It may be structurally sound, but a deeper look at the system as a whole is important to effectively manage a large body of water and be ready for the effects of climate change.
That is what Okanagan Dam manager Shaun Reimer had to say about a recent report that the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) executive director Anna Warwick Sears submitted to the province, which asks for funding for a variety of issues, including reviewing the operating system and eventually replacing the dam located in Penticton.
Reimer said the dam is actually closer to being 70 years old but is structurally sound and seismically safe. That said, however, the whole system that manages lake levels can always benefit from a review so we can prepare for more extreme weather events.
“Especially considering the age (of the dam), it’s held up pretty well,” he said.
“We don’t actually have any real concerns in terms of a structural issue… but considering the issues we will be having in the future, with more extreme weather events, we do really want to take a look at how well the entire system will hold up under those conditions, and we’re working towards that.”
In her report, Warwick Sears said the province needs to start planning for a new one very soon.
“It is inadequate for managing future floods… given the increased volume and frequency of floods as a result of climate change, and the Province of B.C. needs to begin planning for its replacement,” she said.
“Flooding is projected to become much more common in the next few decades, damaging public and private infrastructure at great cost.”
Reimer said he’s well aware of the changes in weather patterns and behaviours and is responding to it as best he can at the dam.
“With some of the estimates of what the weather and the events that are going to happen due to climate change, going out maybe 20 or 50 years from now, then I don’t know that we would be able to manage within the confines of the existing system,” he said.
“This is why we want to get ahead of it, not get caught by surprise… nothing is going to be done overnight and we have to put a lot of thought into this so we do get it right in the end, so that we can address all the interests and concerns, address First Nations concerns and water supply concerns. Those will all be part of the conversation.”