Floods no hit to tourism

Dustin Godfrey

While LocoLanding has reported some lower numbers for the May long weekend, Mayor Andrew Jakubeit says regional flooding hasn't appeared to have impacted local tourism on the whole.

Penticton has largely escaped a season of heavy flooding in the Okanagan unscathed, while parts of Kelowna and the North Okanagan are inundated with water. However, that didn't stop some people from calling some local businesses to check in on the status of Penticton and whether they should come into town.

"I think the May long weekend still was really busy and sort of the walkway along Okanagan Lake was kind of more reminiscent of peak summertime traffic in terms of people coming up and down it," Jakubeit said on this week's Mayor's Minute.

"I think there's a lot of curiosity because of the high water mark, so everyone's curious of how high the water is, the SS Sicamous is actually floating, there's a lot of debris on the shore, so I think that's attracted a fair bit of attention."

Jakubeit acknowledged that LocoLanding, a local amusement park, had reported some lower turnouts for its May long push, but on the whole, he says tourism doesn't appear to have taken a hit from the weather.

"Penticton really hasn't had floods, by the marina there's been some small areas, but really, we've done a good job of sort of being pre-emptive and putting sandbags in," he said. "We had the province come on board to fund those tiger dams and provincial firefighters coming on, helping with sandbagging."

That work, Jakubeit said, has helped to protect some of Penticton's more vital infrastructure, like the Okanagan Lake walkway, a sentiment shared by Penticton's fire chief.

In fact, Tuesday has been the city's hardest-hit day, with damage to the Okanagan Lake walkway, concerns about the bridge to the Japanese gardens, slight displacement of the SS Sicamous and other damage along the shores.

"So far, we've been very pre-emptive in ensuring the rising water levels don't become a problem for the community, for residents and for our assets," Jakubeit said. 

"Certainly, we've sustained some erosion, some issues, but we're trying to stay ahead of it."


Region hosting a bio blitz

The South Okanagan is hosting one of 24 “bio blitzes” this summer as a part of Canada 150.

The events, planned for biodiverse regions will encourage residents to identify species of each region.

“We have organized a series of eight different walks throughout parks and protected areas of the South Okanagan and you’ll go with a local expert that can identify these species,” said Tanya Brouwers with the Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance.

“As you take photos of the species you will upload them to this national database” for a chance at prizes and awards, she said.

It is estimated that of Canada’s 140,000 species, just half have been identified.

A list of local walks can be found here, along with a link to register. Walks vary in length and level of fitness required, with some open to young families and other for more active hikers. The event runs June 9-10.

Emergency funding needed

The City of Penticton is working to secure emergency funding to repair the breakwater that protects the Penticton Yacht Club.

Repairs are estimated to exceed $100,000 and erosion is continuing to the area.

“The marina sustained thousands of dollars in damage after last nights wind storm. Two large sections of the breakwater have failed,” said Pete Weeber in an email.

The facility is at risk as wave action continues and another wind event could be disastrous.

Weeber added they hope to have a response back by Thursday morning.


Cleanup after the storm

Dustin Godfrey

Strong preparation ahead of Tuesday night's storm saved Penticton from more significant damage, according to Fire Chief Larry Watkinson.

A heavy north wind overnight sent waves crashing into Penticton's shorelines, causing some damage to infrastructure along the lake and eroding some of the waterfront.

But the city and province stepped up the use of artificial barriers to try to mitigate that damage.

"We deployed approximately 18,000 sandbags (Tuesday), along with the tiger dams, which certainly improved our infrastructure challenge," Watkinson said. "We did see some damage, so we're out, back, re-armouring those areas that protected our city's infrastructures on the waterfront."

On top of the 18,000 in place before the storm, Watkinson says the city will have about 7,000 more sandbags in place to reinforce the existing barriers.

"Ultimately, I think that our plan mitigations, our flood mitigation plan has been successful," Watkinson said. "We are getting the resources, we're sandbagging consistently and constantly, and we have a good reservoir in stock, but it is for the city's infrastructure."

But with winds as high as they were overnight Tuesday, a cleanup is inevitable. That includes the bridge to the Japanese gardens, where concerns about debris floating down the creek brought firefighters a bit of extra work.

"They're basically using their tools to help the debris flow more readily underneath the bridge," Watkinson said. "Because with the water right up against the bridge, now, we're trying to avoid small pieces building up, so that if a big piece comes down, we won't be able to free it."

At the Penticton Yacht Club, an inflatable dam and thousands of sandbags are holding back water several inches above ground level. Vice commodore Darren Vipond says record water levels meant no immunity afforded by the breakwater.

"We've got a little bit of dock damage, not a lot. We fared fairly well; whether we can make the next one, since the water's so high, the waves are just coming straight into the basin," Vipond said, adding that the club was "just lucky" that it didn't suffer more damage.

