Osoyoos mayor to chair Okanagan water board

Sue McKortoff brings South Okanagan perspective to board chair’s role

The new chair of the Okanagan Basin Water Board is no stranger to water issues.

Sue McKortoff, mayor of Osoyoos, steps up as chair of the water board for 2019, replacing Tracy Gray, who stepped down as a Kelowna city councillor to run for the Conservative Party candidate nomination for the Kelowna-Lake Country federal riding.

McKortoff follows in the path of former Osoyoos mayors Stu Wells and John Slater, who both previously served terms as water board chair.

“I guess it is a kind of rite of passage for the Osoyoos mayor,” she laughed.

RELATED: Kelowna city councillor re-elected as water board chair

McKortoff, who represents the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District on the water board, said water issues are something she has been involved with in Osoyoos for some 40 years, dating back to the arrival of the invasive milfoil to Okanagan lakes back in the ’70s.

“Back when milfoil was first introduced into Osoyoos Lake, some of us realized what a mess it was going to be,” she recalled.

“Now the only thing we can do is try to manage it as we can never eradicate it, but back then there was about eight or 10 of us who were really keen to do something to raise awareness and try to raise money to buy a milfoil harvester, so we hosted a spaghetti dinner for the community.”

In the years since, McKortoff has been actively involved with both the Osoyoos Lake Water Quality Society and Osoyoos Lake Water Science Forums hosted in 2007, 2011 and 2015.

RELATED: Okanagan water board seeks mussels funding

While milfoil control is one program the water board oversees today, McKortoff said it has also taken on initiatives to broaden awareness of water quality and flood control issues, and lobbied the federal and provincial governments to intensify border inspections for detection of vessels carrying invasive mussels.

“I am happy to work with our board directors and mayors up and down the valley to make the best decisions we can about managing our water and looking after this fabulous resource we have here. Sometimes you think, ‘Boy is this an overwhelming task,’ but we have very qualified and dedicated staff along with our directors working on this,” she said.

As a South Okanagan area resident, McKortoff says she brings a different perspective from other water board directors in the Central and North Okanagan regarding both governance and flooding issues.

She said management of Osoyoos Lake is a shared task between Canada and the U.S. as the lake crosses the international border and dams impact the south end of the lake system in both Orville, Wash., and Penticton.

RELATED: Water board receives radar technology funding

“Whether it rains or snows further up the valley, it eventually all ends up in the same place at our end,” she noted. “We had our flooding issues this spring and we had a public meeting where people were asking why they couldn’t just hold back more water in Okanagan Lake from being released through the Penticton dam.

“Unfortunately, we learned how our flooding issues we far more complicated than that, that even if we held water back, the high groundwater was feeding into the streams and causing flooding issues for us as well. That’s why it is important for all of us in the valley to work together to share the best practices for water management on behalf of the entire Okanagan.

“We are all partners in this and we need to talk about these issues and bring a strong voice forward to make sure the federal and provincial governments take us seriously.”



barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Kelowna golf course ready and open for spring business

Two Eagles Golf Course opened Saturday, more to come

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA hopes annual climb will promote peace

MLA Norm Letnick’s 5th Annual Spring Climb for Health & World Peace is April 6

Possible assault to bus driver in Kelowna

A minor bus crash was reported just after 8 p.m. Friday night

Car crash nearly sends car over embankment in West Kelowna

RCMP search for driver of alleged stolen vehicle that caused crash

Update: Highway 3 reopened following rockslide near Keremeos

The slide occurred Friday March 22, at about 8 p.m. between Red Bridge and Standing Rock

Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Okanagan woman launches sewing studio

“I know there’s a lot of people up and down the valley that would love to sew.”

1,300 cruise ship passengers rescued by helicopter amid storm off Norway’s coast

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances

Letter: Stop raising the minimum wage

To the editor: The government is looking for ways to put more… Continue reading

Letter: Immigration will not help other countries, or our own

To the editor: Firearms are not the culprit in all those massive… Continue reading

Letter: Sprawl destroying natural landscape

To the editor: I agree with the assessment by Ian Pooley in… Continue reading

Former Okanagan teen found safe after disappearing from YVR airport

Ethan Burnett, 14, was found safe in Kelowna on March 22

B.C. university to offer first graduate program on mindfulness in Canada

University of the Fraser Valley says the mostly-online program focuses on self-care and well being

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Most Read