Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

+ May 2018 Nechako River update

What are the long-term projections for the Nautley watershed?

The BC River Forecast Centre monitors and collects data for the Nautley watershed, but does not make long term projections. Rio Tinto has developed a hydrological model that provides long-term projections, and this information is used to minimize risk of flooding in the Nechako River. It is important to note that a model output is an approximation only, and not a prediction.

Does Rio Tinto use the information from the Nautley watershed to make decisions at the Nechako Reservoir and Skins Lake Spillway?

The BC government's River Forecast Centre monitors the snow pack and river conditions across the province and shares the information through their public website.
Rio Tinto uses the snowpack information collected by the BC River Forecast Centre, for the Nautley and other watersheds, to make decisions about spillway discharge to minimize risk of flooding in the Nechako River and ensure reservoir safety.

Does the Skins Lake Spillway help with flood mitigation along the Nechako River?

Prior to the creation of the Kenney Dam, and the Skins Lake spillway, Vanderhoof used to experience flood conditions every year. Since the creation of the dam and spillway, high water and/or flood events have decreased significantly. Rio Tinto’s reservoir operations reduces the number of floods and reduces the size of flood events by storing water in the Nechako Reservoir and diverting water to the Kemano powerhouse.

Why is the snowpack information reported by Rio Tinto different than information reported by the government?

Rio Tinto and the BC government use different methods to calculate average snowpack. Both methods are reasonable; however Rio Tinto uses more of the available information than is normally reported by BC. It is important to note that it is not possible to precisely determine the amount of snow over 14,040 km² of reservoir area, nor how quickly it will melt. That said, through frequent and ongoing monitoring and reporting, Rio Tinto is able to make decisions based on quickly changing conditions.

How does Rio Tinto quantify flood risk?

Rio Tinto's assessment of flood risk is based on conditions observed in past years. However, future weather is not predictable, and therefore flooding is possible every year. We continue to review our models on a regular basis and are committed to ensure they reflect the most current information available and trends.

What are flow rates?

Flow rates indicate the volume of water that is flowing in the river per second. It is calculated by 'cubic metres per second' and written m³/s. Flow rates do not mean the 'height' of the water, at any given location, because the height of the water will depend on the width of the river and height of the bank at a location in the river.

+ Water Engagement Initiative

What is the Water Engagement Initiative?

The water engagement initiative is about working together to identify opportunities for Rio Tinto to address community interests.

The scope of the Water Engagement Initiative may include, but will not necessarily be limited to: spillway discharge schedules, ramping rates, downstream flow targets, water temperature targets, effective research and monitoring plans, and consideration of infrastructure improvements. In simple terms, we will look at changes to reservoir and flow management that are important to you.

While a large focus of our operations in the watershed is related to reservoir management, we also want to look at ways to improve our communication and information sharing, how we allocate donations and sponsorships, how we design our research and monitoring programs, and any other ways you feel we can improve our operations.

No idea is too big or too small, so please contact us today.

What will be the end result of the Water Engagement Initiative?

The end result of the Water Engagement Initiative will be an approach to reservoir and river management that is driven by the interests in your community.

How can I get involved in the Water Engagement Initiative?

The Water Engagement Initiative will include a variety of opportunities for you to get involved – from one on one discussions, small group meetings, and larger public meetings. We will also be exploring opportunities for online engagement for those that may prefer to participate from the comfort of their own home.

We encourage you to contact us now to tell us how you want to be involved, or to receive updates about this important initiative.

What if my feedback is not related to water management?

All feedback is important and welcomed as part of this initiative.

While a large focus of our operations in the watershed is related to reservoir management, we also want to look at ways to improve our communication and information sharing how we allocate donations and sponsorships, how we design our research and monitoring programs, and any other ways you feel we can improve our operations.

Whatever feedback you have for us, we are confident it will help us improve our operation.

How can I provide my feedback or get in touch with Rio Tinto?

If you have questions or feedback, please reach by whichever method works for you. We also encourage you to follow us on Facebook to get updates about our BC Works operations.

Vanderhoof Office
PO Box 25, 158 Stewart Street, Vanderhoof, BC V0J 3A0
Tel: 1 (250) 567 5105

Burns Lake Office
PO Box 936, Unit 3B, 321 Highway 16, Evergreen Mall, BC VOJ 1E0
Tel: 1(250) 692-4144

Email: NechakoReservoirUpdates@riotinto.com

Facebook: facebook.com/RioTintoBCWorks

+ Sturgeon

What are the impacts of flow management on Nechako White Sturgeon?

