May 18, 2017 6:25 pm
Updated: May 18, 2017 9:08 pm

SS Sicamous afloat for first time in nearly 30 years

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The 100-year-old SS Sicamous is afloat for the first time in nearly 30 years.

“We’re floating at about 4-5 inches at the moment. In 1990 the water was about this high and the boat I’m told that it almost went out onto the lake, but it is cabled in now so it is not going anywhere,” said SS Sicamous assistant manager Jessie Dunlop.

The decommissioned passenger ship turned heritage site is the largest surviving stern wheeler in Canada.

While it’s anchored to land on the south end of Okanagan Lake in Penticton by this steel cabling, the flood threat is to its utility lines.

If water levels get too high, the connections could be shut off.

“We would have to shut it down, we’re not open at the moment just because of the rising levels,” Dunlop said.

It’s a symptom of the near record high levels of Okanagan Lake.

The lake is 342.75 metres above sea level.

That’s 12 centimetres below 1990 levels and 31.5 centimetres off the all-time record set in 1948.

Crews are out in full force removing debris from the log boom at the Penticton dam.

The dam was built in the 1950’s to regulate the lake level as a flood control measure and all tributaries in the Okanagan water shed drain into Okanagan Lake.

“Our channel flow capacity is 60 and right now we’re really pushing that and releasing 70 cubic metres per second,” said Shaun Reimer, who manages the lake for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations.

At the current discharge the dam lowers Okanagan Lake by about 1.5 centimetres a day, but given the inflows its rising up to 4 centimetres a day. That means the lake level is expected to continue to rise through mid-June.

The dams on Skaha and Vaseux lakes are wide-open but doing the same to the Penticton dam would exacerbate the flood risk downstream.

“So in order to push anymore water down there we would actually have to raise the level in those lakes,” Reimer said, “and then they would see lots of flooding around the shores.”

Meanwhile at the SS Sicamous, a reinforced steel hull means the ship is water-tight.

“We’re prepared and the Sicamous is safe,” Dunlop said.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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