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Only 41 per cent of Okanagan Lake's shoreline is still natural

The foreshore along Lakeshore Drive on Okanagan Lake in Vernon is pictured in this submitted photo.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/City of Vernon
July 14, 2017 - 2:57 PM

OKANAGAN – A new survey of Okanagan Lake shows just how much shoreline has been developed over the past five years.

A report produced in a collaborative research project by local governments and conservation groups has found 171 kilometres - 59 per cent - of Okanagan Lake shoreline has been developed or disturbed.

Between 2009 and 2016 4.1 kilometres - 1.42 per cent - of natural shoreline was lost or permanently altered. Examples of shoreline disturbances may include the removal of native vegetation and the construction of retaining walls, docks, marinas and road projects.

In the Kelowna area, roughly 30 per cent of the shoreline remains in its natural state, the report says. That's a three per cent decrease since the first full survey in 2011.

Data shows roughly 73 per cent of the Okanagan Lake shoreline in West Kelowna has been altered, compared to 71.7 per cent in 2011. Almost 55 per cent of Lake Country shoreline has been disturbed and 84 per cent of the Peachland shoreline has been altered. 

The report says 47 per cent of the Okanagan Lake shoreline in Penticton has been disturbed, while in Vernon it's just over 67 per cent.

Key changes to the shoreline included the removal of native vegetation, construction of 1.45 km of retaining wall, 164 new docks, nine new marinas, more road access and general landscaping. 

Senior biologist for the program Jason Schleppe says in a media release that small changes to natural areas around the lake affects drinking water, infiltration, flood control, and reduces critical habitat for fish and wildlife.

“At the current rate of land development, the natural areas around the lake that are not located in parks or protected areas could be completely lost to development in 40 to 160 years,” Schleppe says in the release.

“Without any changes, all of the remaining unprotected natural shoreline along Okanagan Lake could be lost within the next generation or two," he says.

Last year was only the second time all 290 kilometers of shoreline have been catalogued and mapped, and aside from revealing some surprising results, the hope is the data will also be useful for property owners recovering from spring and summer flooding.

The report seeks a “collaborative action by everyone involved” as well as the development of an Okanagan Lake shoreline management plan.  

Future natural shoreline loss from development can be prevented or reversed by retaining and rehabilitating the natural greenspaces along the waterfront, the report says. These permeable and absorbent buffer areas allow room for lake waters to rise and fall with the changing seasons, and provide a wide range of other benefits.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw or call 250-718-0428 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
InfoTel News Ltd

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