Dam Decisions

Judging is always easier than doing

The old saying, hindsight is 20/20 vision, remains as true today as whenever the phrase was first used.

In this case, we’re referring to the Monday-morning quarterbacking some Okanagan Valley residents are applying to the people in charge of the various dams along the chain of lakes and connecting rivers running through the Okanagan Valley.

At this point, with rain extending well into June, it’s easy to say that whoever was in charge should have started reducing the lake level sooner. But it’s a sure bet that if that had been the decision, there would have been just as much finger pointing when the region experienced a lack of water in the hotter months.

Forecasting the weather, especially long-range, is far from a precise science. And that is only the start of the problem in judging how much water to store up in the lake. The needs of communities and the river system itself, all along the chain from Wood to Osoyoos Lake have to be judged.

Water can only be released from Okanagan Lake so fast before it starts overflowing the river channel south, and while lowering the lake level may relive concerns for property owners on the lakeshore and flood plains, farmers, fruit growers and wineries need the water security that having a full reservoir provides.

Given the immense balancing act this represents, instead of criticizing, we should be applauding the decision-making that has kept the water system reasonably well-moderated over the past century.

The degree of balancing necessary and the variability of conditions contributing to the decision-making process also argues against another idea of those examining the situation in their rearview mirror, that control of the dams should be given over to local officials.

This kind of decision-making is just not something that can be given over to a committee of people without specialized knowledge, and who all have competing interests.