188 ordered evacuated

The Osoyoos Indian Band has issued an evacuation order to 188 properties along Inkameep Creek near Osoyoos.

OIB Coun. Tony Baptiste says a landslide has blocked the creek upstream.

“It’s filling up behind it, and they are saying it now that it could let go, and send a lot of debris down the creek,” he said late Friday night.

Evacuees are asked to report to the Oliver Legion at 36217 Hwy 97. Those without accommodation will be provided with the basics.

“If people decide to stay, it puts everybody in danger, because people have to rescue them. Access could be cut off,” Baptiste added.

The evacuation order is in place for all homes south of Dog Lake 3143-2711 Nk’Mip Road up to and including Osoyoos Cottages properties 2450 Radio Tower Road.

Members of the RCMP and Oliver Fire Department are assisting in the evacuation.

Castanet will update as more information becomes available.


Village needs new firetruck

The Village of Keremeos will be asking residents to approve a loan for a new firetruck this fall.

A new machine will cost about $504,000, and the village is requesting a loan of $350,000 which would be paid back over 15 years.

The Keremeos Fire Department has $180,000 in reserves for the new truck which will also be used.

The requested loan is $26,000 more than the estimate of what is needed, but that amount will "allow for any unanticipated costs or higher quote amounts which may arise."

Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer said the new truck would take up to two years for the village to receive, and would replace one truck which is 23 years old.

"Once (a firetruck) reaches 25 years, it becomes very difficult for it to be certified... It's like every other equipment, it gets old and needs to be replaced," Bauer said.

"It's something we have to do... If you don't get certified, you don't have a fire truck. And if you don't have a fire truck, you don't have a department."

An assent vote on the firetruck will be done during the local municipal election on Oct. 18.

The assent voting process is needed due to the borrowing amount compared to the taxable value of land in the village.

Prior to the public vote, the province's Inspector of Municipalities will need to approve a bylaw that will enable the borrowing request.

Waterfront being repaired

Work starts next week on repairs to the Okanagan Lake walkway to fix significant damage caused by last spring's high water event.

Lakeshore Drive will be reduced to single-lane alternating and the walkway will be closed west of the elevated walkway near the Peach until May 18.

Last spring the sheet pile retaining wall was battered and undermined by high water and multiple storms, moving forward due to the loss in support from sand that was washed away.

Temporary cobble rock and concrete blocks will be removed and new sheet piles and a concrete cap will be installed. Sand will also be replaced and new rock armouring will be added to protect from future damage.

Late last year, the project was estimated to cost between $340,000 and $420,000, with the province pitching in $150,000.

In addition to the lane and walkway closures, angle parking will be closed in the area while work is underway.

“The city apologizes for any inconvenience that this project might present to the public”, said city engineer Ian Chapman.  “We are committed to maintaining this important infrastructure and the project will be executed as quickly as possible."


Wetland work underway

The first phase of plans to build a wetland next to the OK Falls wastewater treatment plant has been given the go-ahead by the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen.

On Thursday, board members approved spending $326,740 to have a consultation done by Native Plant Solutions — a consulting arm of Ducks Unlimited. 

Including the consultation, the wetland project is expected to cost just over $1 million to complete.

The regional district committed $700,000 to the project in October, and the remainder of funding will come from a federal grant worth just under $361,000. 

That federal grant, allocated in 2012 as a gas tax fund, was set to expire on Sep. 30 if the regional district hadn't used the money by then.

The regional district also bought a piece of land in 2015 just over 10 acres in size, adjacent to the wastewater plant, with plans to construct a wetland there. 

Area D director Tom Siddon said getting a consultation done now "is an important step" for the wetland project, which has always been envisioned to go next to the OK Falls wastewater treatment plant — a facility that opened in 2013 and had been planned since 2005.

The wetland will better help to remove contaminants before they are discharged from the plant into the Okanagan River, the regional district said in a report.

Too sick for sentencing

Convicted hockey fraudster Michael Elphicke has called in sick for his sentencing hearing in Penticton on Monday.

Defence lawyer James Pennington presented a doctor’s note Friday morning during a conference call with the judge and Crown advising against travel from Elphicke’s home in Calgary.

Elphicke suffers from diabetes and end-stage kidney failure and has undergone partial amputations of his foot since receiving judgement via videoconference from a Calgary hospital.

He was found guilty of defrauding a group of hockey parents of at least $130,000 for an overseas hockey trip that never materialized. Some of the trip funds were funnelled into a failed hockey-dorm project at the SOEC.

