Residents contend with rising water levels
Hours spent by Annette Star and her neighbours making and stacking sandbags have been fruitless as they wait and watch Osoyoos Lake water levels rise.
Since Thursday, Star said the lake has risen about 18 inches and continues to steadily creep higher. Her neighbours on 87th Street, who moved into their newly constructed house within the last two weeks, are now sitting with about three inches of water in their basement.
“We sandbagged it with 300 bags and it didn’t do any good at all. The water was just pouring in. The sump pump was going every 12 minutes on Friday and (Monday) it is going every four minutes,” said Star. “We carried the carpets out and saved those and the furniture, but the new hardwood floors are lost. Floods aren’t covered by insurance, so it’s up to each homeowner to pay for damage.”
Star said about 20 properties are directly affected by the rising lake which not only has caused flooding, but debris washing up onto their properties that the residents then have to take to the dump at their cost.
“We have about seven very elderly people on our block alone and we all chip in and help where we can. These people are on fixed incomes and they can’t afford to pay. Some have lived here all their lives on the lake and it’s not like we are all millionaires around here. Even if we could get a break on dumping fees that would help,” said Star who has fence posts and logs already stacked in her yard.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has warned South Okanagan residents to take precaution. Those managing the outflow of water from the series of lakes that dot the floor of the Okanagan Valley into Washington state in the U.S. tried to release enough water downstream to leave space in the main-stem lakes for a deeper-than-normal amount of winter snow. However, the delicate balancing act was complicated by heavy rainstorms that raised water levels in tributaries emptying into the lake system, dumping even more water into the valley bottom than was expected from melting snow.
In Oliver, Budget Nurseries owner George De Melo can’t even account for what he has lost yet as water has taken over a section of his property. The last time they saw floods was in 1996 and De Melo said he is still investigating where the water is actually coming from.
“I don’t know how much we have lost yet because it has to drain, right now it’s hard to tell. I’ve got a big portion that is covered and I don’t know what is going to survive out of that,” said De Melo, adding they have filled hundreds of sandbags, brought in a backhoe and sump pumps to try and save their property, but it has been unsuccessful.
Properties in Faulder have also been hit with water problems as a result of high water levels in Darke Creek. As the snow melt continues, driveways and gardens are getting washed out. Michael Brydon, director for Area F, said he first received calls about flooding in the area near the end of May. Faulder, an unincorporated community of 80 people, does not receive flood control services from the regional district unless there is an emergency. High water volumes in Keremeos Creek are causing flood concerns in Olalla as water backs up just north of the community. This year’s freshet is starting to lap at the doors of several houses in Olalla’s northeast corner.
The ministry is hoping there won’t be much rain for the next 10 to 15 days, to allow high-elevation snow to melt and run into Okanagan Lake, without the addition of runoff from rainfall in the watershed as well. Environment Canada meteorologist David Jones forecasts there will be no significant rainfall in the next week.