BC Hydro in Canada has changed its operation of the Coquitlam reservoir to release more water for fish habitat and satisfy instream requirements. The change in operational plans, dubbed an interim measure by the utility, is part of an overall review of its licences to store and divert water for electricity generation at its Coquitlam dam and the 72.8MW Buntzen hydro facility. These interim measures will remain in place until a permanent change to its operational plan and licences are negotiated with a multitude of stake- holders.

BC Hydro is developing its ‘permanent’ water use plan in collaboration with, among others: BC Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks; Ministry of Fisheries, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada; local governments; and aboriginal and community groups. Over the past few years, the province has ordered interim changes to BC Hydro’s water licences to improve fisheries’ needs at the Alouette (8MW), Campbell, Puntledge (24MW), Heber, Salmon and Stave river hydroelectric plants. Water use plans are now under way for the Cheakamus (155 MW) facility, and a draft plan was completed for the Alouette river in 1996.

The water use planning process will help BC Hydro balance the need for power generation with the need to protect fish habitat. It will also consider other needs such as recreation, flood control and commercial use. Over the next five years, BC Hydro intends to develop water use plans for 30 of its hydro facilities.