In 2018, Sportsmen’s Bowl Road near Oliver was washed out. Dozens of residents were forced from their homes for months due to no road access.
Fast forward to this week, and flooding concerns are starting to rise, as snowpack levels in the Okanagan are 29 per cent above average.
What’s more, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests and Lands told Global News on Friday that more water than normal – 148 per cent — is projected to enter Okanagan lakes and rivers this spring and early summer.
According to longtime Sportsmen’s Bowl Road resident Dennis Tomlin, nearby creeks have undergone flood mitigation. However, those creeks all funnel into the Sportsmen’s Bowl area, which has received little to no flood-prevention upgrades.
“So they had to build dams and curb it and take it back down into a gully, where it continued through culverts down to Park Rill Creek. But the culverts were too small and Highway 97 acted as a dam and backed the water up.”
As to why Park Rill Creek changed directions, Tomlin said that was a result of area flooding being pumped into the creek, resulting in the creek spilling its banks.
Tomlin said water was being pumped from Twin Lakes into Park Rill Creek. Then water from an area golf course was pumped into Kearns Creek, which then flows into Park Rill Creek.
From there, says Tomlin, the water hit Secrest Hill Road, located above Sportsmen’s Bowl Road, which acted like a dam.
Tomlin says millions of litres were then pumped out over the road at the last minute, “and that’s what caused the breakout of Park Rill Creek.”
He said the water went through three or four farms, then took out Sportsmen’s Bowl Road, affecting not only local residents but farmers and a local vineyard as well.
Saturday, Tomlin says Sportsmen’s Bowl Road still hasn’t been fully repaired, that it’s a single-lane road.
“Nothing has been done about it. We’ve written letters, sent petitions, we’ve done everything we‘ve possibly could, and nothing’s been done about it,” said Tomlin.
He added other areas have seen improvements, but that the work done will still lead to water accumulating into the Sportsmen’s Bowl area.
Tomlin says the road is approximately one kilometer long and has 13 residents, but that it sees good traffic because it’s home to the Southern Okanagan Sportsmen’s Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to the propagation and preservation of fish and wildlife, according to its website.
Tomlin says he’s requesting a meeting with provincial authorities along Sportsmen’s Bowl Road, to show them what needs to be done to prevent “an oncoming disaster.”
“We’re this lost little place in the middle where everything else has been completed,” said Tomlin, adding forecasts he’s read are predicting a wet spring that will be warmer than normal.
On Saturday, the Ministry of Transportation said it is aware of concerns from residents regarding the potential for future flooding in the Sportsmen’s Bowl Road area.
“Ministry staff installed a cattle guard in Sportsmen’s Bowl Road to allow water to flow down the road without the need to close it should the existing channel capacity be exceeded during freshet,” the ministry said in an email to Global News.
(Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines freshet as an overflow of a stream caused by heavy rain or melting snow)
“Property owners will still be responsible to protect their properties from flood waters during freshet.”
The ministry stated: “we will continue to monitor these roads for safety concerns as spring freshet approaches, and will coordinate efforts with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource and Rural Development to ensure peoples’ safety.”
The MLA for the area, Linda Larson, told Global News that’s she’s aware of the issues with Sportsman’s Bowl Road, and that she has upcoming meetings regarding this and potential flooding in Willowbrook.