Silty banks lead to creek colour change

Warmer temperatures are contributing to increased turbidity in one of two creeks that cut through the city.

Ellis Creek, which flows east to west and discharges into the Okanagan River channel, has taken on a muddy appearance in recent days, while Penticton Creek, which empties into Okanagan lake, remains clear.

That’s perfectly normal, according to the city’s operations director.

“Ellis Creek runs through an area where there’s a lot of silt on the adjacent banks, and Penticton Creek doesn’t, so basically the underlying strata of the creeks are different,” explained Mitch Moroziuk.

“That’s just naturally occurring, spring conditions.”

He noted the city is doing work on one of its Ellis Creek dams, “so people might think it’s that, but we’ve actually diverted the creek to do the work that we’re doing.”

Both creeks originate in the hills east of Penticton and each has three city-owned dams on it. They’ll be put to work soon as the spring melt gets underway.

Snowpack in the Okanagan-Kettle basin was at 94 per cent of normal as of March 1, according to the most recent bulletin from the B.C. River Forecast Centre, while the Similkameen basin was at 118 per cent of normal.

About 80 per cent of B.C.’s annual snow pack is usually on the ground by early March, with another six to eight weeks left in the accumulation season, the bulletin said.

The centre is relying on data from Environment Canada that shows a “modest chance” of above-normal temperatures through May.

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