Flooding 2017  

Turn on taps to lower lake?

As Okanagan Lake continues to rise, people are starting to talk about how to drain down the rising waters.

The lake level has been climbing about three centimetres a day, while the outflow dam at Penticton is only able to release about 1.5 cm a day.

As residents living along Okanagan Lake prepare for the worst, some are wondering if there's anything they can do to help.

Kevin Van Vliet is Kelowna's utility services manager. Surprisingly, he says he's only had one suggestion floated his way on how the lake level might be lowered.

"That had to do with irrigation," said Van Vliet.

Castanet received the same question from a reader wondering if the lake level could be lowered if water restrictions were suspended and water consumption rates temporarily waived. Could unlimited irrigation and sprinkling lower the lake?

Van Vliet says it's an interesting idea, but water taken from the lake, in the grand scheme of things, is irrelevant.

"If everybody waters like crazy, we would just increase runoff, and a lot of it ends up in the lake anyway," he said.

"With a hot weekend like this weekend, there will be evaporation coming off the lake that will far exceed the City of Kelowna's water use anyway."


Irrigation canal restored

The Town of Oliver has cleared most of the debris from its irrigation canal, allowing water to start flowing again.

The town was forced to shut down four water systems to protect pumps and infrastructure from mud after Tinhorn and Hester Creeks jumped their banks.

Irrigation systems 4, 5, and 6 will see full service today, Friday.

Irrigation system 7 will be fully useable on Saturday.

According to town officials, there is still concern for low pressure pump users that have their own connections/intakes into the canal.

It is critical that pump house owners clean their screens, sumps or floors out that could be caked in mud resulting from the creek breaches. This must be done immediately to receive water.

Quick work protects water

The integrity of a key source of drinking water in the Central Okanagan remains safe, despite damage to some important infrastructure this week.

As a result of increased snowmelt and extremely high runoff, MacDonald Creek overflowed at Brenda Mine, causing damage to internal roads and a pipeline that transports untreated runoff from a retention pond to the mine’s water treatment plant.

The District of Peachland and Regional District of Central Okanagan say quick action from Glencore, the mine’s owner, along with the Ministries of Environment, Energy and Mines and Interior Health resulted in temporary measures to prevent any discharge of untreated water.

MacDonald Creek flows into Trepanier Creek, which is a source of drinking water for about 1,500 Peachland residents, plus users of the RDCO’s Star Place water system.

“When it comes to public health and the safety of our residents, it’s paramount that our sources of drinking water are protected," said Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin.

Lake Ave beach closed

Flooding has closed the Lake Avenue beach access and pedestrian bridge over Mill Creek in Kelowna.

Pedestrians and cyclists are asked to use the paved pathway located on the south side of Highway 97 from the bridge to Abbott Street or any other road or pathway further inland to steer clear of flood waters. 

Signage will be posted in the area to direct the public.

The area will reopen once water volumes and flood levels subside.

Lake could rise 10-15 cm

Okanagan Lake could rise another 10 to 15 centimetres, the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre says.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, officials said a number of variables go into determining how high the lake could rise, and those variables change daily.

As of the beginning of the week, 80 to 90 per cent of the high-level snowpack remained. Much of that snowpack, once it melts, will reach Mission Creek, causing it to reach extremely high flows.

Those flows could exceed 100 cubic metres per second in the days ahead as temperatures reach 30 C.

Residents along the creek, especially those closer to the lake, are urged to fortify flood protection measures.

Okanagan Lake has reached 343 metres, the flood level forecasted three weeks ago. Kalamalka Lake is also above full pool at 392.4 metres.

"This is a weather-driven event, and things will continue to evolve and change with the weather. A sudden change in weather could increase the risk of flooding," the EOC says.

Above normal temperatures are forecast for the coming week, with the potential for windy conditions by mid-week.

Boating on Okanagan Lake continues to be discouraged due to potential debris hazards, submerged infrastructure such as docks, and shoreline erosion caused by boat wakes.

Anxiety at the yacht club

Members of the Penticton Yacht Club are keeping a close eye on rising levels of Okanagan Lake.

"I've never seen anything like this before," said Gary Stene, the manager of the marina. "It's alarming and trying for sure."

