Puntledge River still high as late snowmelt continuing

The slow melting of the near-record mountain snowpack has been occurring, but even with the arrival of the warm summer weather, the snowpack may potentially last well into August before being depleted, says BC Hydro.

BC HYDRO releases water from Comox Lake through a dam high on the Puntledge River not far from the lake. Hydro advises people to be cautious around the upper Puntledge River (above Powerhouse Road) from Mondays to Thursdays, and especially tubers, to be cautious of the higher-than-normal and potentially dangerous river flows below Powerhouse Road (at the marker in the upper right) from Monday to Tuesday.

BC HYDRO releases water from Comox Lake through a dam high on the Puntledge River not far from the lake. Hydro advises people to be cautious around the upper Puntledge River (above Powerhouse Road) from Mondays to Thursdays, and especially tubers, to be cautious of the higher-than-normal and potentially dangerous river flows below Powerhouse Road (at the marker in the upper right) from Monday to Tuesday.

The slow melting of the near-record mountain snowpack has been occurring, but even with the arrival of the warm summer weather, the snowpack may potentially last well into August before being depleted, says BC Hydro.

The current snowpack level measured at the Wolf River Upper snow pillow station has moved just below the average annual amount this region normally receives and there’s still a lot of water to come down, Hydro said Thursday in a news release.

The average peak snow-to-water equivalent, reached in early May, is about 1,450 millimetres. It was 1,350 mm as of Thursday.

Given the delayed snowmelt from the cool weather and the time of year, the snowpack is currently about 540 per cent of normal — that number requires the context that the snowpack is normally almost gone by now.

BC Hydro released high volumes of water from its dam high on the Puntledge River to benefit kayakers over a six-week period to early June, and since then, has been able to control the Comox Lake Reservoir at near full levels by releasing more water from Monday to Thursday.

Lower river flows have been in place Friday to Sunday to allow for peak river recreation.

Since May, the water inflows into the reservoir have been about double the amount BC Hydro releases below the Comox Dam for minimum fish habitat flows and maximum power generation. From Monday to Thursday, BC Hydro has doubled the river flows during the day and more than tripled the flows at night.

The current reservoir level is 134.65 metres, or about 75 centimetres from what’s considered full. It has dropped about 35 cm in the past few days as BC Hydro moves higher volumes of water through the system. The reservoir is forecasted to remain near full levels through the summer.

Looking ahead through July and into early August, as a result of the remaining snowpack, BC Hydro will continue to utilize the Monday to Thursday timeframe to control the reservoir level.

However, the water releases into the Puntledge River will be less than what we’ve seen since May.

BC Hydro is also preparing for its annual fish migration and spawning flows that target the five-km stretch of the river from the Fisheries and Oceans Canada lower hatchery, off Powerhouse Road in Courtenay, to the upper hatchery.

Fish ladders at the Puntledge Diversion Dam and the Comox Dam allow fish to migrate all the way to the Comox Lake and eventually into the Cruikshank River.

For five consecutive weeks starting July 13, the fish migration flows will be provided on Wednesdays and Thursdays. This falls within the Monday-Thursday timeframe when people need to be cautious.

However, downstream of the generating station and Powerhouse Road, river flows will be lower as water discharged out of the generating station is decreased to provide a cue to migration summer chinook to move upstream.

BC Hydro advises the public to be cautious around the upper Puntledge River (above Powerhouse Road) from Monday to Thursday, and especially tubers, to be cautious of the higher-than-normal and potentially dangerous river flows below Powerhouse Road from Monday to Tuesday.

Please be careful if you decide to enter the Puntledge River, advises Stephen Watson of BC Hydro’s Vancouver Island community relations.

— BC Hydro

Comox Valley Record