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Cheakamus system

Cheakamus facility
Daisy Lake Dam as seen from the Cheakamus River near Squamish/ BC Hydro

What's new

Summer 2023

Pink salmon response plan

Pink salmon return to the Squamish and Cheakamus river runs every two years. They'll enter mid-August and spawn through the fall. We've spent the last two years preparing our pink salmon response plan for this season. The plan includes:

  • Weekly rafts of the river during the season to understand current conditions and identify potential areas of stranding.
  • Increasing the number of rafts and field staff during monitoring and salvage.
  • Collaborating and coordinating with Squamish Nation on monitoring and salvage efforts, incorporating their unique knowledge of the river.
  • Baseflow ramp downs (e.g. August ramp down): Reducing flows slowly over a longer period during ramp downs, improving opportunities for salvage crews to respond.
  • Storm ramp downs: Mimicking natural storm recession with additional time for salvage.

Our operations manage many factors on the watershed such as dam safety, flood mitigation (public safety), fish and the environment, as well as recreational river use.

The operational changes we've made have helped us manage the risk of fish stranding, and our pink salmon response plan will build on that. While it's an unfortunate reality that fish stranding can't be prevented entirely, we're committed to continuing our ongoing efforts to learn about the system and improve our response every season.

August baseflow ramp down

Typically in August, we reduce water levels in the Cheakamus River with flows ramped down gradually to minimize impacts to spawning salmon. This is after inflows from freshet decrease and when the requirement for a higher minimum flow (primarily in place for recreation) ends.

  • We expect this ramp down to span 10 days, depending on conditions.
  • The baseflow coming from Daisy Lake Dam will be reduced from about 40 m3s (cubic metres per second) down to about 20 m3s.
  • Timing considers current weather conditions and the ability to minimize the impact on fish and fish habitat.

This helps us maintain enough water supply to meet our minimum flow requirements through the rest of the summer and early fall.

View real-time flow data for the Cheakamus River at Brackendale.

What's a baseflow ramp down? Baseflow ramp downs are planned in advance, taking current conditions and fish activity into account. It reduces flows into the river, taking it from one level and bringing it down to another.

  • We reduce the spill from Daisy Lake Dam slowly over a long period of time allowing time for juvenile fish to move back into the main stem of the river and to allow salvage crews to respond.
  • Baseflow ramp downs typically happen on the Cheakamus River in August and November following our Water Use Plan requirements.

How does this differ from a storm ramp down? Storm ramp downs are done following large storms. We make plans based on the forecast and adjust them based on actual conditions.

  • We mimic a more natural storm recession with a larger reduction in spill from Daisy Lake Dam on the first day.
  • This helps keep pink salmon out of the newly wetted habitat along the edges.
  • The following days follows a more gradual ramp down, giving salvage crews more time to respond.

Read more: BC Hydro works to protect fish on Cheakamus River

We regularly update and collaborate with First Nations, regulators and stakeholders about our plans, changing conditions, how operations are adjusting at the dam, and what to expect for the season.

Cheakamus system map

Daisy Lake Dam impounds water flowing south from the headwaters of the Cheakamus River in Daisy Lake Reservoir for diversion through a tunnel that runs through Cloudburst Mountain to the Cheakamus Generating Station on the Squamish River. Water is released from the dam down a 26 kilometre stretch of Cheakamus River to its confluence with the Squamish River.

BC Hydro works to upgrade and maintain existing assets like the facilities in the Cheakamus system so that our customers continue to receive reliable and clean electricity. There are currently a number of projects in the system including:

  • Penstock Recoating
  • Replacement of Turbine Inlet Valves
  • Units 1&2 Generator Replacement
  • Instrumentation Upgrade

We’re undertaking a Water Use Plan (WUP) Order Review as the final step in implementing B.C.’s Water Use Plan Guidelines. The WUP Order Review is intended to determine whether the ordered water management constraints on our operations are achieving the specific environmental and social objectives identified in each facility’s WUP Order, and recommend how the Order may be modified or sustained for future operations.

BC Hydro developed Water Use Plans (WUPs) for most of our hydroelectric generation facilities between 1999 and 2004. The goal of water use planning was to find a better balance between competing uses of water which are environmentally, socially, and economically acceptable to British Columbians. WUPs were developed through a consultative planning process involving government agencies, First Nations, local citizens, and other affected groups. WUPs were implemented by a Water Act Order issued by the B.C. Comptroller of Water Rights (CWR).

Following observations of higher than anticipated numbers of stranded juvenile salmon in August 2018, BC Hydro committed to implementing the Cheakamus Adaptive Stranding Protocol (CASP) to study the effects of flow reductions on the Cheakamus River, and implement recommendations to mitigate impacts.

The study's objectives include:

  • to better understand the risk of fish stranding on the Lower Cheakamus River,
  • to test the effectiveness of different mitigation measures during those types of operations that may strand fish, and
  • to identify effective fish stranding mitigation options for consideration for long-term implementation.

Since the implementation of the CASP in fall 2018, BC Hydro has deployed fish monitoring crews on the Cheakamus River during planned flow reductions.

Read the CASP Year 1 Study

Read the interim report

The FWCP is a partnership between BC Hydro, the Province of B.C., Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations, and public stakeholders to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by the footprint of existing BC Hydro dams.

Since 1999 more than $3M has been spent on 41 projects in the Cheakamus River Watershed. This includes 30 projects related to fish.

Additional information about the FWCP

The FWCP is funded by BC Hydro and compensates for the historical impacts to fish, wildlife and their supporting habitats affected by generation facilities. In the past 5 years, the program has invested $1.1M in habitat-enhancing projects in the Cheakamus River Watershed.

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