Two months after the flooding emergency started, the focus is now switching to the removal of flood protection measures.
At a news conference Wednesday, Central Okanagan emergency officials said two million sandbags, five-kilometres of bladder dams, and 1.3 kilometres of gabion baskets were deployed by BC Wildfire Service crews during the crisis.
Removing the sandbags started last week, and will take at least another month to complete, as its done in phases.
“The interim stage began with removal of sandbags from areas no longer at risk,” says a release from the Regional District of Central Okanagan. “Bladder dam removals also started last week and will continue in locations that no longer need the protection.”
Property owners with sandbag walls can begin to lower them, but should maintain a wall that protects against wind and wave action to a height of 60 centimetres above the current lake level.
Okanagan and Kalamalka Lakes both dropped 1.5 centimetres since Tuesday, but both are still 47 centimetres above full pool.
“When the level of Okanagan Lake reaches 342.60 metres above sea level, most beaches are expected to reopen, and most docks should be above water again,” says the release. “When the lake returns to its normal full-pool level of 342.48, all beaches will reopen and boating activity can return to normal.”
Central Okanagan residents with sandbags that are no longer necessary can take them to the roadside of their property, where work crews will be travelling through neighbourhoods to collect them. Under no circumstances should sandbags be emptied into any creeks, lakes, wetlands, beaches or other natural areas.
The second stage of the removal process will involve the full demobilization of all flood protection – a process expected to continue into August. Crews will remove any remaining protective barriers on both private and public land. Neighbourhoods will be notified via Emergency Operations Center communications channels, electronic signboards and the media. Residents are encouraged to sign up for e-updates at cordemergency.ca.
The province is funding the removal of unnatural debris from public land – broken docks, unregistered boats, garbage and barrels – along with large trees or stumps. Removal of these materials will happen first in public beaches, parks.
Small debris on private property is the responsibility of the resident and can be placed in green yard waste bins. Damaged docks and pilings are the responsibility of the property owner.
For residents in areas were the flooding risk has passed, more information about sandbag locations for drop off, details about recovery efforts, and a link to the online Emergency Management BC sandbag recovery application, can be found at www.cordemergency.ca/beprepared/flood-recovery.
Residents and visitors who want to boat on area lakes are encouraged follow the guidelines for respectful boating. They’re encouraged to view the Boating Wake maps at www.cordemergency.ca/map in order to protect against wave generated shoreline erosion. Once lake levels reach more reasonable levels, regular boating activities can resume.