Expert paddlers hit the Puntledge River as BC Hydro ramps up water release

WatchBC Hydro is releasing extra water from the Comox Lake Reservoir to make room for the next round of storms. This means ideal conditions for experienced kayakers on the Puntledge River in Courtenay.

Experienced paddlers Dave Prothero and Garrett Quinn were riding a wave in the Puntledge River Wednesday as BC Hydro continued to release water from the Comox Lake Reservoir.

“It’s ten minutes from my house. I love it,” said Prothero.

The problem is, days like this on the Puntledge have been few and far between lately. The last time was a year ago in January 2019.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” added Prothero. “When the river’s in it’s really a unique jewel on Vancouver Island and in western Canada.”

The river is running at 77 cubic metres a second, three times what is normal for this time of year.

BC Hydro is releasing water from the Comox Lake Reservoir after three big storms hit the area.

“We’ve come through a very dry fall. It’s the second driest fall we’ve had in 39 years,” said BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson. “Conditions were low, we were conserving power but since December 31st we’ve had three atmospheric rivers come through with the last one last night.”

Both Prothero and Quinn have paddled some of the biggest rivers on the planet and say the Puntledge ranks right up there for fun.

Quinn describes what it’s like to ride a stationary wave in a “short boat,” a small kayak measuring only about two metres in length.

“It can be real zen you know, you feel like you’re going a million miles an hour and all of a sudden you flip over and it feels like you’re in a washing machine,” he said.

“But to be clear this is for expert kayakers only,” warned Watson. “BC Hydro has been very clear from a public notification point of view that people need to stay away from the river. It only takes less than 30cm of water flow to knock an adult down.”

The high flows ensure there’s room in the reservoir for the next round of rain but colder weather is in store with low elevation freezing levels so BC Hydro will turn off the taps on Friday and the river will return to normal.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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