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Puntledge River, Jewel of Van Isle or WUP is up with BC Hydro  


Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Cedar Wave
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Grahams Wave
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Spectator Wave
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Stotan Falls

Puntledge River, Jewel of Van Isle

Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle

by Wayne Barson

The Puntledge River is located in the Comox valley on Vancouver Island BC. The Puntledge starts its journey winding it’s way from high up in Strathcona Park into Comox Lake below the Comox Glacier. Comox Lake was dammed earlier this century with a penstock created 2 km downstream at Bevan to feed the waterpower generation plant. From there, water is diverted into the pipe and re-enters the river 6 km down stream above the lower Hatchery in Courtenay. From the Hatchery down to Condensory Bridge and the ocean 2km below, is three kilometres of (1+) paddling at low flows. (Perfect for novice paddlers). Between the intake and outflow of the generation plant, at the appropriate flows, the Puntledge takes on a world-class personality. Until now, only the locals and the few willing to travel here know what a fantastic little secret spot they have!

The Puntledge River from a paddler’s perspective is a Gem unparalleled by any river west of the Rockies. It is not a river to be run as most rivers are, but is considered a phenomenal play destination. Although you can run it’s entire length (high flows needed to run two class 5 waterfalls), or combine runs with the Browns River (which flow into the Puntledge just below Stotan Falls), at the right water levels "Approximately 85cms" all the play features are formed as well as everything in between. Most rivers usually have one or two park and play features at the appropriate water levels; the Puntledge is fitted with 9 well-defined, easily accessible, retentive green waves, holes, and combinations thereof flowing right though downtown Courtenay. At the right level (85cms) you will tire on the features between the main spots. From advanced to novice paddler, this river has a way of speeding up the learning curve. The Kananaskis River is similar being dam controlled with two play features come to mind: Hollywood (which rodeo events are held) and the Green Tongue wave. (Man made) These two play spots are used by paddlers from around the globe, but mainly are used by the paddling population of Calgary – Banff. The Puntledge, at the appropriate flow beats the Kan by four times. When Calgarians are ice fishing, our rainfall is increasing, and the stoke factor climbs with some major water play! Any water level above 75cms is worth traveling for, although 85cms is ideal. When water levels exceed 150 to 200+cms YOW, spectator wave (usually a hole at most levels) is so Green, hard and righteous, initiate a flat spin and rotate until dizzy! Of course ejection from your boat on this wave is not advised, 100meters down stream would put you into the biggest badest river-wide hole west of the Ottawa River.

Why is the Puntledge awesome? The geology of this system is predominantly rock with ledges. Just add the proper level of water and play! That be our problem! The Puntledge River is a dam-controlled system similar to the new Micro Hydro Dam projects (Run of the River Power generation) currently assaulting Vancouver Island and BC in the guise of "GREEN POWER". The only opportunity to use this river’s full-on play features are; When the reservoir is full with storms on the horizon, BC Hydro releases water to allow for the coming rain fall. Up until now, these releases have been random through the night and week based on certain variables. Some of these variables are; Flows coming from the Browns River (also on the chopping block), Solemn River, Fish needs, Tide levels, and Forecasted Rainfall. To catch some of these releases one must have a flexible schedule (most notably, unemployed or retired with night vision capabilities), and until recently, a phone call from a friend to tell you the river is up.

The Water Use Planning Committee (WUP) has been studying the Puntledge River use for all affected groups in the Comox Valley. Planning is into the second year and when completed, will dictate the use of this watershed for the foresee-able future. The WUP consists of: BC Hydro, Local, Regional, and Provincial Governments, Recreational Fisheries, other affected organizations, and recently, the interests of the Recreational user groups represented by the Vancouver Island Whitewater Paddling Society. Any group, person, or organization that may have something at stake should be noted or acknowledged or you’re out of luck for the next 30 to 100 years!!

