Don’t let the warm weather fool you. Okanagan Lake is still higher than provincial officials say it should be.
The man in charge of releasing water from Okanagan Lake says despite the recent hot weather, and the fact there may not be as much water entering the lake as leaving it through release, evaporation and water licence extraction, the level is still above normal.
And, as a result, Shaun Reimer, the section head for public safety and protection with the Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Ministry, says slightly more water than the system was designed for is still being released at the lake’s south end in Penticton.
“At the end of the lake it’s still 20 centimetres above the target (level),” said Reimer, calling the level “still high.”
Because of that, he said 67 cubic metres of water per second is currently being released, just above the 60 cubic metres per second that the system was designed to discharge. At the height of the flood threat earlier this month, 80 cubic metres per second was being released into the Penticton Channel.
“It’s a strange situation,” he added, noting currently there is a negative inflow into the lake, meaning more water is coming out than is going in.
“There could be some issues with (water) flow in some of the tributaries into the lake,” said Reimer.
In his 15 years of dealing with the lake, Reimer said he has never seen a late spring/early summer like the one we just experienced here.
With a lower than normal level snow pack over the winter, a sudden increase to that snow pack in March and April and then a sudden melt, the level of creeks running into the lake and the lake itself rose rapidly to historic highs. And that caused extensive flooding and prompted extraordinary flood protection measures in communities up and down the lake.
Because so much water had to be let out of the lake, damage is expected to the channel. But the extent of that damage and the scouring left behind will not be known until water levels return to normal, likely in the early fall.
Recent reports the lake is below “full pool,”—the monthly target set for the level of the lake by provincial officials—are incorrect, said Reimer.
“It’s still problematic,” he said. “We’re still high in relation to where we wanted to be at the end of July.”