The Puntledge river water use plan (WUP) Consultative Committee is beginning to review potential operating alternatives for BC Hydro's Puntledge river hydroelectric system, on the east coast of Vancouver Island in Canada.

Initiated in July 2001, the aim of the 20-member Puntledge WUP Consultative Committee is to develop an operating regime for the Puntledge river system that balances the needs of all water use interests in the Comox Lake reservoir and the Puntledge river.

‘Over the past year and a half the Committee has moved ahead by collecting information, completing studies to fill data gaps, and developing ways to measure the positives or negatives of potential operating alternatives,’ said Puntledge river WUP project manager, Sue Foster. ‘This past November, the Committee identified the first round of potential alternatives to operate the system. These alternatives have recently been modelled by BC Hydro, and the Committee will now consider the overall impacts of each alternative, including how they affect other interests at the table.’

Interests being considered during this trade-off phase of the consultative process include: fish, recreation, domestic water use, power generation, traditional use, flood management, and wildlife objectives.

As much as possible, the goal of the Puntledge river water use planning process is to achieve consensus on an operating alternative that satisfies the full range of water interests, while respecting legislative and other boundaries. Upon completion of the trade-off process, a Consultative Committee Report will be prepared documenting the areas of consensus and disagreement among the Committee members. The interests and values expressed in this report will be used by BC Hydro to prepare a draft Water Use Plan for the Puntledge river hydroelectric system.

It is expected that both the Consultative Committee Report and the draft Water Use Plan will be submitted in the fall of 2003 to the Comptroller of Water Rights for regulatory review under the Water Act. Once the review and approval is completed, which is expected to take 6-12 months, BC Hydro will implement operational changes as directed by the Comptroller. The Committee is expected to complete its work this summer.

The Puntledge WUP Consultative Committee includes First Nations, provincial agencies, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, local governments, community groups, industry, BC Hydro and other interested parties.