Vernon mayor questioned the province on low water level of Okanagan Lake

Mayor has water worries

Vernon's mayor has concerns over the level of Okanagan Lake.

Victor Cumming sent a letter to Forest, Lands and Resources Minister Katrine Conroy about the low water level of the lake.

“As we enter fall, the water level of Okanagan Lake is of great concern to many in Valley,” Cumming said. “Traditional spawning beds are left dry in crucial areas of the lake shore.”

Cumming also pointed out public access points are often mud and rocks and the water level has dropped to a point where boat launches are unusable and dangerous.

“Many docks are standing a metre or more above the water level, effectively making them inaccessible to watercraft,” he said.

Cumming is also concerned that water lines normally protected from freezing by the water level will now be exposed to winter temperatures.

Cumming asked what the provincial plans are for the short- and long-term lake level management.

Paul Rasmussen, assistant deputy minister, replied unpredictable weather caused the low lake levels.

“A higher-than-normal snowpack in early 2021 led to a drawdown of the lake in anticipation of a large runoff,” Rasmussen said. “However, conditions changed – BC experienced the heat-dome phenomenon and drought-like weather developed. Maintaining normal water levels is difficult during periods of drought.”

Rasmussen said water managers have been working to keep the lake as high as possible while balancing the lake level with downstream minimum requirements for fish and irrigation.

Rasmussen pointed out the current lake level is similar to the significant droughts in 2003 and 2009.

“Current levels are lower than 2009, but higher than 2003,” he said, adding the snowpack in the following winters of those droughts were big enough to largely replenish the lake and bring it back to its normal pool.

“We expect this year's developing snowpack will also be adequate, although a second drought year could create further problems.”

Rasmussen said provincial fisheries staff indicated the current low water levels “will not be a negative factor in kokanee shore spawning.

“The greater concern would be if the lake were to drop significantly over the winter, however, that situation is unlikely with the minimum outflows projected.”

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