The report concluded that a wetter-than-average spring, combined with unusual weather conditions in the previous fall and winter, were the primary drivers behind the severe flooding in the Thompson Okanagan.
“When B.C. communities are impacted by flooding or wildfires, we have a responsibility to make sure we are doing all we can to keep residents safe,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. (FLNROD)
“Last spring’s flooding in the Thompson Okanagan was quickly followed by an unprecedented wildfire season throughout the province. It’s important to review our response actions and determine how we can do better.”
FLBROD initiated the independent review by a contractor to determine the effectiveness of the ministry’s flood response and to see what could have been done differently to reduce flooding impacts.
High inflows to Okanagan Lake, Kalamalka Lake and Nicola Lake in the spring of 2017 were part of a general pattern of high flows in creeks and rivers in this area of B.C. that resulted in widespread flooding due to high lake levels, a high groundwater table and high streamflows. The high flows resulted from a combination of high elevation snow melt and above-average rainfall. Both Okanagan and Nicola Lakes experienced their highest May inflows on record.
The resulting report, A Review of 2017 Flood Response: Okanagan Lake Regulation System and Nicola Dam, by Associated Environmental Consultants Inc., contains 65 recommendations regarding staffing levels, experience and training, and streamflow forecasting models in the face of climate change.
The review looked at the operational management of the ministry-owned and ministry-operated Okanagan Lake Regulation System and Nicola Dam, and included an extensive analysis of the information, data and models used to make decisions on both systems.
Despite the severe weather, the overall findings of the report conclude that the Okanagan Lake Regulation System, Kalamalka Lake and Nicola Lake were managed professionally and appropriately by ministry staff, and that the decisions made by staff were operationally sound.
At the request of the B.C. government, George Abbott and Chief Maureen Chapman are conducting a strategic review of the 2017 freshet and wildfire seasons. The B.C. Flood and Wildfire Review will provide a comprehensive assessment of government activities related to: planning and preparedness; prevention and mitigation; response; and recovery. That report expected by the end of April.
* The Okanagan Lake Regulation System is a multi-lake, multi-purpose system owned by the Province, and managed and operated by the ministry. The system extends from Kalamalka Lake to the north end of Osoyoos Lake, and includes: four dams (Kalamalka/Wood, Okanagan, Skaha and McIntrye); 17 vertical drop structures; 38 kilometres of engineered channel, including 68 kilometres of dikes; and four sediment basins.