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Rising lake level raises overflow issues

Water levels in Okangan Lake rose by another two centimetres over the weekend as the City of Kelowna, West Kelowna and the Central Okanagan Regional District try to stave off flood damage.

Joe Creron, the City of Kelowna director of civic operations, said he’s been told lake levels have only reached heights similar to the present condition six times in the last century.

All the municipality and B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations can do is minimize damage, he said, noting preventing any impact altogether is no longer an option.

“It’s a balancing act,” he said. “It’s just not something that’s very simple.”

The ministry handles the water system valley-wide and must ensure that overflow in Vernon or Kelowna doesn’t simply pass down the line to Penticton where it could cause Skaha Lake to overflow, pushing the problem further south, even as far as the American border.

Water levels in Kelowna are currently eight centimetres above a full pool and the snowpack has not melted.

To mitigate the problem, the City of Kelowna is pumping storm drains in the downtown core to try and protect critical infrastructure like City Hall and the RCMP station, but flooding did occur last week at both the Water Street Seniors’ Centre and Kelowna Community Theatre.

All it would take for more flooding is a snap hot spell to cause a rapid snow melt or heavy rains to push water levels higher, Creron said.

“That’s what happened on Mission Creek,” he noted, referring to the state of emergency declared a week ago over the creek’s water levels.

“We believe we should be OK there. The water has actually started to go down in the creek…(But) you’re playing with a lot of variables.”

The pumps currently keeping the storm sewers at a manageable level pump 5,000 gallons per minute and two have been deployed. Kelowna alone has given the ministry a $350,000 estimate to hold the waters at bay for another six weeks in hopes of securing assistance and that’s not including possible funding needs in the surrounding municipalities.

Residents on both sides of the lake are being given the option to sandbag.

The City of Kelowna is providing free sand at the Cook Street boat launch and bags can be picked up from the Number One Fire Hall on Enterprise Way for residents in both Kelowna and West Kelowna.

Those in Casa Loma can head to the northern corner of the beach access parking lot by the pump house in the 2600 block of Casa Loma Road. Green Bay residents can find sand at the vacant beach access at 1430 Green Bay Road and there is another drop point on the road shoulder of Whitworth Road from 2583 Whitworth Drive (look for big orange X).

Those with waterfront property are asked to keep any wood or debris on the beach to prevent erosion.

Information and pamphlets on flood preparedness—including a recommended method for sandbag diking—are available from the Regional District of Central Okanagan office (1450 KLO Road) and the main City of Kelowna fire hall on Enterprise Way as well as on the Regional District website regionaldistrict.com/emergencyplan.  Information about flood precautions is also on the Provincial Emergency Program website: pep.bc.ca/floods/preparedness.html.

Flooding is to be reported to the Provincial Emergency Program 24-hour Emergency Coordination Centre at 1-800-663-3456.

 

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