Preparing for worst

BC Wildfire Service employees help set up aqua dams at Pritchard Park in West Kelowna as part of flood-protection measures around the Central Okanagan last spring. City crews in Kelowna and West Kelowna are preparing for flooding again this spring.

City crews in Kelowna and West Kelowna are preparing for spring flooding by removing debris from local creeks, building up creek banks, lining up sandbags and installing temporary dams.

“We’re making preparations for the snowpack to come down,” said Alan Newcombe, divisional director of infrastructure with the City of Kelowna.

Crews have been dredging Mill Creek and Bellevue Creek to increase the flow of the creeks, said Newcombe.

“Over time, the vegetation has got so dense along Mill Creek that it’s constricting the flow in a lot of areas, causing the water to come out of the channel and flood properties,” he said. “By removing the vegetation, we should see an increase in the velocity and some of the sediment on the bottom continue to move down stream.”

Crews have also been removing some of the sediment from the creeks, said Newcombe.

BC Wildfire crews will be arriving in Kelowna this week to set up sandbags and bladder dams along areas of Mill Creek that have flooded in the past.

Wildfire crews will also be in West Kelowna, stacking sandbags and setting up a tiger dam along a stretch of Gellatly Road.

The Gellatly Bay neighbourhood is currently the main focus for the City of West Kelowna, because of the flooding it experienced last year, said Jason Brolund, West Kelowna’s fire chief.

“Our hope is to prevent that from happening this year, or at least control it in a manner where the road isn’t as impacted and the residents aren’t at risk,” he said.

Crews in Kelowna will also be building up paths next to local creeks to prevent overflow of water.

“Instead of just putting sandbags next to the creek channels, in areas where we have existing pathways or possibly a gravel road beside a creek access road, we’ll build that up to actually make a more permanent structure,” said Newcombe, adding this is a new strategy that was not done last year.

So far, there have been no complaints of flooding in Kelowna, said Newcombe.

“The flows in the creeks are still very low,” he said. “We really won’t see much in Mill Creek, Mission or Bellevue creeks for a couple of weeks yet until more snow melts.”

Rain is not currently a major concern for flooding, said Newcombe.

“We might get some localized flooding or overland flow, but the bigger concern longer term is really the creeks, which are affected by the snowmelt,” he said. “A rainstorm within the city isn’t going to have an impact on the local creeks to that kind of extent.”

Homeowners should be starting to think about what steps they need to take to protect their homes from flooding, said Newcombe.

“We’ll be coming out with some information shortly on where sand and sandbags will be available,” he said.

Currently, the main concern is for people living next to creeks, not lakefront properties, said Newcombe.

“If you’re living along a creek and you’ve experienced flooding before, you should take some preparatory measures for that, but if you’re on the lake, at this point, I don’t think there’s any need to be concerned,” he said. “Whether the increase in the elevation of the lake is even going to be a concern for a lakefront property owner is still way too early to tell.”

Sand and sandbags are currently available for residents on the Westside at Kinsmen Works Yard, the West Kelowna Yacht Club, 4081 Hitchner Rd., across the street from the Glenrosa Fire Station and across the street from the Rose Valley Fire Station.

“We’re increasing our level of preparedness and encouraging people to think the same way,” said Brolund.

Recommended for you