Okanagan River Channel reaches near-record levels

This month alone, the Okanagan River channel has risen more than a metre, which guarantees a speedy trip downstream as these tubers found out Friday. - Joe Fries/Western News
This month alone, the Okanagan River channel has risen more than a metre, which guarantees a speedy trip downstream as these tubers found out Friday.
— image credit: Joe Fries/Western News

Brave souls can expect a speedy trip down the Okanagan River Channel these days, thanks to a near-record inflow of water from the dam upstream.

As of Tuesday morning, the Okanagan Lake dam was discharging water at a rate hovering around 66 cubic metres per second, enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool in about 38 seconds, and close to the record high of 77.9 cubic metres per second that was reached in 1997.

All that water has also raised the channel shoreline by about 1.2 metres in June alone, to about 20 centimetres above the high mark it reached last year, according to Environment Canada data.

Officials are trying to strike a delicate balance between rising lake levels on either side of the dam.

Tuesday morning also saw Okanagan Lake at 12 centimetres over its target upper elevation of 342.48 metres above sea level, according to Des Anderson, who heads the local public safety and protection branch for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. This level is above last year’s high of 11 cm.

It may seem like a miniscule overage, but it’s not.

“That’s important because people who have low-lying properties, that’s when they begin to have groundwater seepage into basements and crawl spaces and such,” Anderson said.

The lake crested at 11 cm over target last year, he added, so the current lack of beach is not unusual. However, with rain still in the forecast for later this week, the lake could go higher still.

High outflows are also beginning to cause headaches south of Penticton.

“Vaseaux Lake at the moment is relatively high, actually, and we’re trying to manage that as best we can,” Anderson said. “But when we’re running flows of this magnitude, we really can’t stop that lake from reaching the level it’s at.”

Anderson  warned people to keep themselves, their pets and their kids away from swollen waterways, and said anyone with a dock should make sure it’s properly secured to withstand rising lake levels.


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