Raising level of Puntledge raises fisherman’s ire

Dear editor,

I am writing this letter to comment on BC Hydro's plans to spill water through the dam on the Puntledge river this weekend.

Dear editor,

I am writing this letter to comment on BC Hydro’s plans to spill water through the dam on the Puntledge river this weekend.

I must strongly question the safety of the incredibly uninformed decision to open the dam this weekend. Perhaps BC Hydro might take some community consideration when making these decisions.

In case it has not been brought to Hydro’s attention, this weekend represents the busiest weekend of the entire, brief fishing season on the Puntledge River.

There are only four to five weeks of a fishing season on this river, one of the most popular river fisheries on the entire Island.

Not only will hundreds of local fishermen congregate on the river this weekend, but uncountable tourists from Europe and elsewhere Canada will come here for the sole purpose of spending their money in our local economy; coming here with no idea that their target will be inaccessible.

As well, unless they go down to the most popular access points on the river, they may not even know or understand the implications of a fast-flowing river.

BC Hydro seems to be unaware of the extreme safety risks involved with opening the dam at this crucial time.

This decision does not take into account the busiest and most accessed time for our river. Not only does opening the dam this weekend jeopardize this important fishery, but it will clearly risk the lives of many fishermen who have come here exclusively to fish this time-sensitive fishery.

Quoting the benefit of the salmon or the benefit to kayaking in a press release does not acknowledge the fishery at all and is merely corporate distraction.

A decision to delay this spill for two weeks would entirely change this situation and allow anglers to fish this important fishery safely and to the benefit of our local economy.

I am forwarding this letter of concern to BC Hydro and the chair of the local Sports Fishing Advisory Committee as well as anyone else who will listen.

Opening the dam at the beginning of the season was uninformed and risky. Opening the dam in the middle of the season shows a blatant disregard for public safety, and a total lack of concern for the important Puntledge River fishery.

Dionne Hurd,

Courtenay

Editor’s note: Stephen Watson of BC Hydro responds — Thanks for your note. BC Hydro releases these levels of water over most of the year (October to June), and this year has been an exception due to the near-record snowpack and wet weather.

BC Hydro does balance all water-use interests and does the best it can given the weather conditions it is provided. In October it is not uncommon for BC Hydro to spill water for flood risk management. This is when the fall rains begin to arrive, although we had wetter than normal weather in late September and that caused us to release water then.

BC Hydro does not have as much room in the reservoir as we like to absorb large storm events. For BC Hydro flood risk management overrides recreation. However, in this case, another recreation user through kayakers benefit and they also bring economic benefit to the community.

The recreation fishery is open for a considerable time and yet there will be a few days here in there for flood risk management. It is unfortunate. This weekend people can fish the river on Saturday and then experienced kayakers can kayak on Sunday.

BC Hydro does its best to inform the public of the river safety risks. The Record does a good job in providing that notification to the community.

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