Shrinking Okanagan-area lake turning heads | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Shrinking Okanagan-area lake turning heads

The siltation problem in Vaseux Lake's north end is best seen through a series of photos taken between 1967 and 2020.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Norm Gaumont
January 25, 2021 - 8:00 AM

A solution for how to slow down the high rate of siltation currently choking Vaseux  Lake may be found in a new study, a local stewardship group is hoping

Vaseux Lake Stewardship board of directors chair Norm Gaumont says Vaseux Lake lost 10 per cent of its size in the past few decades due to increasing siltation in the lake’s north end.

The north end of Vaseux Lake in 2017.
The north end of Vaseux Lake in 2017.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Norm Gaumont

Gaumont met with Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen board of directors on Jan. 6 and was able to convince them to provide a $30,000 grant from the district’s conservation fund to study the problem.

He says straightening the Okanagan River channel in the 1950s and a recent increase in siltation coming from Shuttleworth Creek, just to the north of the lake, has resulted in a steady increase in silt ending up in the lake.

The lake in 2013.
The lake in 2013.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Norm Gaumont

“The silt used to come into the river meanders prior to channelization, and get deposited on the flood plain. Nowadays it comes rushing down the river and out of Shuttleworth Creek and ends up getting dumped into the north end of Vaseux Lake,” he says.

He says the issue has reached a "saturation point" as roughly 10 per cent of the lake has been filled with sediments.

“Of the water left in the lake, we’ve gone out as far as 500 feet from shore in the north end and the water is below our knees. Less water has also meant more milfoil, which speeds up the siltation even more,” Gaumont says.

The study is being done to find out how much sediment is being trapped in a sediment pond on Shuttleworth Creek. Gaumont believes probably not much.

The north end of Vaseux Lake in 2012, prior to three flood years in more recent times.
The north end of Vaseux Lake in 2012, prior to three flood years in more recent times.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Norm Gaumont

“We also want to explore alternatives. Is there another place to dig a bigger sediment pond? Shuttleworth Creek runs through a very unstable sand formation which causes it to bring a lot of sediment with it during the spring freshet. It’s part of a natural process, but it shouldn’t happen as fast as it’s happening here,” he says.

Gaumont hopes to have the study completed sometime this spring.

Oliver rural director Rick Knodel says the problem really caught the board’s attention during Gaumont’s presentation.

“It wasn’t clear what was going on, but when Norm presented he provided some photos that made it very clear. In this case, he made a believer out of all of us,” Knodel says of the board decision to grant the conservation funds.

“We need to find out what is happening and how to limit it before the salmon habitat is threatened. The water could get too warm and threaten all the salmon rehabilitation efforts that have been going on to reintroduce the species back into Okanagan Lake. That’s a big part of what got people concerned,” Knodel says.

Vaseux Lake in 1967.
Vaseux Lake in 1967.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Norm Gaumont

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to tips@infonews.ca and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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