The Osoyoos community’s other rubber boot — to coin a phrase — is starting to fill with water.
Following several weeks of localized flooding along the Okanagan River channel that has resulted in states of emergency and evacuations north of Oliver, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is now declaring local states of emergency in communities within the Similkameen River drainage system.
That’s important to the Osoyoos community since Osoyoos Lake can be affected by both rivers — the Okanagan River entering the lake at its north end and the Similkameen River joining the Okanogan River just south of the Zosel Dam in Oroville, Wash.
If the Similkameen is running high, it can slow or stop outflows from Osoyoos Lake, and cause flooding around the lake.
“Sometimes I wish I were psychic,” said Janette Van Vianen, the Town of Osoyoos’ Director of Corporate Services and chief emergency services coordinator. “Now is when I start really watching. I’ll be watching very, very closely.”
According to the US Geological Survey, at 4:30 this morning Osoyoos Lake was sitting at 912.48 feet — up more than five inches since early Friday morning.
Two communities within the Similkameen basin — Tulameen, located northwest of Princeton, and Cawston — are both under local states of emergency due to flooding.
The Regional District Sunday ordered an evacuation of 148 properties in the Tulameen area and put 157 more properties on alert — due to the immediate danger to life and safety as a result of the flooding.
“Otter Lake, immediately north of Tulameen, has seen a rapid increase in lake level, flooding properties,” the RDOS says in a release. “There are concerns of water moving through the community into the Tulameen River.”
The Tulameen discharges into the Similkameen.
Cawston residents have not yet been forced from their homes. They are, however, reporting localized flooding, with creeks rising and fields and roads under water.
The Similkameen, the US Geological Survey noted, has climbed more than four Gage Feet over the last seven days and is now discharging at 11,200 cubic feet per second — well above its normal 4,100.
Meanwhile, water continues to be pumped into the Okanagan River north of Oliver — and more water could be on the way.
The Regional District has four high capacity pumps moving water from Park Rill Creek to relieve flooding in the Sportsmen’s Bowl and Park Rill area that has 17 properties evacuated and 147 additional properties on evacuation alert.
There are plans, though, to move even more water into the Okanagan. The provincial transportation ministry has installed additional culverts beneath Hwy. 97 north of Oliver and plans to open them to allow more water from the Sportsmen’s Bowl area “to flow into the creek through to the channel.”
The rising water has the Town of Osoyoos doubling its sandbag capacity, adding a second pickup location for properties at the north end of the lake. Sand and sand bags are now available at the corner of 87. St. and 91St. near the bottom of Graveyard Hill.
“Last year, we had people in that area needing sandbags, so I wanted to have them available in case they need them and want to start sandbagging,” explained Ms. Van Vianen. “It’s just precautionary.”
Sand and sand bags are also available on Main St. across from the Osoyoos Diary Queen.
Although the Osoyoos community is not experiencing flooding, the Town is encouraging action to protect low-lying properties.
“Anybody that’s calling and asking me, I’m suggesting very strongly that they start sandbagging now if they had trouble last year,” she said. “If the water doesn’t go higher, then great.”