Update: Hwy. 97 is expected to remain closed a second day — April 25 — as work to move water from the Sportsmen’s Bowl area to the Okanagan River channel continues.
Crews have installed two pumps at Lower Island Road and that has increased the amount of water that can be emptied directly into the Okanagan River channel, the RDOS reported this morning.
“Since the pumps began operating at 9 a.m. this morning, water levels in the Park Rill Creek oxbows have started dropping approximately two cm every hour,” it said.
The installation of the pumps is part of a larger plan to direct the water from the Sportsmen’s Bowl area along the Sportsmens Bowl Road, underneath Hwy. 97 and into the oxbows where it can be pumped into the Okanagan River channel.
The Regional District also said it is working on plans to reduce debris and other restrictions in the creek to further increase the flow of water to the channel.
The provincial transportation department has closed Hwy. 97 about 10 km north of Oliver as it undertakes work to protect the highway from continued flooding.
“This is planned work that began first thing this morning and will continue sometime into the evening,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
A crew is on site to install culverts to direct water from the west side of the highway.
“These culverts will help protect the highway should water flows continue to increase,” said the spokesperson, adding the ministry is working closely with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) and Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource and Rural Development (FLNRO) on the issue.
“Flooding in the South Okanagan is common at this time of year, due to a combination of high ground water levels and rain events,” said the spokesperson. “(However,) this area has had additional challenges due to both authorized and unauthorized dams on private property, which FLNRO has been overseeing.
“Ministry staff have been monitoring this area closely, doing everything possible to keep the water contained.”
A detour involving Park Rill and Island Roads provides for motorists to bypass the construction.
The culverts are being placed just north of Sportsmen’s Bowl Road, which was still awash in flood water this morning. Most residents living along the road were evacuated Saturday.
“The professionals have deemed that there is threat to life and limb in there,” explained the RDOS’s Zoe Kirk. “They want to have people out until they can further assess and make mitigation decisions.”
Sportsmen’s Bowl residents have struggled with rising water for almost two weeks. Flooding has all but washed out Sportsmen’s Bowl Rd and has threatened Hwy. 97 as well.
Other properties under an evacuation order include eight along Hwy. 97, five on Island Rd., two on Secrest Hill Rd. and one on Test Orchard Rd.