By Korie Marshall

BC Hydro held a public conference call on April 23, outlining its forecast for river and dam operation on the Columbia River throughout the rest of 2014.

In mid April, Kinbasket Reservoir was at approximately 2380 feet. BC Hydro expects its level to rise to a maximum of 2469.6 feet (about 5 feet below normal full pool) in late August and early September. Kinbasket’s normal full pool – the highest level BC Hydro can bring it to without authorization from the Comptroller of Water Rights – is 2475 feet (754.38 metres).

BC Hydro brought the water level about one foot above normal full pool last September, partly because of work at Mica Dam to install switch gear for two new turbines. The high water levels last year meant wood debris was a concern for boaters and recreational users of the reservoir. Wood debris from incomplete logging activities when the valley was flooded in the 1970’s, as well as new debris from slides and erosion each year, collects on the shoreline as water levels recede throughout the winter. High water levels mean much of that debris can again move about the reservoir, clogging access sites and creating hazards for water craft. BC Hydro committed up to $600,000 in debris clean-up work last fall, and says the program has removed over 300,000 cubic meters (about 7,500 logging truck loads) of woody debris from the reservoir between 2007 and 2013.

Mica’s fifth turbine is expected to be operational this fall, with the sixth unit coming online in the spring of 2015. These two turbines will increase the Mica powerplant capability to approximately 2800 megawatts, making it BC Hydro’s largest powerplant.

Licensed levels for Revelstoke Reservoir are between 1,820 and 1880 feet, and BC Hydro says it is generally maintained at or above 1,875 feet (571.5 metres).

The Arrow Lakes Reservoir, controlled by Keenleyside Dam, is currently around 1405 feet, and is expected to be within four feet of normal full pool (1444 feet) in early July. Its peak water level in 2012 was 1445.3 feet.

Canada has only 15 per cent of the Columbia Basin area, but it produces about 30 to 35 per cent of the runoff for the entire basin. BC Hydro says dams on the Columbia River and its tributaries produce more hydroelectric power than any other river in North America. Four of the larger reservoirs in the river system are operated according to the Columbia River Treaty and other agreements between Canada and the United States.