"A lot of branches. There's actually, well if you look right out in this main waterway, you'll see a tree with a stump attached to it, floating right in the main waterway inside the marina," he added, pointing to some debris in the marina.

Summerland, too, has seen its share of washed out shorelines. Video submitted to Castanet shows the tide engulfing entire beaches, and park benches well beyond the water line.

Floods expected to worsen

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen is warning residents that flooding is expected to worsen over the next week as water levels rise in creeks, lakes and rivers.

“It is vital that property owners in flood prone areas along lake edges, creeks, rivers and currently flooded areas remain vigilant,” reads an update from the RDOS Wednesday evening.                    

Residents should not remove any sandbagging and consider bolstering existing defences. Property owners with basements close to rising flood water should consider procuring a pumping system, and those in rural settings should be prepared to be isolated should roads become impassable.

Recreational users should also be careful along trails, as trees may become unstable and fall due to groundwater saturation.

A recent update of flooding in the South Okanagan.                                            


Naramata – A boil water advisory is still in effect for all users due to turbidity in Lake Okanagan

Sage Mesa – A boil water advisory is still in effect for all users due to turbidity in Lake Okanagan.                


Osoyoos Lake - is expected to rise significantly over the next few days. The Town of Osoyoos has issued an information bulletin asking residents to monitor properties and sand bag as a precautionary measure.

Cawston - high flows in minor creek tributaries are contributing to localized flooding issues affecting many properties and farms in the area

Oliver - Evacuation Alerts are still in effect for properties adjacent to Tin Horn, Hester and Testalinden Creeks. Abnormally high waters are continuing to affect many properties and farms in the area.

Twin Lakes - An Evacuation Alert continues as lake levels threaten residential structures

Naramata - Crews are on-site sandbagging and laying tiger dams to protect infrastructure.            

The KVR Trail - Along either side of Chute Lake Rd. the KVR trail bed is compromised and users are cautioned to avoid those areas.      

Glenfir Road – Road open. A temporary bridge has been installed. Road repairs will take place once waters recede.

Chute Lake Road – Road closed, barricades will remain in place for the near future. 

Faulder - localized flooding continues along Fish Lake Rd.             

Ollala – significant flooding has affected residents along the First St. and creekside properties. Sand and sandbags are being delivered to 2644 7th St, Ollala.            

Princeton to Summerland Rd - Flood compromised properties along the Princeton to Summerland Rd. remain under observation for additional flooding related issues.       

Similkameen River flows are predicted to continue to rise over the next few days as temperatures rise and snowmelt continues.


Storm shifts SS Sicamous

City workers and staff at the SS Sicamous spent a portion of their day resetting the historic ship after it was slightly displaced by Tuesday night's storm.

The storm, which battered the shores of Okanagan Lake, brought high winds from the north into the valley, sending waves crashing into the south end of the lake – including Penticton's historic SS Sicamous.

"The bow of the ship has moved toward the shoreline, and it pivoted on the walkway, so right now, we're trying to locate it, get it back into the right position," said SS Sicamous Society director Matt Verboeket. "If and when the water actually subsides, that the ship actually settles in the right location."

A crew of city and SS Sicamous workers were on hand working on that, including men who pulled at the back end of the boat by a rope and an excavator, which had been pushing on the front of the ship.

Verboeket says it's important for the ship to settle back down where it had come up from before it began to float last week.

"Otherwise it would interfere with the services that are on board," Verboeket said, noting that there aren't any major concerns with the boat having been displaced.

"The ship is watertight, which is a great thing, and just want to make sure that all the services stay connected properly."

With the SS Sicamous Society in early stages of building a wharf along the boat, there's a silver lining to the ship coming out of its place, according to Verboeket.

"With the ship rising the way it did, it's actually a good thing," he said. "If we would have had the dock built on the wharf prior to now, it would have been way out of whack."

The SS Naramata, which is expected to be patched up in a future project of the SS Sicamous Society, is seeing a bit of flooding, according to Verboeket, but no major issues have been noted.

Irrigation shutdown expands

This week's irrigation system shutdown in the Town of Oliver has been expanded.

The town announced Tuesday that irrigation systems five, six and seven had to be closed due to an immense amount of mud and debris clogging the canal. Today the town is announcing system four has also been forced offline.

“To rehabilitate the canal there will be no irrigation water available for systems four, five, six, and seven until at least May 28,” City Manager Cathy Cowan said in a news release, adding that all domestic water systems are still running.

The Town of Oliver is currently working to clear debris from the canal that was left after Tin Horn and Hester Creeks jumped their banks. An evacuation alert remains in effect for several homes along Hester Creek.

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