We do not yet understand how flow management is impacting the Nechako White Sturgeon.

Rio Tinto has been working with the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative for several years to identify reasons why sturgeon are not thriving in the Nechako watershed, and determine what measures can be implemented to improve the abundance of juvenile White Sturgeon in the Nechako River.

What is Rio Tinto's involvement in the sturgeon conservation?

To date, Rio Tinto has contributed over $1 million to research and monitoring of the Nechako White Sturgeon. We have contributed an additional $1.5 million for construction of a hatchery and another $450,000 per year for the operation of the hatchery through the Nechako Environmental Enhancement Fund (NEEF) and operational funds. We also support education and stewardship programs carried out by Sturgeon Recovery Initiative partners.

Each year Rio Tinto participates in a 'sturgeon release' that is led by the Conservation Centre in Vanderhoof. Hundreds of school children from the region take part in releasing juvenile sturgeon into the Nechako River, which promotes education about the importance of conservation and the operation of the hatchery.

+ Flood mitigation

What is Rio Tinto doing to reduce flooding in the Nechako watershed?

Reservoir operations have mitigated the frequency and magnitude of flood events since the early 1950s.

Rio Tinto reservoir operations reduce flood risk to less than 5%, however, flood events are part of living along a watercourse. As such, we want to work with the public to ensure everyone understands flood risk, is prepared, and that Rio Tinto is effectively communicating with the community about this important matter.

To learn more about flood hazard and land use management visit the BC Provincial website.

Can Tahtsa Narrows be dredged to reduce flood risk in the Nechako River?

Dredging Tahtsa Narrows would not eliminate flood risk. However, in 2015 Rio Tinto undertook a detailed study of Tahtsa Narrows dredging options, which concluded that Tahtsa Narrows is about 1.4 feet deeper than expected. Based on the information gained from the study, we have adjusted our operations to take advantage of this extra depth, thus further lowering flood risk.

+ Communications

What is Rio Tinto doing to improve communication with the community about flood risk?

Rio Tinto is committed to working with the public, emergency responders, and government to ensure everyone understands flood risk, is prepared, and that Rio Tinto is effectively sharing information with communities about this important matter.

We have also prepared an emergency preparedness plan that includes input from local communities and emergency responders. The plan is available for viewing in hardcopy at our community offices or local government offices.

What is the best way to get information about the reservoir and river?

You can visit our website any time to view daily and historical reservoir activity.

We send out weekly reservoir updates (Flow Facts) by email. You can register to receive these updates by emailing us at NechakoReservoirUpdates@riotinto.com

We are also considering options to provide information such as text messaging service and automated telephone calls. Feel free to call us at any time and let us know what communication methods work best for you.

+ Nechako Reservoir operations

How is the Nechako Reservoir operated?

The purpose of the Nechako Reservoir is to store water that is then discharged steadily for hydro-electricity generation in Kemano. In addition, water is released from the reservoir into the Nechako River to protect fisheries resources and mitigate flood risk.

Rio Tinto continually monitors reservoir and river levels, snowpack, and weather forecasts to make decisions about our operations. We also use historical data and computer models to generate a probabilistic approach, to achieve a balance between public safety, environmental protection, and power generation.

When does water get released from the reservoir into the Nechako River?

Water is continually being released into the Nechako River, in accordance with the flow schedules established in our licenses and agreements. The flow schedule of water release from the Nechako Reservoir as follows:

  • September to April – Average discharge is approximately 32 m³/s
  • Late April to 19 July – Spillway discharge is approximately 49 m³/s
  • 20 July to 20 August – Up to 453 m³/s as per the Summer Temperature Management Program

However, when managing flood risk, spillway discharge differs from the expected flow schedule. Visit Flow Facts to learn more.

What is the Summer Temperature Management Program and is it successful?

The Summer Temperature Management Program is focused on protecting sockeye salmon during migration through the Nechako River. The program is designed to moderate elevated water temperatures during sockeye migration by adjusting the timing and volume of reservoir water, through Skins Lake releases, into the Nechako River.

Studies conducted over the past 30 years indicate that the program has been effective at mitigating high temperatures for the protection of migrating sockeye salmon.

+ Climate change

What is Rio Tinto doing about climate change effects on the Nechako River?

Rio Tinto is actively involved in research to determine potential impacts of climate change in the Nechako River, including fisheries.

Since 2010, Rio Tinto has conducted research in collaboration with several universities to understand potential climate change impacts. Currently we are working with UBC to understand potential impacts to salmon and sturgeon, as well as developing strategies for mitigating the effects of climate change through reservoir management.