A West Kelowna-area business owner is suffering a huge loss due to Okanagan Lake’s rising waters.
Whiplash Cable Parks sits on the water, just across the Bennett Bridge.
“It’s been awful, to say the least. The business is going to take a tremendous hit,” said owner Conrad Wiker.
Typically, the wakeboarding park opens May long weekend but it depends on mother nature. The business has been unable to start operations as Wiker has deemed it unsafe.
“The Okanagan Lake is the crown jewel, it’s what brings people to the Okanagan and for the first time ever it’s working against us,” he said.
Chris Shauf, director of marketing and communications with Tourism Kelowna said despite the rising waters, business has been operating as usual for the spring tourist season.
“We’re still seeing strong indications of visitation. Now we know it’s going to have an impact on specific water-based businesses and our visitor centre is working closely with visitor attractions to (ensure information provided to tourists is up to date.)”
The visitor centre receives up to 10 calls a day about the rising levels in Okanagan Lake, said Shauf.
At Whiplash Cable Parks, the business is prepared for preserving public safety, but can’t prepare for the financial impact of the flood, said Wiker.
“Unfortunately due to these situations, we’re not just looking at when the water goes down we can open up. We have to have the ability to assess the situation, make repairs, ensure public safety and ensure there are no environmental concerns,” he said.
“The reality of it is, this is going to hurt not just our business. We’ve received calls from people who are planning their vacation around coming to us who have cancelled their hotels and other activities because they’re nervous about the situation here.”
The docks are currently underwater but are built to withstand the impact of storms. Wiker is asking the public for assistance in locating a white wakeboard ramp, which he thinks has floated away and is somewhere on Okanagan Lake.
“When the water recedes we’ll see the damages and repair from there,” he said.
Wiker doesn’t believe he will be able to receive any financial assistance.
The provincial government is providing disaster financial assurance for homes affected by flooding and does provide assistance for small business owners, but certain requirements must be met.
The business also sits on Westbank First Nation land. According to WFN communications and economic development officer Kristy Jean, the WFN does not offer financial assistance to businesses, but does provide sandbags as part of the Emergency Operations Centre for businesses to “self help.”
She said there are options for financial assistance through the provincial government.