Puntledge River Siren Test from BC Hydro

June 5, 2015

From BC Hydro:

With the warmer weather, people are beginning to enter the Puntledge River to cool off and enjoy the spring and summer. 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. This can happen when the intake gate at the diversion dam shuts down and prevents water from entering the penstock to the generating station, thereby forcing the water to spill over the diversion dam and into the Barber’s Hole, Nymph Falls, and Stotan Falls area of the river and become a public safety hazard. While this type of situation is rare, it can be dangerous. The Barber’s Hole area is the highest safety risk within the Puntledge River system given its close proximity to the upstream dam and shorter warning time, and BC Hydro advises against public river activities in this area. The other dangerous sections of the river are immediately upstream of the two dams. This is a different water safety risk where under-surface currents can pull a person into the facility. Warning signage and safety booms cross the river to prevent people from entering these hazard zones.

BC Hydro warning sirens are placed along the river from the Comox Dam to Puntledge Park and will initiate should a water flow incident take place. Permanent river safety signage is in place, but the siren system provides the real-time notice in advising people to get out of the river.

BC Hydro fully tested the siren system in June 2014 with actual high water releases from the dam. 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 on June 8, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.

This work is to confirm that they work as designed during this simulated river flow change. Any modifications to the system will be undertaken as needed following the test.

Last year, BC Hydro initiated a multi-million dollar capital project to upgrade the public warning system, and this is expected to complete by 2016.

The public is advised that on June 8 people will hear the sirens as BC Hydro staff engage and monitor the seven individual siren systems. While very unlikely that an unplanned flow event should occur during the test, BC Hydro advises the public to stay away from the Puntledge River during the tests.

Enjoy the Puntledge River this summer and please be reminded of general water and river safety considerations, and this information can be found at http://www.redcross.ca/what-we-do/swimming-and-water-safety/swimming-boating-and-water-safety-tips. Please be aware of the Puntledge River safety signage and take appropriate safety actions when needed.