Penticton's premier Channel-floating business has closed for a week to ask the CIty to pitch in amidst safety concerns

Coyote Cruises closes

Less than a week after opening for the season, Coyote Cruises has decided to suspend its Penticton Channel floating business for one week due to unusually high lake levels and water flows, and they're looking for help from the City of Penticton to ensure floaters' safety. 

The announcement follows a rescue from Skaha Lake and a warning from the Penticton Fire Department about undertows and deceptively calm-looking water. 

Mike Campol, director of projects and partnerships with the Penticton Indian Band’s K’uL Group which runs Coyote Cruises, said the decision to shutter the business for a week came after consultation with officials.

"We've met with provincial dam manager [Shaun Reimer] to get an idea of what it's going to look like in the coming weeks, and we heard that to bring the lake level down to what it normally looks like at this time of year could take up to 36 days," Campol said. "So clearly we need to look at some safety measures and precautions and the mid and exit points."

They are looking at additional signage and other ways to prevent floaters going past the final exit point at Skaha Lake, where currents can easily take a floater far from shore or force them into a dangerous situation stuck against the bridge abutments.

"We did a lot of research last year, which was our first full year operating the new management team. We looked at the numbers for July and August and there was 106,000 floaters going down the Channel over those 60 days, and Coyote Cruises was 17 per cent of that number," Campol said.

"But we seem to be taking on 100 per cent of safety measures and costs associated with it. Signage, for example, is something Coyote Cruises pays for."

Campol said all water safety training, signage, exit point assistance and the like that Coyote Cruises staff shoulders is by no means begrudged — they would always rather do that work and spend that money than see anyone hurt during a float, regardless of whether they are a Coyote Cruises customer or not. 

But they think it's time the City of Penticton stepped up too. 

"These are some extenuating circumstances with the high water level and fast flow this year, so we're really hoping that the City will take the time over the next week to work with us over the coming week to help us find some solutions," Campol said.

"It isn't right to see a small business that is capturing 17 per cent of the traffic coming through take on 100 per cent of the responsibility and costs associated."

The closure will mean the midway exit point and final exit point, usually manned by Coyote Cruises workers ready to assist floaters with getting back to shore, will be unstaffed for seven days. 

"We won't be operating, we will be doing training and looking at options we can put in place," Campol said.

"We ensure that our customers aren't tying tubes together, we don't allow ropes and all that, but we think there needs to be communication to everybody floating that channel after this week is done. What signage needs to be added, what staffing needs to be added, what emergency precautions need to be added."

They hope to have conversations with the City of Penticton this week about how they can collaborate in a positive way to make sure all Channel floaters are safe.

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