“Travel is not recommended, given Mr. Elphicke’s current foot wounds and his inability to weight-bear,” Pennington read from the letter. “Excessive travel may further compromise his foot and could result in leg amputation.”

The letter also outlined concerns the doctor had with the possibility of Elphicke being incarcerated, due to the lack of overnight dialysis is prison.

“Incarceration will also delay Mr. Elphicke’s opportunity to receive a kidney transplant and likely result in worse control of his diabetes due to his inability to control his diet and level of activity,” Pennington read.

Both the Crown and Judge were blindsided by the letter, hearing it for the first time Friday.

Crown prosecutor Patrick Fullerton said he is seeking jail time for Elphicke and is opposed to having him sentenced via videoconference as Pennington requested.

Judge Austin Cullen chided Pennington for not bringing to doctor’s note, which was dated April 16, to the Crown’s attention earlier.

“This is so late in the day, it’s extremely unhelpful, but the court is confronted with a dilemma,” he said. “The court can’t be making orders… that may significantly imperil somebody’s health.”

Cullen said the doctor’s note alone wasn’t enough evidence for him to make a decision on whether to allow Elphicke to be sentenced from Calgary.

“But I’m not going to insist that Mr. Elphicke travel, if indeed, and I say if, because I don’t know, it would have that dire an implication for his health.”

The lawyers and judge will reconvene in Penticton court Monday, without Elphicke, to formally hear the defence’s application to have Elphcike sentenced from Calgary.

In the meantime, the Crown will be trying to follow up with the doctor behind the note to determine how severe the risk to travel actually is. The Crown will have the right to an adjournment Monday if Fullerton feels the need for more medical evidence.

The co-accused on the case, Loren Reagan remains behind bars after missing the start of the trial.

Community plans for freshet

The tiny community of Hayes Creek, west of Summerland, has come together to prepare for spring flooding.

Earlier this week, 15 Hayes Creek volunteer firefighters were joined by 37 community members to place 1,000 sandbags at at-risk locations around the area using shovels and other equipment over two hours.

“It is still winter here and the creeks are just trickling, but in a few weeks they will be roaring,” fire chief Rob Miller said.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen is encouraging residents to be proactive this year and prepare ahead of time if they are vulnerable to flooding. A map of sand and sandbag locations can be found here.

“We have done all we can to be proactive,” Miller added. “Here is hoping for a slow snow melt.”

Snowpacks in the Okanagan and Similkameen were sitting above 150 per cent of normal at last measurement.

Clinging to compost plans

Board members with the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen aren't quite ready to trash their regional compost plans for the final few months of their term.

The board voted on Thursday to hold a workshop to dive deeper into why the region needs a compost and biosolids facility. 

The discussion on the compost facility was the first since the board declared plans were "back to square one" in early February. RDOS staff said since 2013, about $400,000 has been spent to get to this point in the compost planning.

"We were ready to go on this [workshop] two months ago, so we've lost two months. It's not rocket science, we just need to get on the same page here," West Bench director Michael Brydon said, who made the motion to hold a workshop.

"If we put everything to the next board, we might as well stop having meetings now," he continued. "If we're that lame, let's admit it."

However, chief administrative officer Bill Newell said the "window is closed" for making any real progress on a compost facility this year.

Newell advised the board it will be difficult to find a consultant and plan the workshop before the municipal election in the fall. 

"Why don't we wait and inform a full board that's got a four-year mandate on this important topic? I just don't understand why we're going back," he said. 

Of close to two dozen compost sites studied, locations in Marron Valley and Summerland were deemed as the best two — both of which were promptly shut down by board members, who were split on the choices.

Summerland Mayor Peter Waterman expressed disappointment that the compost facility hasn't been presented as a major environmental issue, adding people in Summerland may have been less opposed if it was.

"It’s a climate action initiative, it’s a green initiative. It’s something we should all be concerned about."

Summerland Coun. Toni Boot told other board members the regional district board, and its residents, need to find a way to move forward with planning a compost facility.

"I think there a number of constituents out there that think 'that's Penticton's problem.' It's not Penticton's problem, it's all of our problem."

Without a new compost site, the province could demand that a greenhouse gas capture system be installed at the Campbell Mountain landfill to remove organic food waste, costing about $46.7 million — more than double the estimated cost of building a compost facility.

The City of Penticton is also spending on a consultant report to study options for their own sewage waste, currently composted at Campbell Mountain.

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