Penticton city council got their first look at the Ellis Creek restoration plan on Oct. 15, and it’s $30 million price tag to complete.
The creek, which splits off the Okanagan River and runs along Industrial Avenue and beside the Penticton Regional Hospital, has flooded in past years and is prone to erosion and deposition.
Shawn Kilpatrick, with Stantec Consulting, explained during the committee of the whole presentation that the five objectives of the restoration plan would be to “stabilizing Ellis Creek channel, improving the ecological function, increasing the resiliency, decreasing risks to infrastructure and increasing aesthetics and park values.”
“We have two core problems with Ellis Creek, one is called degradation which is a special type of erosion where the head of the channel lowers through time. This happened rather quickly during the floods of 2016, 2017 and 2018. So it leads to poor fish habitat, exposure of utilities, unstable banks and produces a lot of sediment,” said Kilpatrick. “And the settlement goes downstream where we have aggradation which is a special type of deposition where the bed goes up and it increases the flood hazard, decreases the fish habitat value and decreases clearance of bridges.”
To deal with the degradation, Kilpatrick explained the city would need to stabilize the bed and banks by widening the channel and floodplain. For aggradation, he said “it’s more simple because you excavate the sediment that has been deposited” and then build fish habitat structures.
“There’s a number of ways we can do this, some are more hard engineering types of approaches … we’re using a natural channel design approach and have some examples of natural styles of channels based on different slope categories,” said Kilpatrick. “The ones we propose are step pools, plane beds, and riffle pools … By building channels appropriate to the slope and the energy conditions, they should last longer and provide more ecological functions of a natural system.”
The report produced by Stantec Consulting identified 13 reach breaks along Ellis Creek, all at varying degrees of flood risks, degradation and erosion. The restoration plan groups certain breaks together in order to apply the appropriate solution to each area, whether it’s excavating the channel to restore capacity, developing flood plains and restoring vegetation or stabilizing the channel to mitigate degradation.
But all of this work would come at a cost of $30.15 million once all breaks have been fixed. This is excluding future master plan updates and any necessary land acquisitions or easements. All 13 reach breaks were prioritized in the plan, with breaks 7 through 9 at the highest priority. The cost of fixing these first three breaks alone would cost approximately $11.35 million.
“I guess the average taxpayer is going to look at this report and say ‘What, $30 million for fish?’ and they’re going to scream at us, you can rest assured that they’re going to scream at us. But it’s not just that, it’s the flooding aspect of it,” said Coun. Jake Kimberley. “And of course, as we all know, everybody is talking about climate change these days and climate change can increase flooding problems. That’s a huge water track area.”
It was noted that while upper levels of government would not be a funding resource for the project, there are numerous conservation groups in the area that would be interested in contributing.
Residents are welcome to weigh in on the restoration plan, with scheduled presentations at the Oct. 19 Farmers’ Market and at the Penticton community center on Oct. 23. Feedback can also be given online at www.shapeyourcitypenticton.com until Nov. 1.
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