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BC Hydro pumping water to protect Quinsam River salmon habitat

Diesel-powered water pumps will be humming on Upper Quinsam Lake, west of Campbell River, this weekend to try and protect fish habitat.

The pumps are on a floating dock – three operating and a fourth as backup – plus there’s 300 meters of piping moving water from the outlet of Upper Quinsam into Wokas Lake.

BC Hydro spokesman Stephen Watson says the headwaters of the Quinsam River are very low and they’re trying to prevent a separation of the two lakes.

“The two lakes are about to separate around Sunday. What BC Hydro is doing is pumping water from the larger lake system into the lower one so we can continue to provide that 0.7 cubic meter per second flow rate downstream to protect that salmon habitat,” Watson told Vista Radio.

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Watson says the “extreme drought” has been plaguing the system since July and flows were reduced in August below the minimum fish habitat flow rate of 1.0 cubic meter per second, under approval of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

Watson says the last time and only other time they’ve they had to do this was 22 years ago (October 2000).

While the forecast calls for up to 40 millimeters of rain over the next few days, Watson says water inflows to the lake system will still be low based on their forecast.

“It’s so dry that a lot of the ground just absorb those (showers) so there will be very little actual inflows. As a result, it’s barely an increase at all for our forecast into Tuesday next week. But it’s all moving in the right direction,” Watson said. “Things can change and shift but it is looking very promising.”

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Watson is hopeful they can stop pumping sooner than later after creating adequate or better spawning conditions for salmon this fall.

“Given the importance of the Quinsam River and the hundreds of thousands of fish that have spawned or about to spawn in there, Indigenous peoples, the community, the such high value in the salmon, we’re just going beyond that to initiate this pumping process.”

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