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Dam in South Okanagan reopens with a big splash

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton talks with a Summerland municipal worker at the Isintok Dam opening on Tuesday. Mark Brett / Penticton Herald

After a simple twist of a valve, clean mountain water has once again begun flowing from the Isintok Lake reservoir to people in Summerland and Trout Creek.

Tuesday was the official reopening of the 96-year-old structure, which in 2013 was found to need a new outlet pipe at a cost of $2 million.

Senior levels of government picked up the lion’s share of the bill, with the District of Summerland kicking in some, too, and overseeing the project.

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“This (re-opening) is hugely important,” said Summerland Mayor Toni Boot, who was among the elected officials who attended the site for a look on Tuesday.

“As you can imagine, if there is a dam break the downstream damage would be catastrophic. It’s not inexpensive but, certainly, the safety of humans and everything else that shares this ecosystem is paramount.”

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According to the mayor, there was consultation with First Nations and careful planning to ensure environmental outcomes were met.

That included slowly drawing down the reservoir, which holds over 1.3 million cubic metres of water, during June to avoid stranding fish.

Requiring technical engineering, work did not actually start until August 2021 and was completed by January in time for this year’s runoff.

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“The top of mind, given our weather this spring, is the ability for structures like this to support flood resilience by allowing us to hold back water when we need to,” said Boot.

Another person happy with the work is Trout Creek resident and Penticton MLA Dan Ashton, who was also at the opening.

“Thank you for your amazing foresight,” Ashton said of the district’s efforts to get the dam repaired and find the problem in the first place.

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The new outlet pipe provides flood resistance and brings the structure up to dam safety standards.

Located at an elevation of 1,649 metres, water from the reservoir travels 24 kilometres before reaching the intake at the Summerland water treatment plant on Prairie Valley Road.

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