UPDATED: Marina, town boat launches reopen, but caution still advised

By on June 13, 2017

The Town of Osoyoos has reopened Desert Sunrise Marina and town boat launches now that the floods have receded, but lake levels are still high and there is debris in the water, so boaters are advised to exercise caution. (Richard McGuire photo)

This story has been updated to include developments over the weekend and since.

Osoyoos Lake is slowly returning to normal as floodwaters continue to recede, but officials are advising caution.

The Town of Osoyoos reopened Desert Sunrise Marina and town boat launches last Friday, but boaters are still being urged to exercise caution.

“We have taken down the barricades and ‘closed’ signs and replaced them with ‘caution’ signs,” said Janette Van Vianen, Town of Osoyoos director of corporate services and emergency program co-ordinator. “Boaters are still reminded there is debris in the water and with the water level still higher than normal, should keep speed down, especially near shorelines.”

The town closed the boating facilities on Thursday, June 1 when the level of Osoyoos Lake reached around 914.76 feet above sea level, just shy of its peak of 914.89 feet reached the following day.

At the time, the town said the closures of the marina and boat launches were due to the extraordinarily high lake level, hazards and debris in the lake and the potential damage that watercraft wakes can cause to vulnerable properties and infrastructure.

Since then, the level of the lake has declined by more than a foot and a half, reaching 913.15 feet as of 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Many low-lying homes remain sandbagged and boat wakes can damage property.

The B.C. River Forecast Centre says any renewed flooding would most likely be caused by rainfall. The initial flooding was caused by the combination of extremely high snowpack volumes and abnormally warm temperatures that caused the snow to melt quickly.

Snowpack levels in the Okanagan Basin are still exceptionally high for this time of year, 228 per cent of normal, according to a bulletin released last Wednesday by the River Forecast Centre, based on conditions as of June 1.

The Similkameen basin index was down to 103 per cent – slightly above normal – suggesting that snowmelt entering the Similkameen River is diminishing and isn’t as serious a problem as it’s been in recent weeks.

When water volumes in the Similkameen River are too high, as occurred in early June, water backs up into the Okanogan River south of Oroville, WA. This can impede the outflow of water from Osoyoos Lake at the Zosel Dam.

The River Forecast Centre suggests recent extreme conditions are behind us.

“High June 1 snow basin indices in the Okanagan and Kettle better reflect the high flows and flood conditions that have already occurred, rather than being an indication of future risk,” said the June 1 Snow Survey and Water Supply Bulletin.

“Inflows into Okanagan Lake appear to be declining and the risks for future rises in inflow rates and lake levels will be mainly driven by rainfall,” the bulletin continued.

The level of Okanagan Lake began to lower on Monday and was at 343.240 metres above sea level as of Monday morning. Until then, the lake was rising, however, the rate of increase had slowed considerably since May.

While any future flooding is more likely to result from rainfall than snowmelt, June is typically the wettest month of the year for most of the B.C. Interior, leading potentially to extreme flooding.

“Flood risks across the province from rain-driven runoff are expected to be on-going through June,” said the B.C. River Forecast Centre’s bulletin.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) again on Saturday advised residents to leave sandbags in place.

“Some floodwaters and groundwater are expected to continue to rise and the threat may not be over for some time,” the RDOS said in a news release.

“All sandbags and installed armouring must remain in place until otherwise directed by your local authority.”

The RDOS has also rescinded local states of emergency and evacuation alerts for properties in the Tinhorn Creek, Hester Creek and Testalinden Creek areas due to reduction in snowpack volumes and reduced likelihood of severe weather events.

RICHARD McGUIRE

Osoyoos Times

 

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