May was a write-off for boaters, June not looking good either - InfoNews

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May was a write-off for boaters, June not looking good either

Instead of being out on the water, boats will be parked until Okanagan Lake levels go down.
May 26, 2017 - 5:29 PM

KELOWNA - On a warm, sunny day, boats and white sails usually dot Okanagan lake, but today, like yesterday and at least 20 days before, they remain moored in marinas.
Even more have had to move to other lakes or dry land to escape high lake levels that pushed them off their dry docks or Tuesday night’s storm that destroyed many docks.

With so much debris on the lake, which is sitting at or near record heights and still rising, and emergency officials urging boaters to stay off the lake to avoid causing damaging wave action, the question many boaters are asking is: When can they get back in?

For businesses that depend on boats — and tourism in general — that’s not a minor concern as we head into June and the start of the summer tourism season.

“Our team has been working 16 hour days trying to help customers get their boats off of the lake,” Tony Essler, the general manager of Rayburns Marine Kelowna says. “I’ve seen high lake levels in the past but this is definitely up there, we’re just worried about what’s going to come next.”

According to Essler, Rayburns has helped to take around 60 boats off of the water in the past week.

“It seems quite counter productive to be taking boats off the water as a boat company, but it’s what we have to do right now,” Essler says. “The bigger picture is that there’s so much debris - it’s everywhere.”

Essler says that although every year the lake sees debris from the runoff, this year it’s much more noticeable and abundant.

“We’re probably going to have to write June off,” he says. “Summer is still going to happen but hopefully by July and August lake levels will be back to normal and the debris will be gone.”

Dockside Marine Centre in West Kelowna has also been helping to take boats out of the water, according to marketing manager Henrik Wehrmann. Additionally, their

Peachland location had to close about a week ago due to water levels covering the dock and gas pumps.

It’s a tough subject for some businesses to even acknowledge. Some tourism businesses declined to comment for this story because they don’t want to add to a public perception that the Okanagan is essentially closed for tourism.

However for downtown lakefront businesses such as Kelowna Cruises and Maeg’s BBQ Boats, the flooding hasn’t affected them as much as they thought.

“We haven’t really been affected,” Victoria Darcel from Kelowna Cruises says. “Our boats don’t cause a wake, so we haven’t been restricted.”

Currently, Kelowna Cruises is only operating public cruises on Saturdays, when usually at this time of year they would be running three days a week, said Darcel.

“There have been less tourists, people seem to think Kelowna is under water, but we’re still busy with locals,” said Darcel. “We’re only running public cruises on Saturday’s but we are still busy other days with chartered cruises.”

Similarly to Kelowna Cruises, Maeg’s BBQ Boats hasn’t been affected because of the style of boat.

“I’m lucky, our boats are eco friendly and run on an electric motor, so we don’t create a wake that would harm any docks,” Maegan Young, owner of Maeg’s BBQ Boats said. “It has been hard for businesses though, "we only have three months for tourism so every day counts.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Hickman or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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