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Despite snowstorm, continued dry conditions forcing BC Hydro to reduce Campbell River flows

Snowpack in the upper watershed is less than 25 per cent of normal for this time of year
BC Hydro completed some dam safety investigative work last week to help with the proposed Strathcona Dam Water Discharge Upgrade Project. The work took advantage of the low water conditions within the watershed. BC Hydro photo

The unprecedented dry fall weather is forcing BC Hydro to implement another flow reduction on the Campbell River Tuesday, Nov. 29).

“We did a reconnaissance of the Campbell River riverbed and the current flows, and believe we can reduce the flow from 65 cubic metres per second (m3/s) to 55 m3/s without impacting salmon eggs in the gravel,” BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson said in a Nov. 28 system update.

“While water levels remain extremely low on the Campbell River system along with other Vancouver Island hydroelectric watersheds, we are fortunate to have an integrated provincial system and the supply of power is not an issue,” Watson says. “Our large hydroelectric systems are in good shape.”

The snowpack in the upper watershed is less than 25 per cent of normal for this time of year, though the main snow accumulation months are December through March.

Like any precipitation, the Nov. 29 snowstorm is helpful, particularly with low snowpack levels. However, the cold temperatures will largely lock up that moisture so the run-off into the reservoir will be quite low this week, Watson says.

“We need multiple larger storm systems, tropical-based systems, so we can get some good run-off into the reservoirs and, hopefully, get back to normal,” Watson says.

The forecasted water inflows into the watershed for this week are around 25 m3/s. The Campbell River system continues to lose available water storage. The Upper Campbell Reservoir/Buttle Lake is currently at 213.4 metres above sea level and slowly rising as we rebalance the reservoirs.

“Our investigative dam safety work at the Strathcona Dam spillway area was completed and since Friday we have been rebalancing this reservoir and the Lower Campbell Reservoir/McIvor Lake,” Watson says. “There is very little flow moving below the Strathcona Dam while the downstream Campbell River flow requirements are essentially being met from Lower Campbell Reservoir – this reservoir will continue to lower by another metre or so to about 175 metres. Both reservoirs may be aligned in another week or so.”

READ MORE: Low water levels create Strathcona Dam upgrade prep work opportunity

The Upper Campbell Reservoir provides about 80 per cent of the system water storage. Our licenced minimum reservoir level is 212 metres. With little combined reservoir storage available and very low inflows forecasted in the near term, a river flow reduction is required to conserve water should inflows remain lower than normal in the longer term.

The overall system reservoir water storage is the lowest on record for this time of year going back to 1984, and the Campbell River flow release will be the lowest since 1993.

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