Okanagan Lake levelling off at expense of Penticton river channel floaters - InfoNews

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Okanagan Lake levelling off at expense of Penticton river channel floaters

High Okanagan Lake levels late in the year is affecting the Okanagan River channel with higher than normal volume and current for this time of year, causing safety concerns for channel floaters.
July 07, 2020 - 7:30 PM

Despite all the rain over the past two weeks, Okanagan Lake has levelled off and is falling, although slowly. 

Shaun Reimer, who controls the dam at the south end of Okanagan Lake, says the lake is currently 23 cm above full pool, at 342.8 m. That's 53 cm below the record peak for the lake in 2017, but still high for this time of year.

“The lake has peaked, and has dropped by about 6 cm,” Reimer said yesterday, July 7. “It didn’t rise in response to recent rain, although that rain probably kept it from falling more quickly than it has.”

The Forests, Lands, Natural Resource and Rural Development public section head says the lake’s high level for July 7 isn’t surprising based on how wet May and June was, in addition to high snowpacks this year.

There have only been a few years where the lake remained as high as it is at this point in the year, 2017 being the last time.

Reimer says the lake was also high this late in the year in 2012, and in 1990 and 1997.

“In 1997, we didn’t even peak until the middle of July. 1997 was another year exemplified by a high snowpack followed by a high rainfall in May and June. It was the highest inflow year on record,” Reimer says.

With a forecast calling for a similar weather pattern to continue for at least another week, Reimer says water flow in the Okanagan river channel will remain high and fast for many weeks to come.

The high water and fast current has affected tourism already hurting from COVID-19 restrictions and poor weather, as float tour operator Coyote Cruises was forced to temporarily shut down for safety reasons last week, days after beginning operations for the season.

“One consideration is ensuring we don’t go into the fall and winter period with a high lake level. That would make it very difficult next year if we see another high snowpack or wet year,” he says.

With inflow records dating back to 1921, Reimer says this year should certainly be in the top ten for highest annual inflow volume, and may end up in the top five, depending on how wet the fall is.

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