'Busiest year ever' for RDOS

This year's extreme weather in the Okanagan required a prompt response from the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen — most significantly in the spring.

Among areas in the region affected by high waters, several south Okanagan communities were among the hardest hit in the valley.

Response efforts started in the first week of May, when the RDOS first issued an evacuation alert for properties at Indian Rock, north of Naramata.

"I think staff handled that really well. They worked late that night to have reception open at the RDOS," board chair Karla Kozakevich said.

That was the start of five straight months of the RDOS handling emergency operations, Kozakevich said.

Naramata was smoked by flooding in some areas, with evacuation orders issued for some residents in early June as waves swallowed sections of roadways.

In Red Wing, just outside Penticton's western city limits, a local state of emergency was declared in early June as Okanagan Lake crept up to property lines.

Large flood prevention efforts were also needed by the RDOS in rural Oliver, rural Keremeos, rural Princeton, Tulameen and several other communities.

Kozakevich said before crews could begin cleaning up from the high waters, fires began breaking out.

"We hadn't even gotten to remove sandbags... It was really challenging going from such a wet time, so much water, to suddenly going into such a dry period," she said.

"It was a year we had never seen before."

In total, the RDOS issued 12 declarations of local emergencies, 13 evacuation orders and 20 evacuation alerts this year as a result of flooding and wildfires.

"I certainly hope we don't see that again, but we've learned there's going to be changes in the weather... We have to plan that some of this may happen again," Kozakevich said.

With staff members dealing with emergencies for nearly half of the year, Kozakevich admitted some projects weren't able to happen this year as scheduled.

Despite that, there was still lots of work happening, as 2017 is officially a record year for construction in the regional district.

The value of building permit on RDOS lands was $84.2M at the end of November, according to a report. Close to $31.2M of that value was from new single family homes being built, and another $33.4M was from new commercial buildings.

Kozakevich said that, as of Dec. 20, the value of building permits issued this year was at $86M in the regional district, which makes 2017 "definitely our busiest year ever."

Financially in 2017, the regional district obtained close to $300K in grants — including close to $100K to mitigate wildfire fuel in areas near Penticton Creek and Ellis Creek — as well as more than $4M in grant funding for water systems in Naramata and Olalla.

The most contentious item to the public was likely plans for a compost facility, which spurred controversy from residents, the Kettle Valley Railway and MLA Linda Larson.

Kozakevich said the compost facility will be discussed at the board's next meeting on Jan 4.

The facility will move compost waste out of the increasingly cramped Campbell Mountain landfill near Penticton. 

In August, board members voted to put the compost facility at the Summerland landfill, which was negated, however, by Summerland council in October.

Kozakevich said the facility is needed to keep the Campbell Mountain landfill in operation.

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