South Okanagan warned of high water levels

The public is urged to take extra care near the Okanagan River because of high water levels.

Justin and Stephanie Bawn of Vancouver get an early start to the popular summer past time on the Okanagan River Channel this week. High water levels have prompted the provincial government to issue a warning for people to be careful while on or near the waterway.

Justin and Stephanie Bawn of Vancouver get an early start to the popular summer past time on the Okanagan River Channel this week. High water levels have prompted the provincial government to issue a warning for people to be careful while on or near the waterway.

The public is urged to take extra care near the Okanagan River because of high water levels.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations sent out a warning on Friday that the Okanagan River’s deep and fast-flowing current requires heightened safety awareness during the spring snowmelt.

“People need to be very careful around Okanagan River and other rivers and streams because the flows will be rising and they will be flowing faster and higher than normal, so there is obviously a concern for safety both for people with children and pets. They shouldn’t get too close to the banks because they may be unstable,” said Des Anderson, head of public safety and protection for the ministry’s Okanagan-Shuswap district.

According to the ministry, this year’s snowpack melt is expected to cause higher runoff into Okanagan River from Okanagan Lake for the next several weeks. Flows in Okanagan River between Okanagan Lake and Osoyoos Lake are currently well above normal and expected to remain high throughout the spring and early summer.

“We upped the flows through the system towards the end of last week and then (Monday) we increased the flows out of Okanagan Falls and McIntyre Dam to bring Skaha Lake and Vaseux Lake more into balance,” said Anderson.

He expects this to continue right until the end of June so the flow of water can be channeled all the way down to Osoyoos Lake.

“Essentially we are reacting to the weather and to higher net inflow forecast for Okanagan Lake. We just basically are trying to create more space as fast as we can in Okanagan Lake,” said Anderson.