Four large diesel pumps were moved into place on the shore of Upper Quinsam Lake Thursday.
They will be combined with almost half a kilometre of large diametre hose and pipe to move water from Upper Quinsam to Wokus Lake because the channel between them is drying up, according to BC Hydro.
“The Upper Quinsam Lake has the majority of the water storage but come this Sunday, both of those lakes will begin to separate and the available water we can release downstream diminishes significantly,” said BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson.
The move comes after three months without any significant rain. Upper Quinsam Lake is down 2.5 metres, and Watson says the 28 kilometres of river that fish spawn in down to the Campbell River is at risk without this help.
Rain is forecast for Friday, but only one millimetre is expected in the area. While there could be bigger storms next week, it could be too late.
“There’s some showery weather, but we’re really not seeing any change in our inflows through Tuesday,” added Watson. “We’re hoping there could be more of a shift come Thursday, but we just can’t wait.”
Downriver at the Quinsam River Fish Hatchery, large Chinook still aren’t coming up the river because there’s insufficient water.
BC Hydro will try to maintain 0.7 cubic metres a second of flow when the usual bare minimum for fish is 1.0 cubic metres a second.
“Fish habitat is shrinking,” said Hatchery Watershed Enhancement Manager Ed Walls.
“Just the sheer number of eggs that have been laid by the pink salmon that have gone up there, it’s in the tens of millions of eggs that are in the gravel. If that was to become dry, then obviously you’re going to lose all that production and then we would see, in two years’ time when those offspring would come back, …pretty much no fish,” said Walls.
“Given the importance of fish and fish habitat within the Quinsam River, Indigenous and community interests in fish, and our environmental objectives, we are going beyond our water licence requirements to try to maintain the current river flow rate,” said Watson.
BC Hydro says the temporary water pumping will be able to provide flows into the Quinsam River to the end of November, but won’t be needed that long if there are moderate rain storms in the range of 40 mm over several weeks before that.
Power generation and electricity supply are not affected by the low Quinsam River levels.