In Tulameen, workers are building gabions, containers filled with gravel, as a temporary dike against rising water in Otter Lake, which has already ignored a stop sign to flood into town. Photo courtesy RDOS

Water levels rising across South Okanagan and Similkameen

More snow still waiting to melt on the mountains

There is hardly a community in the South Okanagan-Similkameen that isn’t feeling the effects of too much water, as historically high snow levels and rain events cause problems across the region.

Penticton got its first taste on April 7 when water, mud and debris flowing down off the mountainside blocked the storm sewer and water flooded out into a residential neighbourhood. And in mid-April, a slide on Highway 3A closed that route for several days; it is still reduced to one lane, alternating traffic.

Related: Road repair needed for Highway 3A slide area

Related: Blocked storm sewers back in service

Tulameen is being hit the worst. The small town, north of Princeton, had 148 homes placed on evacuation alert Saturday afternoon, upgraded to a 178-home evacuation order Sunday, as water in Otter Lake rose and flooded into the townsite.

Related: Efforts increase to save Tulameen

Bob Coyne, Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen Area H director, said crews are doing their best to cope with the water, installing tiger dams and gabions — metal containers filled with gravel — to create a dyke.

Worse is expected to come as the weather warms up and melts the snowpack, which is 150 per cent above normal in some locations.

“This is all in anticipation of what they think is coming down the valley,” said Cohen. About half of Tulameen, 148 homes, remains under an evacuation order Tuesday and another 157 homes are on evacuation alert.

Four properties were flooded and three roads gouged near Osprey Lake Monday night after Lee Creek breached its banks.

Related: Flood damages properties at Osprey Lake

After a state of local emergency was issued for Cawston Sunday, the town had a bit of a reprieve as rising water in the Similkameen River receded temporarily that afternoon. Cawston resident Dave Cursons said Saturday that the water in the creek rose 10 inches, and trees could be seen sailing south on the river.

Damage caused during last year’s flooding was repaired Saturday with boulders placed to protect the gravel dike from being undermined.

“I’m not surprised there’s an emergency: there’s water on our streets, flooded farmlands,” said Cursons, adding a small pond formed in his own field.

“There was a heck of a lot of activity this morning. We’re keeping a very keen eye on our creeks — they’re coming up,” he said.

In Summerland, the water level in Aeneas Creek is rising, and the creek has breached its banks in some areas. Part of Garnet Avenue has been closed and some private properties near the creek have experienced localized flooding.

Related: Rising creek level causes localized flooding

Linda Tynan, the chief administrative officer for Summerland, said if flood waters continue to rise, the water may find an alternate path away from the creek, making it more difficult to manage.

Municipal crews are constructing berms in the Garnet Valley area to divert water back to the creek as Garnet Lake the reservoir feeding Aeneas Creek is spilling.

“We have to get a berm in place before the creek breaches,” Tynan said. The municipality has declared a state of local emergency along Aeneas Creek.

On April 16, properties along Sportsmens Bowl Road north of Oliver were evacuated due to the potential of a debris flow along Park Rill Creek. High water, impounded behind several earthen dams and Secrest Hill Road, raised the likelihood of a breach of these structures. Currently, 17 homes are evacuated and a further 147 properties downstream remain on evacuation alert.

The RDOS and Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure have set up a series of pumps to reduce the build-up of water along Park Rill Creek.

A state of local emergency remains in effect for communities along the Park Rill Creek watershed. The Willowbrook area, northwest of Oliver, has seen sustained flooding since late March. Several earthen dams along Kearns Creek, which flows into Park Rill Creek near Willowbrook, continue to be monitored. One property in the Willowbrook area is under evacuation alert due to limited access to the property.

The RDOS has been ordered by the province to actively pump water from Green Lake, southwest of Okanagan Falls. This kettle lake has no natural outfall. High water has allowed Green Lake to flood neighbouring vineyards. If not managed, Green Lake could create an uncontrolled water course creating debris flows into, potentially, 17 properties downhill.

For more information visit www.rdos.ca or on Facebook at Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen. Their EOC page has maps showing evacuation alert and order areas, sand and sandbag locations.

With files from Andrea DeMeer , John Arendt and Tara Bowie.

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