A photo of the dam release flow on Friday, December 14th. Image sourced from https://twitter.com/SWatson_BCH.
COURTENAY, B.C- Residents of the Comox Valley should keep staying away from the Puntledge River this week.
According to the latest notice from BC Hydro, there have been steady inflows into the Puntledge River system from the eight storms that hit the West Coast over the last 12 days.
Since December 14th, 2018, the maximum amount of water has been spilled from the Comox Lake dam into the river during low tide, in order to manage flood risk. With the coming days only having light precipitation, the spillage will be reduced from 175 cubic metres per second to 80 cubic metres, while water will still be held back during the king tides this week to reduce downstream impact.
“The total discharge down the Puntledge River this week will range from about 50 m3/s for four hours during the high tide, and then upwards of 80 m3/s during the low tide,” read the notice.
“We continue to ask the public to stay away from Puntledge River through the week, and some of these high water flow adjustments will be happening during the day.”
There is the potential of a “atmospheric river type storm” which could bring rain and warmer temperatures, with snowmelt on Friday and Saturday. It’s not yet known where the storm will track and hit the coast, and the extra water release could be ended on the weekend if the storm misses the region.
“Temporary safety signage is in place and will be updated as needed,” read the notice.
“The Comox Lake reservoir level is currently at 134 metres and slowly dropping. We have the reservoir level back in a good place to be able to help absorb future storm inflows. We have about 1.3 metres of storage room before water would free-spill over the concrete spillway section of the dam. We see the reservoir level slowly dropping over the week, and the weekend level will be dependent on the potential end of week storm.”
One notable incident during last Thursday’s storm was high storm surge, which mixed with a high flow from the Tsolum River in Courtenay.
“We reduced the discharge from the dam and also reduced power generation beyond the four hours we typically do given the sensitives downstream,” read the notice.
“Even with that operational consideration, the river level came very close to over topping the bank in a few areas and potential causing isolated flooding. There was close coordination that day with the City of Courtenay and emergency responders. The City responded by putting out their aqua dam by Lewis Park that day.”
At least one rowboat appeared at Lewis Park during that storm.