Edmonton

Water release at Bighorn Dam will raise water levels of North Saskatchewan River: TransAlta

A planned water release at the spillway of the Bighorn Dam will raise the water level of the North Saskatchewan River and affect downstream communities, TransAlta says.

Release is part of proactive operation to manage water elevation at Abraham Lake

TransAlta is planning a water release Thursday to manage water elevation at Abraham Lake. (Stephen Legault)

A planned water release at the spillway of the Bighorn Dam will raise the water level of the North Saskatchewan River and affect downstream communities, TransAlta said Tuesday.

TransAlta is scheduled to begin releasing water on Thursday as part of a "proactive operation to manage water elevation" at Abraham Lake. 

The spillway flows into the North Saskatchewan River west of Nordegg in north-central Alberta.

"River flows will increase over several days and reach approximately 175 m3/s. This is at the upper end of normal river flows below the dam, is higher than seasonal water flows, and similar to what is experienced during spring melt," reads a news release from TransAlta.

TransAlta is working with the provincial government to temporarily restrict access around the Bighorn Dam for the water release.

TransAlta said it has notified downstream communities. The release will result in higher water levels and that the river may contain more sediment and debris than normally expected.

"TransAlta's first priority is the safety and well-being of employees, the public, and the communities where we live and work," said Scott Taylor, TransAlta dam safety chief engineer, in a news release. 

"The public is asked to remain clear of all waterways immediately upstream and downstream of the facility as flows may change rapidly and without notice. Increased water volumes and fast flowing debris will present an elevated risk level to any river users during this period."

The Bighorn plant is one of two TransAlta hydro plants on the North Saskatchewan River system.

The dam is located about 330 kilometres southwest of Edmonton. 

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