Two men who own adjacent farms north east of Oliver’s town centre are seeking compensation over lost income which they say the province of BC replaced a superior irrigation water system (license to take water) with one that is not efficient or effective.
Gordon Forbes and Art Dias said their water intake systems on the Okanagan River were impacted for seven years, beginning when a project was done by the province to redirect part of the river and restore salmon habitats. (This is the ORRI salmon enhancement project of opening ox-bows) It was actually paid for by Bonneville Power Dam owners in the USA.
When that project began in 2009, the floating water systems Forbes and Dias had were replaced with water systems along the bottom of the river, put in by the province.
“They violated our water licenses, we never signed off… that they could change our intake, they just did it,” Forbes said. “And so we were left with an inadequate water supply for six years.”
The intake systems the province put in didn’t work properly, Forbes and Dias said, because they filled with sediment.
“I think if they would’ve worked with us, it would’ve been a lot better than getting something rammed down your throat that you know was wrong from the start,” Dias said. “We told them several times that this system is not going to work.”
Forbes said he lost about one-third of his 13 acres of crops due to a lack of clean water. Dias has 14 acres and says he lost about half of his, which to date he hasn’t been able to replant.
Finally, in 2016, the province put in a better water intake system further down the river, improving years of water struggles for the two land owners.
But the loss in income for both farms due to the faulty water system the province originally put in has been several hundred thousand dollars.
“Every time we had a meeting with these guys, we had to stop our work to try and address this problem they created,” Forbes added.
Dias is employed by the Town of Oliver in the Public Works department. Gordon and his brother Steven work the Forbes Farm – year round.
Source: with files from Castanet. Edited for clarity and supplemented.
Photos by SO Photos