Hydro released extra water too soon down Puntledge River

BC Hydro is a convenient whipping boy for anything that goes wrong on the Puntledge and Courtenay rivers, particularly flooding.

BC Hydro is a convenient whipping boy for anything that goes wrong on the Puntledge and Courtenay rivers, particularly flooding.

In fact, lawyer Clive Ansley, on behalf of Maple Pool Campsite’s owners, alleges that Hydro caused the campsite to flood by mistiming the release of water from its dam on the Puntledge not far from Comox Lake.

Several things factor into water release — height of the lake and how close water is to the top of the dam, snowmelt into the lake, forecast rain, the amount of water in the river and whether the tide at the mouth of the Courtenay is coming in or going out.

The Puntledge is also a significant salmon-bearing river.

Hydro sometimes releases “pulse flows,” which temporarily raise the level of the river. This can help young salmon navigate down the river past seals that would happily snack on them, and also help spawning salmon get up the river.

However, Hydro goofed when it decided to more than triple Puntledge flows Saturday evening.

In a year of much higher and much later snowmelt than usual, Hydro said last week it was releasing extra water to lower the lake in anticipation of rainstorms to come.

That’s reasonable, except this past weekend was the most attractive window of the all-too-brief fishing season on the Puntledge, one of the most popular fisheries on Vancouver Island.

As ardent fisherman Dionne Hurd wrote last week, tourists from as far away as Europe come to the Comox Valley to fish the Puntledge on that weekend.

Besides flushing fish out of the river, on top of preventing fishing at an excellent (and rare) time for it, Hydro also risked the lives of people who have come to fish and might not have been aware the river was going to be drastically higher.

Hydro has a difficult task managing its dam with several user groups in mind, but in retrospect, it should have withheld one day of excellent kayaking Sunday for one more day of excellent fishing.


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