It’s beginning to look more and more like another land-soaked spring for the South Okanagan.
From Penticton south to Osoyoos, property owners along the Okanagan River are being encouraged to sandbag their properties, check basements and prepare for higher water levels as upland snow continues to melt.
Away from the river, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is reporting numerous measures to reduce the potential for flooding throughout much of the region, its latest efforts focused on the hamlet of St. Andrews — west of Okanagan Falls.
Water levels in Osoyoos Lake are rising as water is released along the Okanagan River from Penticton to prepare for higher inflows later this month.
The lake’s water level is at 911 feet — about six inches higher than it was at this same time last year.
Osoyoos Lake crested at more than 915 feet in mid-May last year, causing some flooding within the community and closing beaches and the Town’s marina.
Lake levels are regulated at Zosel Dam, just south of the Canada-US border. The dam’s gates are reportedly “wide-open.”
“Once the Zosel Dam gates are wide open, as they are right now, Lake Osoyoos must seek its own level when runoff is high throughout the system,” said the Washington Department of Ecology’s Al Josephy.
“This can cause inconvenience and occasional flooding to property owners along the lake and down the river itself.”
That flooding has already caused headaches for property owners along the Okanagan River south of Oliver, with pleas for sandbagging help circulating in social media circles.
The Regional District is providing sand and sand bags across the South Okanagan and Similkameen.
Visitors and residents are also being urged to use extra caution near the Okanagan.
Adults are encouraged to keep children and pets under close supervision at all times when near the river banks.
Away from the river, the Regional District said it will be working with the owner of St Andrews Golf Course to reduce water levels in Prather Lake — located in the middle of the golf course — which has no natural outlet.
The province has ordered the owner of St Andrews to reduce water in the Lake before more snow melt occurs and expected rain soaks the region even more.
Water from Prather Lake will be pumped into the headwaters of Kearns Creek, creating additional flood concerns for the community of Willowbrook.
Kearns Creek runs downstream to Willowbrook, which is already under a State of Local Emergency due to flooding and high water in an upstream dam.
The Regional District expects to move water through the system in a controlled way to prevent uncontrolled or emergency pumping later this spring.
As well, the province is removing a section of road along Carr Crescent in Willowbrook. This will allow for water, which is pooling near homes, to move downstream effectively. Residents will be required to use alternate routes to access all homes in the area.