The City of Penticton deserves a pat on the back for the restoration of Penticton Creek that’s underway.
Penticton was more susceptible to flooding while the creek was in its natural state, so the city decided in the 1950s to concrete the creek to give it a solid shell.
The decision to pour concrete into a creek wouldn’t meet current environmental standards; it heavily damaged the aquatic habitat, and 60 years of erosion has left us with imminent maintenance issues.
It can feel frustrating to have to deal with shortsighted decisions that were made by the leaders before us, but they were only doing what was necessary to improve Penticton at the time. It wouldn’t be fair to expect policymakers from the 1950s to possess the environmental understandings of 2015. As Baby Boomers were increasing Canada’s population at an unprecedented rate, their top priority was to accommodate growth.
The new approach takes a much less industrial attitude — the concrete lining is out and a new bed of boulders is being laid. Upon completion of the restoration, the creek will appear natural and offer a much healthier habitat for fish.
While the creek’s going to look as though it were crafted by nature, there was an overwhelming amount of ingenuity applied towards engineering the project and ensuring a positive biological outcome.
Boulders are being strategically placed to create riffles and pools along the creek to give migrating fish respite against strong currents and predators.
For the numerous amount of people involved, there was no shortage of challenges.
Beyond the technical aspects of designing the project, the city had to find the money. Through the Penticton Creek Restoration Committee, enough grants were successfully applied for to cover almost the entire bill. It would have been nearly impossible to cover the substantial cost of the project without securing funding from higher levels of government.
The worksite itself offered more challenges, forcing the large amount of construction traffic to be squeezed into the creek’s narrow corridor between developed properties.
After details of the plans were hammered out and the costs covered, the city then consulted with local First Nations before breaking ground.
There were a lot of moving parts that needed to be functional for the project to be a success, and it was executed with minimal resistance.
Soon the creek will appear aesthetically pleasing and offer a prosperous habitat for fish, and the cost was a drop in the bucket out of municipal tax pool. The expensive projects overseen by city council often come under scrutiny, but it’s going to be tough to find somebody who’s upset over this restoration project.
It seems like the perfect solution to combat flooding without compromising the values of nature. But like the decision makers from the 1950s, it is worth considering that today’s best and brightest minds could be scientifically ignorant regarding an issue that will become damning for future generation.
Nevertheless, our most immediate concerns are being addressed in a manner that’s far more progressive than concreting a waterway.
Dan Walton is a reporter with the Penticton Western News.