BC Hydro Puntledge River operations update and a siren system test on May 12

May 10, 2017

From Stephen Watson, Stakeholder Engagement Advisor at BC Hydro:

"I would like to update you on our water supply forecast, the Puntledge River siren system test, and the 13th Annual Puntledge Paddle Festival.

Water supply forecast

BC Hydro has a water supply forecast that’s developed each year for the February to September period. This considers the years precipitation and snowpack, as well as historical inflows over the same period. The forecast provides a guide to our operations in how we may need to conserve water supplies as we go through the summer and into the early fall.

The February to September forecast is updated each month, though the May updated forecast provides us with the best reading of what the water abundance may be like this summer. That’s mainly because snowpack normally peaks around the end of April, which it did this year.

The water supply forecast to September is 101% of normal.  

We have been running the 24 megawatt (MW) generating station at full capacity given the water abundance. The Comox Lake Reservoir is full at around 135.3 metres, and our goal is to hit that level in June to then manage downstream flows through the summer. The reservoir level is currently at about 134.8 metres.

Annual siren system test

With the warmer weather approaching, people will start to enter the Puntledge River to cool off. Tubing is the most common river activity. It’s a wonderful river system and a community asset, though people should keep in mind it’s a hydroelectric operated system where river flows may change quickly.

Public safety is very important to BC Hydro and we manage the system and two dams year-round by providing slow increases and decreases in water discharges. There are other situations where river flows can change quickly and be unplanned. We have warning sirens placed along the river from Comox Dam to Puntledge Park and they will initiate should a sudden water flow increase take place. Permanent river safety signage is in place, but the siren system provides the real-time notice in advising people to move out of the river.

We plan to conduct a test, without releasing water from the Comox dam, on May 12. This year the sirens will be manually initiated by pouring water into the holding wells beside the river to mimic a river flow increase and make sure all the sirens are operational. The tests will take place from around 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. People near the river will hear the siren sounds from Comox dam down to the Puntledge Park area.

This work is to confirm that they working as designed during the simulated river flow changes.

BC Hydro is replacing the existing public warning system with a new and enhanced system. More information on that initiative, as we close in on testing the new system, will be provided in the near future.

Puntledge River Paddle Festival

About 200 white-water enthusiasts will take on the Puntledge River on May 27 and 28. The event is a condition of BC Hydro’s water license with the Comptroller of Water Rights. The kayak releases target a river flow at the Puntledge River/Browns River confluence of 65 m3/s and then 85 m3/s on Saturday, and 110 m3/s on Sunday. Typical water inflows into the reservoir for that time of year are about 30-40 m3/s.

BC Hydro advises the public to stay away from the Puntledge River from the evening of May 26 through to May 28. Only people registered for the event, through the Vancouver Island Whitewater Paddling Society, should be on the river. Danger safety signage will be placed along the river system.

The event is timed for this time of year, at the end of May, given the snowmelt and typical water abundance."