By ROY WOOD
After peaking late last week, the level of Osoyoos Lake receded for several days but now is creeping back up as snow melts, rain falls and the Similkameen River threatens to restrict outflows.
Osoyoos chief administrative officer Barry Romanko said in an interview this afternoon that the town is expecting the lake to reach 917 feet above sea level over the next few days.
The level reached nearly 916.5 feet last week and has since edged back to 916.3, said Romanko. “We’re looking at another five, six or seven inches … that’s why we haven’t taken off the evacuation notices.”
More than 50 homes, mostly in the Harbour Key and Solana Key areas, received evacuation orders last week because of the rising water levels. The Coast Hotel has been closed and some units at the Poplars were shut down.
The highest level ever recorded was 918.84 feet in 1894.
Janette Van Vianen, the town’s director of corporate services, told ODN that right now officials are “just watching the weather. How much rain we’re going to get … and how the rain is going to affect the Similkameen and Osoyoos Lake.”
The Similkameen flows into the Okanogan River just south of Oroville. When the level in the Similkameen gets too high, it can cause a reverse flow of the Okanogan back into the Osoyoos Lake.
After a peak on May 10, the Similkameen receded for three days, but has been rising again since May 13. Measured at Nighthawk, WA, the river has been in “flood stage” since Tuesday.
Speaking from the RDOS emergency response centre in Penticton, Van Vianen said: “People have been sandbagging in anticipation of another eight inches to a foot (in Osoyoos Lake). … As for our infrastructure, we’ve done what we can to prepare.”
One of the key areas of concern for the town, said Romanko, is the pressure on the sewer system, particularly the storage lagoons for recycled water near the golf course.
There is one empty pond and the golf course has agreed to increase its overnight watering volume to 1.3 million gallons from one million.
To help mitigate the flooding situation, the town is asking residents to follow several practices:
•Ensure that basement floor drains in areas of possible flooding are covered to prevent further water from entering the sewer system;
•Don’t run sump pumps connected to the sewer system;
•Take action to minimize use of the sewer system;
•Stay away from shoreline parks and marinas;
•Minimize travel to flooded or threatened areas;
•Secure docks and take responsibility for them if they float away;
•If on the lake, travel slowly to minimize wakes; and
•Alert the town office if you know of anyone having flood-related difficulty.
The local tourism industry is doing what it can to counter negative publicity and ensure potential visitors that “it’s business as usual in Osoyoos” this May long weekend, the traditional kickoff to the tourist season.
Destination Osoyoos executive director Kelly Glazer said in an interview there have been some cancellations of hotel and motel reservations.
“There was a large group from the half-corked run who cancelled, even though we talked to them in detail how none of what is happening would affect them,” she sad. “Our flooding is so localized that it is not a problem.”
However, it is a problem for power boats, she conceded, since all the marinas and boat launches are closed because of the high lake levels.
What’s more important than the lake levels, she said, is the weekend weather.
“If the weather is crappy, it’s going to be a crappy weekend flood or no flood.”
At this point, the outlook is promising, with a chance of a shower and a high of 22 C on Saturday, sun and cloud and 24C on Sunday, and sun and 27 C for Monday.
Top – south foot of Cottonwood- in Osoyoos -Roy Wood
Bottom – “At the the point” -provincial park -Henryka Mrzljak