Members have been working to protect the facility for weeks, and will likely be holding another work party in the next few days.

Stene added that at this point, they remain at the mercy of the lake levels, and can't handle more than a foot more water because it would breach all their barriers. Tuesday's storm also brought in a significant amount of debris.

Marina Way is also currently closed just past the yacht club, due to work on the breakwater. The provincial government approved $110,000 in emergency funding to repair damage the breakwater sustained during the storm.

Bruce Hagerman, a yacht club member, who was stopping vehicles from continuing on the road, said they are most concerned about the club building right now.

"I am not worried about my sailboat at this time," he said. "But if the lake continues to rise it could cause problems for the docks and the boats which are tied to them."

Erosion along Hwy 97

The near-record levels of Okanagan Lake appear to be taking a toll on the waterfront along Highway 97 near Summerland.

Castanet reader Ken Smith submitted video filmed Thursday that shows a large chunk taken out of the lakeside on the southern tip of Sun-Oka Beach.

He says he’s been watching the situation deteriorate for a couple years now, but large parts of earth, including a tree, were washed away during Tuesday’s storm.

“I think I could probably take the highway out of commission with a shovel and 30 minutes,” he said, concerned about the possibility of damage to the highway.

A large landslide in Peachland shut down the highway earlier this year.

Castanet sent the video to the Ministry of Transportation for comment, who confirmed they have dispatched their contractor, Argo Road Maintenance, to prevent further erosion by adding additional supports.

Safety warning in Gellatly

Due to high water levels and wave action, the City of West Kelowna is advising users of the Gellatly Walkway to be extremely careful along the section of pathway between the CNR wharf and Willow Beach.

The city has consulted with an engineer about flood-caused erosion of the path. Staff have been advised the path can remain open for now, provided areas impacted by waves and high water are marked off limits.

The public is asked to obey signs and stay clear of marked hazards.

If waters continue to rise substantially and wave action continues to erode the path, more sections may be closed.

Shadow Ridge back in game

Shadow Ridge Golf Club is back in business.

When Mill Creek spilled its banks early this month, the Kelowna golf course was under water.

Now, thanks to receding creek levels and a whole lot of effort, the course is clean, dry and ready to play.

Director of Operations James Presnail says once the creek was back within its banks, crews went to work.

A 4,000-gallon-per-minute pump was used to drain the property, removing water from around the clubhouse and the rest of the course. Then, the labour-intensive task of removing silt began. 

As of Friday, Shadow Ridge has 15 holes open, but expects holes 1, 9 and 18 to open soon. 

"Hard work, and a team effort got us back and running as soon as possible after such a difficult year with weather," said Presnail.

He praised club superintendent Rick Martin and his staff for their ingenuity to get the course back up and running.

City reinforces waterfront

Crews with the City of Penticton, Fire Department and B.C. Wildfire Service have worked tirelessly over the past few days to reinforce the Okanagan Lake waterfront after it took a clobbering during Tuesday night's storm.

“Our damage assessment has really revealed where our issues will be moving forward as long as we're experiencing high lake levels,” city manager Peter Weeber said Friday.

Ten of thousands of sandbags have been placed along the waterfront to prevent erosion due to wave action, which could undermine expensive walkways and concrete work along the shore.

The provincial government has approved $110,000 in emergency funding to repair the breakwater at the Penticton Yacht Club. The property is city-owned and leased to the club. Crews are already at work repairing the damage caused on Tuesday night.

“We did some investigating on the Kiwanis Pier damage and we haven't been able to determine how bad it's damaged because of the water levels,” Weeber said, noting the city is insured for that structure.

The foot bridge between the art gallery and Okanagan Lake Park remains closed, as Penticton Creek runs right against the base of the bridge. Debris flows down the creek have put the bridge at risk and have been getting cleared by Penticton Fire.

Fire Inspector Mike Richards said despite shifting during this week's storm, the SS Sicamous is in good shape and well protected.

With Okanagan Lake rising just one centimetre overnight Thursday, there is some hope that the lake could plateau in the coming days.

For now the biggest risk to Penticton isn’t the water itself, but waves kicked up by winds and potential storms over the next several weeks once the lake finally begins its retreat.

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