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BC Hydro adjusts schedule for steelhead migration flow on the Ash River

‘Pulse flows’ from Elsie Lake dam to assist steelhead migration
BC Hydro will be releasing three pulse flows of water from Elsie Lake Dam to assist steelhead migration down the Ash River. The first pulse will take place starting Aug. 16, 2022. (BC HYDRO PHOTO)

BC Hydro has changed the date of the third and final planned steelhead migration and spawning flow on the Ash River.

The company has been releasing extra water from Elsie Dam down the Ash River in August and September to assist with steelhead passage at Dickson and Lanterman Falls. The first two migration and spawning flows occurred on August 16-18 and August 23-25. Over those three-day periods, BC Hydro increased the water discharge from the Elsie Dam from 3.5 cubic metres per second to 9 cubic metres per second before dropping back down to the minimum summer base flow.

According to BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson, the flow rates mimic a small storm event and provide additional water flow for steelhead to move past and upstream of natural river obstacles.

The third and final planned migration flow will now take place Sept. 6-8. It was previously scheduled for Aug. 30-Sept. 1.

BC Hydro has public safety signage in place below Elsie Dam to Dickson Lake and at the outlet of the lake advising people of the dates and the change in river flows. The signage will be updated with the new date.

“The highest public safety risk is when we increase flows from the dam on Sept. 6, when we ramp up flows from about triple the base flow over a few hours,” said Watson. “This is done from our water release valve at the dam. It’s not a lot of water going downstream, but it only takes 15-30 cm of fast-flowing water to knock down an adult. Please be cautious.”

Since 2004, as a result of the Ash River Water Use Plan, BC Hydro has provided a summer release of short-duration pulses of water with the goal of getting steelhead into Dickson Lake. Water released below the dam is not used for power generation.

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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