Penticton's oxbows an important but neglected water resource - InfoNews

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Penticton's oxbows an important but neglected water resource

Friends of the Oxbows representative Rick McKelvey addressed Penticton council on May 4. The group of Penticton residents are dedicated to improving the habitat of the city's remaining river meanders.
May 07, 2015 - 10:34 AM

PENTICTON - A Penticton group concerned about the health of the Okanagan River oxbows says more can be done to restore and rejuvenate the remaining river channels in Penticton.

Rick McKelvey updated Penticton City Council earlier this week on progress his group, “Friends of the Oxbows” was making with respect to restoring the wetland habitat.

Friends of the Oxbows worked with the city to have a storm water interceptor installed in the Brandon Avenue oxbow last year. This year the city has budgeted $30,000 for permits and removal of sediment in the oxbow in 2015.

Friends of the Oxbows also hope to connect one oxbow to a water source to allow a minimal flow year round. The group’s five year plan includes restoring riparian vegetation on a minimum of two oxbows.

McKelvey explained the former Okanagan River was channelized for flood control several decades ago, leaving a number of natural meanders of the Okanagan River cut off from the main river. These sections of old channel, or oxbows, were once healthy riparian areas that are now remnant wetlands that have become neglected and unproductive as riparian wetland.

The oxbows have accumulated years of sedimentation caused by storm water flows. They have also suffered from years of stagnant water flow and the presence of invasive species, in addition to having become a depository for garbage and debris.

McKelvey called them 'urban wetlands' telling council there was opportunity for them to become productive. His group continues to work to restore and protect what riparian habitat remains. They are also promoting the reconnection of the cut off bodies of water in an effort to allow flow age and flushing of the oxbows.

McKelvey also referred to the oxbows' value as a recreational resource, located in close proximity to the city’s population. He said the oxbows have economic value in water conservation, biodiversity conservation, wildlife viewing and other passive recreational opportunities. He said the oxbows could be made much more attractive and appealing to those viewing them while driving the Channel Parkway.

“At our last presentation we received great support from the city. No one we encountered was not in favour of conservation of these wetlands,” McKelvey told council. “My point is these are urban wetlands. If we don’t manage them actively they will disappear, and in a valley where water is considered scarce, we don’t want that, so we need to do something to improve the water."

Friends of the Oxbow is operated by an eight member board who have 120 people on their mailing list. The group formed in 2008 after four neighbours living near one of the oxbows came to the conclusion the wetlands were deteriorating due to sediment incursion from storm sewer runoff. The group conducts tours, lobbies politicians and works to highlight the importance of the oxbows.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.


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