Penticton firefighters Andrew Bird (left) and David Scott work to remove debris from beneath the bridge between Okanagan Lake Park and the Penticton Art Gallery grounds Wednesday as water levels in Penticton Creek continue to rise. Mark Brett/Western News

City prepared to wait out Mother Nature

Water levels continue to rise in Okanagan Lake, as does the cost of damage repair

It’s going to be a few days before water levels in Okanagan Lake start to drop.

The dam is releasing water into the Okanagan River Channel at the maximum allowable rate, limited by concerns over causing even more damage downstream. The lake is projected to hit its peak level around May 28.

“There’s this point where we can discharge enough water that can address the rise. But right now it’s rising faster than we can discharge,” said Peter Weeber, Penticton’s chief administrative officer, adding that the city will continue work to contain problems, but the foreshore is still at risk of wave action.

“We’re in a holding pattern right now at the mercy of Mother Nature,” said Weeber. “We’re reinforcing every area where we are seeing damage in anticipation of the next event.”

Waves stirred up by a windstorm Tuesday night and Wednesday already caused serious damage to the Kiwanis Walking Pier and the breakwater protecting the Penticton Yacht Club Marina.

Wednesday afternoon, Weeber announced the city had managed to secure provincial funding to repair the breaches in the breakwater. He didn’t have a final amount from the province but estimated it could be as high as $200,000.

Weeber said the breakwater continues to erode, and another wind event could be disastrous.

“The one on the east side is completely gone,” said Weeber. “If the breakwater is not in place then the (wave) energy hits the docks straight on and they can’t handle it. They’re not designed to take wave action.”

The rising lake level has also covered much of the beaches, and erosion has also caused damage, but Weeber said that’s not permanent.

“When the water recedes, the sand will still be there,” said Weeber. “Granted but we’ll have to do some work to build up certain areas but I don’t see that as being an issue. We have a lot of sand available to us to shape the beaches as needed.”

Weeber is also concerned about how the already-damaged walking pier would take another windstorm.

“We don’t know how much damage but it is definitely off kilter on the front and back,” said Weeber. “We just don’t know what the extent of the damage is. Maybe it’s repairable.”

Weeber said it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen to the pier or the marina, noting they are huge assets to the community.

“We’ll see what happens when the next storm comes.”

Another area of concern is the bridge crossing Penticton Creek that connects the Art Gallery with Okanagan Lake Park.

“There is no gap underneath it. If debris washes up, it will hit that bridge and start damming it up,” said Weeber, adding that workers are trying to keep any debris from building up.

Overall, Weeber said there was a lot of erosion damage, including long portions of beach sand hollowed out along the Okanagan Lake boardwalk.

“We do have some concerns around this creek. The water levels is now up at the point where it is starting to erode the edges,” said Weeber.