Public urged to use extra caution on Nanaimo River

A public advisory has been issued because water flows are increasing on the Nanaimo River, beginning today (Oct. 1).

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations is urging the pubic to use extra caution on the Nanaimo River this week due increased water flows.

Starting today (Oct. 1), Harmac Pacific and the City of Nanaimo will be releasing more water from two reservoirs to improve fish access through the rapids into the Nanaimo Lakes spawning areas, according to a news release.

“Anyone using the river — especially boaters and swimmers — should be aware of the increased water flows and use extra caution,” states the release.

Increased flows can combine with storms to create strong currents and undertows.

The higher water levels are also expected to raise water levels at the Highway 19 bridge later in the week by about 0.3 metres (one foot). The higher water levels may last for two to three days.

Harmac Pacific will be releasing water from its Fourth Lake reservoir, increasing flows from 2.83 to 7.07 cubic metres per second (100 to 250 cubic feet per second) starting Monday. The City of Nanaimo will be releasing water from its Jump Lake reservoir, increasing flows from one to approximately 6.80 cubic metres per second (35 to 240 cubic feet per second) starting Wednesday.

Water release dates vary each year, depending on the number of fish entering the river and river flows resulting from rain, according to the release.

Present river flows are slightly below average for this time of year. Nanaimo Hatchery staff are constantly monitoring fish movements in the river by conducting fish-count swims.

These fall pulse releases of water have been taking place for more than 20 years and are the result of an agreement between several agencies, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the City of Nanaimo and the Snuneymuxw First Nation, as well as Nanaimo Forest Products, which operates Harmac Pacific.

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