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Normal levels in Okanagan Lake not expected until end of July

Sandbag walls all around the Central Okanagan have protected the shoreline from high lake levels.
July 05, 2017 - 1:56 PM

CENTRAL OKANAGAN - The removal and pickup of about two million sandbags in the Central Okanagan is underway, two months after the flood waters first impacted people in the region.

While residents protecting their property with sandbag walls can begin to lower them, officials with Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre say residents should maintain a wall that will protect up to 60 centimetres above where the lake stands currently.

Emergency Operations Centre planning chief Andrew Hunsberger says the first phase of the demobilization process has begun. 

“We’re doing what we can to remove protection measures in areas where it’s safe to do so, it’s not a quick process,” Hunsberger says. “It’s going to take 150 per cent to 200 per cent of what it took to put these measures up in the first place.”

Over the course of the past six weeks, 160 Wildfire Service crews stationed in the Central Okanagan, have positioned about two million sandbags, making up 35 kilometres of sandbag walls. Another 1.3 kilometres of gabion baskets were deployed, as well as five kilometres of bladder dams.

For those looking to get rid of their sandbags, officials are asking residents to move them to the roadside of their property where they will be collected. The sand from the used sandbags will be dumped back into the gravel pits where they came from and used on the roads in the winter.

Hunsberger warns residents that under no circumstances should sand be dumped onto beaches, creeks or any foreshore area.

“It has to do with primarily fish habitat,” he says. “We don’t want that sand, it could be silty, and could be going into areas that don’t normally have that type of sand.”

Okanagan Lake is now at 342.949 metres above sea level today, July 5, which is down 1.5 centimetres from yesterday morning. Kalamalka Lake is also down 1.5 centimetres and is currently at 392.164 metres.

Kelowna city manager and Emergency Operation head Ron Mattiussi says both lakes are still 47 centimetres above full pool and the water is not expected to recede to the full pool level until the week of July 23 to 29. Only when the lake returns to that full pool level of 342.48 metres above sea level can all beaches to reopen and boating activity to return to normal.

Currently, there are both no wake, and low wake zones in Okanagan Lake and are close to the shoreline where any big waves could damage property and infrastructure.

Tara Hirsekorn, a wave expert with Waters Edge Engineering, says with the lakes at such highlevels, the shorline is very vulnerable to wave action.

“The deeper the water, the bigger the wave, right now a wave could go right through areas in ways it couldn’t before," Hirsekorn says.

The restoration process will continue into August when all flood protection measures will be taken down, Mattiussi says, adding repairs to infrastructure could still be ongoing next year. 

During the flooding over the last two months, approximately 360 docks and around 200 large pieces of woody debris were found floating in Okanagan Lake.

Central Okanagan Regional District operation chief Ian Wilson says the docks were found from aerial images taken from a drone. He says the province will be funding the cleanup of all man-made debris, such as barrels and docks, that has drifted into the lake. Damaged docks on private property are the responsibility of the owner to cleanup. 

Any natural debris floating in Okanagan Lake will be the responsibility of the City of Kelowna and residents. Any natural debris on public land, such as parkland and public beaches will be left to the City to cleanup.

As of this morning, July 5, the water quality advisory for City of Kelowna water utilities has been lifted. Ongoing testing showed good results and prompted the decision, the City says.

“I’m looking forward to things getting back to normal and enjoying the Kelowna summers everyone loves,” Kelowna mayor Colin Basran says. “Undoubtedly tourism has taken a hit, but the numbers from the Canada Day long weekend were pretty good and we’re expecting a strong rebound.”

For all the latest information from the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre, go here.


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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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