In 1912 Canadian Collieries (Dunsmuir) Ltd. developed the hydroelectric potential of Comox Lake and the Puntledge River to provide electricity for the operation of its coal mines in the Cumberland area.
An impounding dam was built at the outlet of Comox Lake about 9 miles upstream from Comox harbour. Two and one-half miles downstream from this dam a low diversion dam and intake were constructed to divert water into a wood-lined flume one-half mile long. The flume was followed by a short brick lined channel leading into a concrete forebay. At this point a spillway directed excess water back into the main river. A wood stave pipe carried the water from the forebay into the powerhouse.
The BC Power Commission, BC Hydro’s predecessor, acquired the Puntledge hydroelectric development in 1953. By 1955 the company had rebuilt the diversion dam, penstocks and powerhouse to quadruple the systems electrical . The new facility included a 5.1 km long penstock from the diversion dam to a 24 MW powerhouse located on the right bank of the Puntledge River. BC Hydro acquired the facility in 1962 and subsequently upgraded the Comox Lake impoundment dam in 1982.
The intake chamber, flume, parts of the penstock pipeline, and a large valve chamber can still be seen if you look for them.
Unfortunately, what is and what was are often difficult to identify and correlate, as is in the case here where I was looking for a wood stave penstock and found a concrete penstock…
The current penstock and the old penstock
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Penstock intake location 49°40’03.7″ N 125°05’57.8″ W
The Original 1912 powerhouse is much easier to find as it is located beside the Puntledge Generating Station and adjacent to the (lower) Puntledge Hatchery.
More of the old penstock pipeline and a large valve chamber can be seen further downstream, between Stotan Falls and the Puntledge Generating Station.
The valve chamber is difficult to miss, but the old penstock pipeline is largely a matter of looking in the right area, and then not tripping over the exposed bits and pieces. As with anything industrial, be careful when exploring this area.
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Valve chamber location: 49°41’01.9″ N 125°02’55.3″ W