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Water briefs: Okanagan water board buys $700,000 milfoil harvester

Firm based in Germany wins harvester contract

The Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) has approved a $700,000 expenditure for a new milfoil harvester.

Following an RFP process, the milfoil contract was awarded to Berky GMBH of Germany.

The new machine is expected to be delivered in June 2024.

The new equipment will be able to remove invasive milfoil 1.5 metres deeper than the current machines and hold 5.5 cubic metres compared to the current 2-3 cubic metres.


The OBWB was given a chance to provide input to the spending priorities for the provincial government’s 2024-25 budget.

Speaking to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services last Thursday (June 8), OBWB executive director Anna Warwick Sears identified three potential spending mandates.

One was a review and update of the Okanagan Lake Regulation System infrastructure and operating plan; the second was the need for additional funds to support the restoration and protection of drinking water sources which includes expanding the Watershed Security Fund; and the third was consistent, long-term funding for the prevention of zebra and quagga mussel infestations.

The committee is one of 10 permanent committees of the B.C. Legislature, tasked with conducting an annual public consultation on the provincial budget.


Executive director Anna Warwick Sears has been invited to participate on a new advisory committee set up by the Ministry of Agriculture to focus on regional climate adaptation and resilience, climate change mitigation and environmental sustainability.

The committee is not a decision-making body but will guide the ministry on program development.

“I think this is a great step forward, as the OBWB and Okanagan Water Stewardship Council have long noted the need for agricultural extension and training to improve on-farm water efficiency, irrigation and other water and climate-related aspects of farming and ranching,” said Warwick-Sears in her report to the water board.

“The advisory committee is established as a short-term body, and my commitment is only through the beginning of 2024.”


The next Okanagan Water Stewardship Council meeting is Thursday (June 8), 12-4 p.m., at Manteo Resort in Kelowna.

The guest speaker will be Dr. Pete Millard, currently on a sabbatical agriculture research station in Summerland, having completed his Ph.D. in plant sciences at the University of Leeds in 1981 and since served in research institutes, initially for 29 years in Scotland and since 2010 in New Zealand.

He is currently the general manager of science at Manaaki Wheuna Landcare Research in New Zealand, overseeing science delivery and excellence in biodiversity, biosecurity, climate change and sustainable land use research.


For the first time, the provincial government has assigned a staff person to work full-time on drought initiatives.

In a staff report, water policy and planning director Kellie Garcia said the resource commitment will enable better coordination of drought response activities, such as more frequent field observations, increased monitoring stations and long-term monitoring plan, and better data on groundwater usage and groundwater curtailment.


The OBWB will have intern Sandra Schira working until September on the water board’s climate change indicators project.

Schira’s work follows the Climate Projection for the Okanagan Region 2020 report, which showed the valley will be significantly warm and experience changes in precipitation patterns due to climate change.

This project will use historical Okanagan climate and hydrological data to look at how much change has actually occurred and how observed trends in heatwaves, extreme precipitation, droughts, snowpacks, etc. are matching projections.

The information will be compiled on a website dashboard to help valley residents and decision-makers understand and respond to climate change.

Barry Gerding

About the Author: Barry Gerding

Senior regional reporter for Black Press Media in the Okanagan. I have been a journalist in the B.C. community newspaper field for 37 years...
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