels five kilometres to the generating station and back into the river.

The purpose of the screens is to screen fish that get pulled into the intake back into the Puntledge River. The annual spring cleaning has been in April each year. Grasses, algae and debris gets lodged into the screens.

For 2014, in working with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and seeing the 2013 outmigration of salmon happening earlier in the season, BC Hydro has moved the cleaning up to February so it is more effective.

BC Hydro has set Feb. 3 to 5 to dewater the pipeline and clean the screens. During those three days the Comox Valley Regional District will be required to pull water from the Puntledge River and not the BC Hydro pipeline.

— BC Hydro

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“Of Bears at Fridges, drinking Planes and Cinderella’s Shoe” is Jordis Trumby’s first children’s book. Photo supplied.
Courtenay author writes, illustrates first children’s book

When is a collaboration not a collaboration? At first glance, Courtenay author… Continue reading

The 5th Street Bridge requires structural improvements, new coating to repair and prevent corrosion, and deck repairs. File photo
City of Courtenay awards contract for 5th Street Bridge project

The City of Courtenay has awarded the contract for the rehabilitation of… Continue reading

Pumpjacks pump crude oil near Halkirk, Alta., June 20, 2007.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Gas prices jump in the Valley – and experts predict prices to rise even more

“We still could be talking about record prices…”

NIC Practical Nursing instructor Barb McPherson (right) is pictured with student Rebecca Wood in 2018 in NIC’s SIM lab. NIC photo
Learn about Practical Nursing opportunities for Island students

Students interested in exploring a future in health care are invited to… Continue reading

The Comox Valley Cycling Coalition is hoping to see more bike lines in the Cumberland area. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cycling coalition wants better bike links for Cumberland

Group says members want more connections with Comox Valley

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The area on Cordova Bay Road where ancestral human remains were discovered Feb. 22. (Submitted photo)
Human remains discovery a reminder of B.C. Indigenous culture dug up and displaced

‘These are the people who inspired and birthed the generations that we now have here’

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

Most Read