Rising waters on Okanagan Lake aren’t the only record setting event taking place in the valley, the SS Sicamous is floating for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Jessie Dunlop the assistant manager with the SS Sicamous says the lake levels are the highest they’ve been since 1948 which has caused the largest surviving stern wheeler in Canada to float.
The hull of the boat is made of steel making it waterproof and watertight which means there isn’t any cause for concern, according to Dunlop.
“Everything is protected and safe,” she explains. “We are just making sure the utility lines are working properly.”
Next to the SS Sicamous sits the SS Naramata, the last surviving steam tug in the Interior, which has had a damaged hull for sometime and is taking on water.
Dunlop says the water is corroding the steel on the inside of the boat and the tug needs to raised above the water level to stop the corrosion.
“It’s something we have been working on for sometime, it’s an ongoing problem that we need to fix in the next year,” she says. “There is more water inside now due to the rising lake level, but we aren’t worried about it right now.”
However behind the SS Sicamous on land is the Stern Saloon and a shed for restoration activity which are both in danger of flood waters. A tiger dam is being set up along the lake to protect the two structures.
All along the lake more sandbags and tiger dams are being set up thanks to the hard work of city staff and volunteers.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit says several forestry workers arrived in Penticton on Tuesday to help sandbag and will use a special machine that loads 1600 sandbags per hour.
“Thankfully floods happen slowly from a lake perspective so we have had a chance to prepare and our staff has been pretty proactive in ensuring there is a dam system in place and sandbags galore.”
For those interested in helping restore the SS Naramata the SS Sicamous Society is raising funds to repair the hull and return the boat to the water. The provincial government has also provided seed funding of $25,000. For more information click here.
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