Flooding still an issue around the South Okanagan

Red Wing Resort residents got some help from the city in their sandbagging efforts on Sunday, May 28. Penticton Chief Administrative Officer Peter Weeber says the city has just about completed its targetted protection areas following last week's windstorm on Okanagan Lake.

PENTICTON - Proactive efforts are continuing in communities at either end of the South Okanagan as flood mitigation efforts continue in Penticton and Osoyoos.

Penticton Chief Administrative Officer Peter Weeber says crews continue to work to secure the Okanagan Lake shoreline, with sandbagging continuing today at various locations along the waterfront.

“We’ve been working through a list of problem areas spotted after last week’s storm, and it looks like by the end of today we’ll have worked through most of that list,” he says.

Crews working across the Okanagan River channel mouth from Red Wing Resorts noticed water creeping up Red Wing sandbags to the point a breach could be imminent, and a crew was dispatched to the resort to add another level to their wall.

When asked if there was a jurisdictional issue to assisting Red Wing Resorts, which is built on Penticton Indian Band land, Weeber said: “I don’t think it was an issue for anyone and saving homes over reinforcing some existing barriers was an obvious priority. We had a lot of resources and it was an emergency situation with a number of homes at risk over there. At this point we’re protecting sidewalks and trees, with about 25 homes 100 feet away from where we were working."

“It’s all part of it. The imaginary line is just that, we’ve got to help people who need help. If we hadn’t done that, those homes would have been flooded by now,” he said, adding provincial officials are taking a closer look at Red Wing Resort’s potential flooding issues with the prospect of another weather system moving in later this week.

City workers are working alongside forestry workers provided to Penticton by the province, Weeber says, adding their work is of military-grade excellence.

“When they go in to put something up, it goes up fast and properly. They are a very skilled group of workers. Without them, we couldn’t have done the work we’ve done,” he says.

The Penticton Marina break wall repairs are also nearing completion, Weeber says, noting the province contributed $109,000 in funding for that work.

Weeber says the flooding issue has tested Penticton’s emergency response effort. He says the effort has laid bare some weaknesses in the system the city will address in time for fire season, adding a slow moving event like a flood provides a good opportunity to field test the city’s response plans.

Discharge at Okanagan Lake dam at the mouth of the Okanagan river channel on Monday, May 29. Downstream in Osoyoos, Mayor Sue McKortoff says the town is working proactively to prevent flooding in Osoyoos, with water levels remaining relatively stable.
Discharge at Okanagan Lake dam at the mouth of the Okanagan river channel on Monday, May 29. Downstream in Osoyoos, Mayor Sue McKortoff says the town is working proactively to prevent flooding in Osoyoos, with water levels remaining relatively stable.

In Osoyoos, Mayor Sue McKortoff says the town is holding its own so far, but adds there are several weeks to go before conditions return to a more normal footing.

McKortoff says the town receives updates on Osoyoos Lake water levels from the United States Geological Survey, which says water levels have increased only slightly from levels experienced prior to the weekend.

“It was 924.19 m yesterday, and it’s 924.2 m today. We feel it’s probably going to stay around there for awhile,” McKortoff says, adding while she doesn’t expect the water level to drop anytime soon, she’s happy it’s remaining stable.

The mayor said the town has lots of sandbags available, along with a forestry crew and a sandbag filling machine on hand for the next couple of days.

“We have filled sandbags available for people to pick up. We’ve also been warning people about the potential for damage caused by boat wake, and the dangers of being around flood waters,” she says, adding people have been cooperative and sensible for the most part, when it comes to boating on the lake.

“We’re just trying to be proactive and help people,” she says, adding she’s spent quite a bit of time at city hall helping field calls from residents.

McKortoff says the lake levels haven’t yet reached those of 1997, but the lake is at levels similar to those seen in 2011 and 2013.

Low-lying properties have been sandbagged, and McKortoff says she hasn’t heard of any flooding issues yet, but adds many people are waiting and keeping a close eye on the weather forecast.

Residents in Olalla affected by a growing ponding of Keremeos Creek at their doorstep could use a few more volunteers. A reader has requested volunteers to help sandbag in Olalla on Monday, May 29, as resident Brenda Cooper says homes at the north end of the community are experiencing flood damage, with a heat pump unit and three or four mobile homes flooded.

Volunteers are asked to call John at: 250-499-5209.

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