Thrills, spills in valley

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An added attraction for holiday-makers in the Waitaki Valley in recent days has been water spills from the Benmore and Aviemore dams.

Sightseers were travelling to sites near the dams yesterday to take photographs of the spectacular spills.

Meridian Energy spokesperson Michelle Brooker said the spills from Aviemore and Benmore were not occurring all the time.

“It’s all to do with low power demands; not a lot of businesses are operating. If there’s low power demand and a lot of rain, it means there’s a lot of water in the catchments and we have to manage it.”

She said spills had started on Tuesday and had aroused interest among visitors to the area, with people asking Meridian staff when the spills were starting.

A heavy rain forcecast was released for the Southern Alps yesterday for the 24 hours from 8pm last evening and Ms Brooker said Meridian would assess the situation tomorrow.

“We may have to spill more if it comes through.”

Between 150 and 200mms of rain are forecast.

Environment Canterbury duty flood controller Chris Fauth said the spills by Meridian Energy were minor ones.

“They’re very moderate events compared to last year when we had three to four weeks of major spills. There’s nothing on that scale this year.”

A larger spill is occurring at the Pukaki dam in the Mackenzie Country after rain raised the lake level there. Spill flows of 70 cumecs have been going into the Pukaki River.

“It’s at 70 cumecs now,” Ms Brooker said. “We started at 35 cumecs and it will be ongoing.”

Mr Fauth said recreation users in that area should be aware of the flow levels and take the necessary precautions.

By Chris Tobin