It is our goal to become a variable in the decision-making process prior to hydro releasing water. Can BC Hydro give advanced public notice of these releases? Be given a specific number of releases at a specified volume monthly or yearly. Although not really this committees jurisdiction, and a real stretch… Create a permanent park and play feature to promote white water rodeos and a winter training facility unparalleled on the West Coast. The following formula would work:

Forecasted Rainfall + Reservoir level + Browns River Levels + Solemn River Levels + Tide Levels + Fishery Stuff + Unknown + Paddlers = Water released during the day on weekends and holidays with advance notice from BC Hydro’s web site OR Release water every Saturday, Sunday, Holiday, and Planned Rodeo Event from October to May every year = Wet Heaven

Vancouver Island Whitewater Paddling society has taken a position on the WUP committee to address our concerns and needs. From this, BC Hydro (After clearing Insurance concerns) on April the 12th & 13th 2003, worked with VIWPS to study flow criteria for the Puntledge River. The object was to paddle three different releases each day noting the formation, difficulty and playability of each feature and the river as a whole. 20 –30 paddlers from Victoria to Port Hardy, Parksville to Port Alberni took the time to help BC Hydro with this study. Released levels were: Saturday 1st flow @ 130cms, 2nd flow @ 115cms, 3rd flow of 60cms (was not paddled due to exhaustion after playing hard on the first two flows)! Sunday 1st release was 85cms, and a 2nd @ 75cms. Once again we were spent from the first two flows.

Our findings from this study were; although at all levels tested, the features were formed and playable, 85cms offered the highest fun factor for the largest user group. I.e. At higher flows the play spots were big, only the advanced paddlers seemed to jump in, as the levels declined more paddler’s had fun on all the features.

We acknowledge BC Hydro’s initiative with this forum, addressing the needs of paddlers on the Puntledge River! To me, if BC Hydro continues in this direction, understanding our needs and the potential economics of recreational users, it will be a positive step in the right direction for our sport. Although this is just the beginning, and a very small step on one of hundreds of rivers under siege by the new BC hydro, Government, and Independent Power Producers Micro Hydro projects, it is our goal to become a defined variable with the decision making on all rivers under application for Power Generation.

I would like to thank those Paddlers who came out to support VIWPS with this study. Quite frankly, I was expecting a much stronger presence on behalf of the paddling community. We must understand the true consequences of our actions or (lack of) dealing with this new assault on our rivers and creeks by "Green Power". Once a water use permit is issued for power generation on a river or creek, we have lost that river permanently! Vancouver Island Whitewater Paddling Society needs the support of everyone partaking or affiliated with the recreational use of our rivers and streams to protect "your interests". Join the society for a nominal yearly fee to show support. Check out there web site for trips, events, water levels, and let your issues be known by contacting the Society. You will also be put on their Email list, kept up to date on new or current issues, and sent a bi-annual newsletter. VIWPS is affiliated with WKABC – Whitewater Kayaking Association of BC – who is dealing with these issues on a provincial Scale. BC is world-renowned for it’s paddling, it would be a shame to sit by and lose this to future power generation needs of the USA. We need your support in any manner offered to maintain our pristine paddling Mecca for generations to come.

Wayne

Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Comox Glacier

Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
BC Hydro study
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
BC Hydro study
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
BC Hydro study
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Cedar Wave

Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Cedar Wave
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Cedar Wave
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Cedar Wave
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Cedar Wave

Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Daves Hole
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Grahams Wave
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Grahams Wave
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Grahams Wave

Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Grahams Wave
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Power line putin
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Power line putin
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Riverwide Hole

Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Riverwide Hole
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Riverwide Hole
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
River wide is the last drop on Stotan Falls
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
TableTop Hole

Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Tarp&Play Wave
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Tarp&Play Wave
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Tarp&Play Wave
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Tarp&Play Wave

Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Tarp&Play Wave
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Tarp&Play Wave
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Tarp&Play Wave
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Tarp&Play Wave

Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Tarp&Play Wave
Puntledge River, WW Jewel of Van Isle
Tree Wave

map is from Vancouver Island Watershed Plans -bchydro.com

Vancouver Island Whitewater Paddling Society Wayne Barson is active with the
Vancouver Island Whitewater Paddling Society

Puntledge River flow between Browns and Poverhouse

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