Conservation group seeking City of Penticton help to rejuvenate oxbows | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Conservation group seeking City of Penticton help to rejuvenate oxbows

Friends of the Oxbows want help from the city to perform restorative work on the oxbows in Penticton, like the one pictured in this file photo.
January 23, 2019 - 3:00 PM

PENTICTON - A Penticton conservation group is looking for help from the city to restore remnants of the Okanagan River channel.

Friends of the Oxbows representative Rick McKelvey presented a request from the group to Penticton city council yesterday, Jan. 22, to have the Okanagan River oxbows under the city’s control given natural parks classification.

McKelvey said the oxbow portions, cut off from the river after the waterway was channelized, are in poor health and need restorative work in order to provide enhanced wetland habitat.

The oxbows represent only a small portion of the wetlands that used to be abundant in Penticton, most of which has been filled in or drained as the city was developed.

McKelvey said what remains of the wetlands is considered by the 200 member group to be “in trouble.” With no natural processes at work to rejuvenate them, the disconnected oxbows are filling with silt and eroding, and if not maintained, they would eventually fill up and disappear.

In addition to restoring a vibrant wildlife habitat, McKelvey told council the restored oxbows could be a recreational and education asset to the city, in addition to providing an enhanced look and appeal to what many motorists first see when they drive into Penticton.

Non-governmental funding would likely be available for restoration initiatives as long as there was some legal protection to the lands, which McKelvey said could be obtained through parks classification.

McKelvey said the middle of the oxbows, prior to being cut off from the river channel, once represented the boundary between provincial and city land to the east and federal land to the west, with the province controlling the water. He said actual ownership of the lands today was difficult to figure out.

The City's development services director Anthony Haddad noted the oxbows were already designated a natural area.

Haddad said a management plan for the oxbows would require an extensive process involving the Official Community Plan, adjacent residents and the parks department.

Council agreed to refer the matter back to staff, assuring McKelvey they would get back to him soon.

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