Weather and wildfires interfere with water board's floodplain mapping project | Penticton News | iNFOnews

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Weather and wildfires interfere with water board's floodplain mapping project

The Okanagan Basin Water Board hopes to have the aerial mapping of its LiDAR survey of Okanagan Lake floodplain finished by January, 2019.
October 18, 2018 - 5:30 PM

PENTICTON - The Okanagan Basin Water Board’s summer project to map the Okanagan flood plain hasn’t gone as smoothly as hoped, as the project has had to deal with bad weather and a tragic accident involving the air crew assigned to the mapping survey.

Water Board Executive Director Anna Warwick Sears says the LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging Technology) survey began during Okanagan Lake’s low water season in early April. A second section of the survey was done in May, but the third section, surveying the upper watershed at higher elevations coincided with the valley’s smoke issues this summer.

That was compounded by aircraft availability for the survey, followed by a fatal crash involving the air crew on Aug. 1 in the Kananaskis Valley in Alberta.

According to an account in the Calgary Herald on Aug. 2, the crash of the Piper PA-31 Navajo aircraft was witnessed by several people when it struck Mount Rae.

The plane had departed Penticton and was bound for Springbank Airport west of Calgary.

Both the pilot, Daniel Thibeault, and Levi Vandenbrink, a technician with Eagle Mapping, were killed in the crash.

Warwick Sears says the plane had data from the Okanagan survey that may or may not be retrievable.

“We’ve had really good flying conditions recently, for the first time in months. I understand they’ve been out flying. They may refly the whole area,” she says.

Warwick Sears says she hopes the aerial mapping will be completed by January, 2019, followed by the creation of floodplain maps. A bathymetry survey is also planned to outline, in three dimensional profile, the Okanagan River channel, a controversial topic due to speculation the channel has been filling in over the years.

“In a lot of ways it’s been really challenging, and in others it’s been a really good positive experience. The best thing about it is we’ve had this terrific partnership with the provincial government, helping us organize the survey, and we’ve had really great partnerships with all local governments. We’ve never worked on a project where there was so much involvement with all the local governments working together,” Warwick Sears says.

The flood plain mapping project is part of a $1.45 million effort to identify the areas most at risk of flooding in the valley.

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