British Columbia Hydro has started a water use planning process for its 155MW Cheakamus hydroelectric facility near Squamish, Canada. The plan will be developed in collaboration with the province of British Columbia’s Ministries of Environment, Lands and Parks, and Fisheries; Canadian federal departments of Fisheries and Oceans; local governments; aboriginal and community groups; and other stakeholders. Water use plans will help Hydro’s operations take into account the environmental, social and economic impacts of the hydro diversions and balance the need to provide water for power and fish.

In the meantime, water flows from Daisy Lake dam into the Cheakamus river have been increased to provide more water for fish and fish habitats. The increases were provided under an interim agreement reached by BC Hydro, the provincial and federal governments, the Squamish Nation and the Steelhead Society.

With the interim agreement, changes to water flows from the Daisy Lake reservoir closely resemble natural flow patterns on the river. Salmon stocks will be monitored to see how much increased flows benefit fish populations.

The amended water licence requires BC Hydro to release an average of 45% of the water that entered the reservoir the previous day. Following the water use planning process, a permanent change to the water licence may be made by the Provincial Comptroller of Water Rights.

Over the last few years, BC has ordered interim changes to Hydro water licences to improve fisheries needs at the Alouette, Campbell, Puntledge, Coquitlam, Heber, Salmon and Stave rivers.

Water use plans are presently under way for the Stave river hydroelectric facility and a draft plan was completed for the Alouette river.

Over the next five years, water use plans will be developed for 30 hydro facilities.