Oxbows under pressure

Many of the oxbows on the south end of Penticton are in danger of disappearing and being void of wildlife if they do not get attention from the city, says a group of residents.

Rick McKelvey, representative of Friends of the Oxbows, was before city council Tuesday to ask for greater protection and maintenance of the remnants of the formerly meandering Okanagan River.

“We feel we have a resource right in the heart of the city that’s wanting for a little bit of attention and it has a tremendous value for wildlife,” he said.

With the majority of the oxbows no longer connected to the river, and McKelvey said they are no longer being flushed out and are filling with silt.

He asked the city to work with the Penticton Indian Band and upper levels of government to determine a way forward to better protect the green spaces.

Specifically, the group would like to see the oxbows formally recognized as “natural parks,” which would help in attracting grants for maintenance from nonprofits.

McKelvey noted that the Brandon Avenue oxbow was dredged about 2.5 years ago by city crews. A municipal storm drain empties into the oxbow and had nearly completely filled the waterbody.

The four-day dredging job took two years to acquire a permit for because of riparian regulations.

Councillors seemed to agree that something had to be done, with Coun. Judy Sentes admitting “if we don’t do something we are going to lose them. And once they are gone, they’re gone.”

Council agreed to send the matter back to staff for consideration, who recommended getting input from the city’s committees on parks and the Official Community Plan.

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