The City Park dock in Kelowna was underwater due to rising Okanagan Lake flooding in 2017. (OBWB photo)

Okanagan facing extreme flooding risk

Water board calls for updated Okanagan Lake level management

The Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) has stepped up its efforts to advocate for a review of how the province manages Okanagan Lake levels.

The OBWB has sent a letter to the provincial government to raise its concerns to address the worst effects of climate change.

The correspondence is backed up by letters of support from municipal governments across the Okanagan Valley.

“We’re very concerned about the current lake level management and the risks of extreme flooding in the future,” explained OBWB executive director Anna Warwick Sears.

“This is a serious problem we are facing. This is not hype.”

At issue is the current management plan which was designed in the 1970s and doesn’t accommodate for climate change.

READ MORE: Addressing conflicts in Okanagan Lake level management

READ MORE: Okanagan high target for spring flooding

The Okanagan has experienced severe flooding in recent years and recent flood mapping for the valley has signalled that the way the lake is managed needs to change.

The lake level issue was raised by the District of Peachland a few months back and has since been echoed by other valley municipalities.

That, paired with the results shown by the flood mapping, prompted the OBWB letter.

“There is an urgent need to have this review,” the letter states.

“While preparing Okanagan mainstem lakeshore flood maps (published in 2020), Northwest Hydraulic Consultants found that the frequency of flooding would be unacceptably high if the Okanagan Dam at Penticton continued to be operated in the same manner, given the expected increase inflows due to climate change…The technical report for this effort found that as a result of climate change, floods will ‘exceed the capacity of existing infrastructure if operational rules are not adjusted.’

“We are asking the Government of B.C. to, in the next five years, comprehensively review and update the Okanagan Lake Regulation System (OLRS) and its operating plan to prevent damaging floods of increasing severity, while protecting Okanagan fisheries and minimizing the risk of water shortages. We are also asking for the management and control structures of Kalamalka Lake to be formally designated as part of the OLRS, and included in the review.”

Warwick Sears said the water board is asking the plan be expanded to include Kalamalka Lake because it has also been affected by high water levels.

“We know that all the water in this valley is connected. What affects one lakeside community can impact the next,” said Warwick Sears.

“Scientific modelling shows that we are going to experience more precipitation – both rain and snow – but it’s going to be unpredictable.

“At the same time, we’re also at heightened risk for drought because of climate change.

“If we just manage the lake for flooding and draw it down too far, and then have less precipitation than expected in spring and summer, we could create an even greater water shortage.”

Adjusting lake levels can have a significant impact on water availability for agriculture, residential use, and have severe consequences for fish, she added.

The OBWB is recommending that the province work closely with the Okanagan Nation Alliance, as well as affected stakeholders and the public.

“We believe the Okanagan Nation will be important leaders in this given their immense work to bring back sockeye and chinook salmon and the values they place on water,” Warwick Sears said.

The OBWB has initiated a gap analysis, working with the provincial water manager who operates the dam in Penticton, to evaluate completed studies from recent years and determine what additional studies are needed.

A recommended plan of studies will be released in April as well as a recommendation to include public engagement.

“It’s extremely important the public be provided information and be consulted because they will be impacted,” Warwick Sears said.

“How we address lake levels into the future will affect each of us directly.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penticton Christian School. (Facebook)
COVID-19 exposure at Penticton independent school

The exposures are the latest in a quickly growing list in the Interior

Participants are encouraged to light a candle and watch the streamed event from home as speakers honor the lives of those lost to overdose from Gyro Bandshell in Penticton April 14, 2021. (Facebook photo)
Vigil for 5th anniversary of B.C. overdose crisis to be held in Penticton

To honor the lives lost to the overdose crisis and bring a call of action to policymakers

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen will speed up the process for hospitality businesses looking to set up patios during the latest COVID-19 restrictions. Under the most recent restrictions, indoor dining is prohibited, but patio dining is allowed. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen speeds up patio permit approval

Initiative to help hospitality businesses affected by latest COVID-19 restrictions

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

The Town of Oliver’s Town Offices, which the town wants to get designated a heritage site. (Black Press)
Oliver council to weigh nixing alerts for water leaks

Staff say the policy has served its purpose in fixing the majority of leaks

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Winter driving conditions returned to the Coquihalla Highway on April 10. (ICBC image)
Coquihalla motorists warned of fresh snow

Five to 10 cm of snow is expected today for the mountain highway.

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Vernon Secondary School. (Google Maps)
Case of COVID-19 at North Okanagan high school

VSS exposure announced late Friday, April 9

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Bart and Tracey Larson enjoying a Begbie Cream Ale. The couple have been together for 40 years. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
The art of really good beer: Revelstoke brewery celebrates 25 years

Mt. Begbie Brewery owners Bart and Tracey Larson reflect on their company’s history

Most Read