Spring flood almost overwhelmed Kelowna's storm sewers

Rotary Beach in Kelowna.

KELOWNA - Last spring’s flood waters were so high, the city had to pump water out of storm sewers to keep them from overflowing.

Utility services manager Kevin Van Vliet says the record high waters forced the city to rent a half a dozen large pumps and install them at points along the Kelowna waterfront and at the same time, close off some of the large storm water discharge pipes downtown and in the Mission.

“We created a kind of dyke in our system near the lake and pumped water over it,” Van Vliet says.

While it may seem counterintuitive to close off the sewers and pump the water back into Okanagan Lake, Van Vliet says water would have quickly backed up into the discharge pipes, rendering them useless as drains.

Besides the high water table, Van Vliet says local residents pumping water out of their basements and crawlspaces also helped push the storm water system beyond capacity.

While the spring 2017 flood has been described as a one-in-two-hundred year event, Van Vliet says the city has used industrial-scale pumps before during high-water events, most often at a location near the Delta Grand Hotel.

While permanent pumps are not on the radar, Van Vliet says his department is considering a 2018 budget request for equipment to make it easier and quicker to shut off the discharge pipes and install the pumps when needed.

The spring flood saw Okanagan Lake reach an unprecedented 342.25 centimetres above sea level. City officials have estimated damaged to civic infrastructure at almost $9 million although disaster relief funding from the B.C. government will cover about 60 per cent of that amount.


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