Penticton firefighters Andrew Bird (left) and David Scott work to remove debris from beneath the bridge between Okanagan Lake Park and the Penticton Art Gallery grounds Wednesday as water levels in Penticton Creek began to rise in May. Mark Brett/Western News

Damages from Okanagan high water tops $780k in Penticton

The majority of that cost will be absorbed by the province, with city paying just $80,000

With the high waters along the Okanagan Lake and Penticton’s creeks abating, the city estimates damages will run a total of around $784,000, with the vast majority covered by the provincial government.

The city never experienced the serious flooding that other communities did, but there were some concerns raised from the high water experienced between mid-May and mid-June.

“Things that kept us up at night — there were a couple of those,” director of operations Mitch Moroziuk said in a council meeting on Tuesday.

Related: Penticton looking for help removing sandbags

One of those areas was that surrounding the SS Sicamous, which Moroziuk said was a high ground surrounding some city infrastructure.

“If this area was breached, the water would basically flow downhill,” Moroziuk said. “We were concerned about that, and that’s why we deployed Tiger Dams.”

Moroziuk also pointed to the Okanagan Lake pump station, which had appeared dry on the exterior throughout the flooding.

“However, if you went inside, that’s what it looked like,” he said, showing council a picture of the inside of the station, flooded with water.

“And it’s not supposed to have any water inside of it. So, water was coming in through the foundations of the building. The pump station continued to operate throughout the event, and we weren’t concerned about water supply for the city.”

Moroziuk said there were alternatives in case the city needed to shut that pump station down, but added that the city did need to keep a close eye on the station to make sure electrical equipment remained safe from the water.

Moroziuk added that there were some concerns regarding the city’s creeks and shorelines, with erosion resulting from the high water along the lake, as windstorms battered the shores.

He pointed to a few areas along the lake, including the area just next to Penticton Creek, where a lookout point was particularly affected by a late-May windstorm.

Also of concern were the shores of both Penticton and Ellis creeks themselves, which saw higher flow than usual. That extra flow, Moroziuk said, was cause for concern for eroding banks along the creek.

“This walkway, also, we need to investigate that to see if there’s any stability concerns with that,” Moroziuk said of the walkway around the SS Sicamous.

“Tree damage along the lake, that’ll have to be inspected. … In terms of things we might want to look at in the future, flexible connections for the services that go in and out of the Sicamous.”

A total of eight city departments were working on mitigating the effects of the high waters alongside chief administrative officer Peter Weeber, which made up most of the cost to the city.

While the B.C. government will be taking on over $700,000 of the damages, the city’s bill will be closer to $80,000, and Moroziuk said all but around $20,000 of that is coming from staff hours.

Of those staff hours, Moroziuk made note of some staff doing extra duties, like the city’s electrical crews twice working to lasso and the SS Sicamous and pull it back into place — not exactly part of their job description.

Among the other departments working on flood mitigation, the fire department took on a major role particularly with sandbagging, parks, public works, engineer and communications worked on the issue.