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BC Hydro diverting water from Maple Ridge lake: the result of hot, dry conditions

Water from the Alouette Reservoir is being diverted into the Stave/Ruskin watershed
The Ruskin Dam. (The News files)

While some people may be celebrating the prolonged use of their summer wardrobe, BC Hydro has been busy reducing power generation at the Stave and Ruskin facilities because of the continuous warm and dry conditions that have persisted through the month of October.

Water from the Alouette Reservoir is being diverted into the Stave/Ruskin watershed for both water management and power generation, explained Mora Scott, spokesperson for BC Hydro.

“Because of the dry conditions we were experiencing, generation at Stave and Ruskin has been reduced to release the minimum flow required to ensure we could maintain flows below Ruskin Dam on the Stave River, which is critical to fish habitat,” she said.

The flows that BC Hydro provides from the Ruskin facility are critical to support spawning Chum, Coho and Sockeye Salmon and their incubating eggs at this time of year, explained Scott, noting that it also impacts how people use the rivers and lakes, particularly for recreation.

It also impacts electricity generation, added Scott.

“However, we’re really fortunate to have an integrated, provincial system. While many of BC Hydro’s smaller systems in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island are under some pressure, there are no concerns about continued power delivery,” she said.

With extended heat and little to no rain, BC Hydro, is seeing near-record or record low water levels at some of their other smaller facilities as well – particularly on Vancouver Island. And although they have made efforts to conserve water and protect the environment and wildlife at these facilities, flow to the Alouette, confirmed Scott, has not been reduced. And fish flows are being maintained.

“Based on our modelling, we project being able to continue to maintain fish flows into the Alouette River,” said Scott.

And, Scott added that the rain the community saw on Friday will help the situation, and there is more rain in the forecast.

“We know based on historical records, the more significant rainfall typically starts around now,” Scott said.

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Scott noted that BC Hydro is constantly adapting their methods to meet climate change challenges.

They are continuously working to improve their weather and inflow forecasting. For example, Scott said, all coastal watersheds can now be forecasted down to the hour, which improves the forecast accuracy for extreme events.

BC Hydro is also expanding its hydroclimate monitoring technology, including custom-made solutions that have been designed in-house, as well as upgrading snow survey stations to automated, real-time snow and climate stations.

They are also investing in capital projects—like spillway gate replacements—that will increase resiliency of the system to climate change, said Scott.

This time, though, due to the fact that most of the electricity generated and used in B.C. is produced by larger facilities in the north and southeast regions of the province – while water levels in those areas are also below normal levels, there’s still enough water to meet the province’s power needs.

The News is waiting to hear from BC Hydro exactly how low the water is at Alouette Lake, Stave Lake, and Hayward Lake

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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