Dams in the North Okanagan are spilling over due to the spring melt, a process the district says is normal and expected for this time of year.
Regional District of North Okanagan said Thursday they’ve received calls about dam breaches, but clarified the spilling over is by design, and far from an emergency.
“Dams are designed to spill into the natural waterways once the reservoirs are full to protect against the dam overtopping. This is the normal function of dams and reservoirs, and our staff closely monitor this process,” said Zee Marcolin, RDNO general manager of utilities.
“A dam spilling is very different from a dam breaching. We know there have been some reports that the dam breached, but that is not true. A dam breach would be an emergency situation while the dam spilling is a routine function that occurs every spring when the snow melts,” said Marcolin.
The RDNO has multiple dams holding water in reservoir lakes before the water makes its way to treatment facilities and then to the taps of residents.
In the spring, when the snow melts, reservoirs commonly reach their maximum water levels and then overflow into spillways. These spillways are designed to handle the spring runoff and protect the dams while keeping the lake at manageable levels.
The Greater Vernon Water Grizzly Dam has reached its maximum capacity and is spilling into Haddo Dam, which in turn is expected to reach maximum capacity today (May 7) and start spilling into Duteau Creek.
Aberdeen Dam is not yet full but is expected to fill in the next few weeks.
The spillways channel the water to creeks and streams, which causes the water to rise and move quickly at a higher volume. Those living or working near creeks and streams are reminded to be aware that water levels can rise quickly this time of year, and people should exercise caution around the fast-moving water.