Premier Christy Clark paid an impromptu visit to Penticton and other Okanagan communities struggling to deal with rising floodwaters.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said the premier spent about 20 minutes Tuesday morning chatting with residents at Red Wing, one of the most hard-hit residential communities in the area.
Jakubeit typified the premier’s visit as a casual conversation with the Red Wing residents, inspecting the protective measures and inquiring if their homes had been affected yet.
“She wanted to see first hand,” said Jakubeit. “We met her at Red Wing and walked along the walkway to see the level of water, sandbags and tiger dams.”
There were no announcements about new funding commitments, but Jakubeit said he did get a chance to put a few words in about what happens when the high water recedes.
“To make sure that common sense prevails in terms of remediation of our beach and that the province isn’t restrictive in terms of being able to put sand back on the beach, or whatever is needed to get our beaches back to what state they were before the high water,” said Jakubeit.
Jakubeit said the premier noted and appreciated the ongoing co-operation between the city and the regional district to shore up defences in areas like Red Wing. For his part, he thanked her for speedy action to help get the marina breakwater rebuilt, along with other resourced the province has provided.
“We are probably close to half a million dollars that the province has backstopped or funded for all the preventative measures to make sure we are protected from the rising waters,” said Jakubeit.
However, water levels continue to rise and the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen is advising people to leave sandbags and other protective measures in place.
On June 4, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations reported that Okanagan Lake could rise as much as 27.5 cm (10.8 inches) from its present level.
That’s bad news for areas like the Penticton Yacht Club, where water is already near the top of existing dikes.
“The marina is inches away from having part of their measures compromised, and now they have a second line of defence to keep the clubhouse protected,” said Jakubeit, explaining that crews have begun work on a second dike behind the first.
“Our current barriers will fail,” said Penticton CAO Peter Weeber, noting there is already spillover on the Red Wing side of the Okanagan Lake dam. “The regional district has built a tire dam to prevent wave damage. It’s not a big problem, but it is an indicator of what is to come.”
Weeber typifies flooding as a slow-moving disaster, unlike forest fires, giving the city a chance to get ahead of some of the problems.
He said it’s been a great test of the city’s emergency response protocols and shown them strengths and weaknesses.
The future of the Kiwanis Walking Pier, which was damaged by waves in an earlier windstorm, is uncertain. It’s continued to be affected by the rising lake water, which is now over the pier itself.
“It’s taken a lot of damage,” said Weeber. “The jury is still out.”
The RDOS is asking residents and visitors to limit boat use, especially on Okanagan, Skaha and Osoyoos Lakes, that can create wakes or waves. Boat operators should also watch their speed to avoid floating or hidden debris.
The district continues to warn against the popular activity of tubing on rivers, especially on the Penticton River Channel, Okanagan River or Similkameen River. Rivers are exceptionally high, fast and more dangerous than usual. Debris may be moving through the water that can hurt people. The speed and power of these rivers can put people at risk.