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New Paddling feature on the Puntledge River?  


Site of the proposed feature on the Puntledge River

by Shayne Vollmers October 24, 2003


COURTENAY - The Vancouver Island Whitewater Paddling Society (VIWPS) is hoping to develop a kayaking feature that can be used almost year round on the Puntledge River. Developing such a feature would make the Puntledge River a kayaking destination river. The non-profit VIWPS is now pulling together all the resources it can to go through an approval process with various government agencies, First Nations and interest groups.

Table Top Hole at 130CMS - Puntledge River
Table Top Hole at 130CMS

"The Puntledge River has large laminar ledges that create exciting holes and waves at high flows and this makes it a great river for paddling enthusiasts," says VIWPS president, Shayne Vollmers. "The problem is that those high flow events only happen 10-20 times per year, such as what we’ve just seen this past week. We have identified a potential location, the Fisheries and Oceans Canada fish weir off Powerhouse Road that could provide ideal river kayaking conditions most days of the year. A section of the weir would be modified to create a kayaking feature and also improve the weir's efficiency - VIWPS is in ongoing discussions with hatchery manager Chris Beggs. A river engineer is about to look into the dynamics of the possible kayaking feature. The feature could be cement blocks or a metal crib configured in such a way to create a permanent "wave" or "hole". The feature could be connected to a hydraulic system controlled by the hatchery to prevent salmon migration upstream, from August 1 to November 1, because of the hatchery's fish spawning requirements. If the feature is approved and the finances can be raised, it would make the Puntledge a destination river throughout Western Canada and a boon for local businesses.

Hydro map of the Puntledge River

The Puntledge River is a controlled hydroelectric facility operated by BC Hydro. The kayaking feature will be designed within a range of river flows as per BC Hydro’s general operation ranges. Unlike other uncontrolled rivers, the Puntledge will have minimum flows in the summer and the feature will be in constant use. VIWPS was also a participant in BC Hydro's recently completed Water Use Planning process for the Puntledge River

Site of the proposed feature on the Puntledge River
Site of the proposed feature

The estimated local economic benefits will range from $20 per day from local kayakers to upwards of $400 per day per kayaker if they come from off Vancouver Island. The big influx would be for planned national and international kayaking events, which could take place as early as May 2005, where large numbers of paddlers would compete, with an equal amount or more watching. This, coupled with natural high flow events and a kayaking feature for use almost every day use, would make the Puntledge a destination river from across Western Canada. “It is that good of a river,” says Vollmers. “Commercial ventures such as rafting and kayaking schools could also flourish.”

"We have begun a good working relationship with D.F.O., Land and Water BC, Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, and Coast Guard so that we may obtain access through private property to the site, review potential environmental and safety impacts, and fully meet the needs of provincial and federal agencies," adds Vollmers. "At this time,VIWPS is a small group with a limited network that sees great potential for the Puntledge River so we're seeking financial support or letters of support, and community input." VIWPS has already been in contact with First Nations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, BC Hydro, the Chamber of Commerce and local government.

Given VIWPS is not-for-profit, all funds raised will go towards the projects operating costs, with all surplus funds to be donated annually between three local groups for fish enhancements: the Puntledge River Restoration Committee, Greater Georgia Basin Steelhead Recovery Action Plan and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. "VIWPS is very appreciative and understanding of the interests in and around the river so we'll give back whenever possible," says Vollmers.

For further information or to make a donation, or even to send a letter of support, please contact VIWPS president Shayne Vollmers at 250-390-6866 or by e-mail at svollmers@hotmail.com, or by mail at: 6536 Dumont Road, Nanaimo, B.C. V9T 6G7. VIWPS is able to issue tax-deductible charitable receipts through Sports Canada.

Vancouver Island Whitewater Paddling Society

Shayne Vollmers is President of the Vancouver Island Whitewater Paddling Society. You can reach him at 250-390-6866

Vancouver Island Whitewater Paddling Society

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