Okanagan’s high snowpack cause for concern as flood season approaches

Click to play video: 'Concern over high snowpack in the Okanagan' Concern over high snowpack in the Okanagan
Concern over high snowpack in the Okanagan – Feb 14, 2020

Residents of the Okanagan know all too well what the spring melt can bring. Flooding season is rapidly approaching and this year might be wetter than usual.

READ MORE: B.C. identifies 5th presumptive case of COVID-19, woman who travelled near Shanghai

This year’s snowpack is 29 per cent above average, which raises some concerns for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Developments.

“[The snowpack] brings it into the area of concern, anytime you have a higher snowpack,” said Shaun Reimer, Ministry of Forest and Land’s section head for safety and protection.
Story continues below advertisement

The ministry says an even more alarming statistic is how much new water is projected to enter the lakes and rivers in the Okanagan, in the coming spring and early summer.

READ MORE: Commercial truck driver injured in chain-reaction collision on Trans-Canada east of Revelstoke

“That number ended up being 760 million litres and it’s 148 per cent of what we would normally expect at that time,” said Reimer.

Staff at the Penticton Dam started their preparations this week for the anticipated influx of water. 

They’ve begun to lower Okanagan Lake’s water level.

READ MORE: Indigenous rights protesters in Victoria vowing ‘B.C. government shutdown’ remain peaceful

“We had to be a bit more aggressive, we raised the flows this week above that fisheries threshold,” said Reimer, “which means we could be impacting fish eggs.”

However, the ministry of forest and lands say the preparation for the inevitable rise in water levels outweighs the possible impact to fish in the Okanagan river.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Search crews find missing snowmobiler dead, say Revelstoke RCMP

When comparing this year to the 2017 flood, the ministry says there are differences that may help mitigate flooding.

“We were almost expecting to see drought conditions that year [2017] and of course what happened was we kept the lake higher,” said Reimer. “That was what the target elevation said [to do].”

Reimer told Global News on Friday, they are optimistic their mitigation efforts will prevent a repeat of 2017.

“The difference here is that we can see it coming, we see the large snowpack developing and it gives us the opportunity to make room in the lake.”

Click to play video: 'Province responds to civil court allegations about foster care case' Province responds to civil court allegations about foster care case
Province responds to civil court allegations about foster care case – Feb 13, 2020

The ministry said it is still early to be raising red flags and that other factors may also come into play that could contribute to flooding.

Story continues below advertisement

Other factors that can lead to flooding are how much rain the Okanagan gets and how quickly the weather warms up.

Sponsored content