Flood protection consultant Tamsin Lyle speaks at the annual general meeting Friday for the Okanagan Basin Water Board. Photo: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Flood protection consultant Tamsin Lyle speaks at the annual general meeting Friday for the Okanagan Basin Water Board. Photo: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Facing the Okanagan’s future flooding issues

Valley’s water future focus of AGM for Okanagan Basin Water Board

The Okanagan Valley communities need a major change of attitude in how to prepare for a future that will see more extreme weather occurrences that result in flooding, says a leader in flood management planning in Canada.

Tamsin Lyle, the principal of Ebbwater Consulting, said historically we have chosen to avoid discussions about flooding challenges and the need to make difficult decisions and trade-offs.

But Lyle said the impact of climate change, causing extreme weather changes that translate into flooding and wildfires beyond what we’ve seen in the past 100 years, is forcing us to face those realities at a civic government level, most notably in planning for development on floodplain areas that places infrastructure and people in harm’s way.

Related: Snowpack level increased Okanagan Lake dam discharge this year

“Historically, we have tried to avoid these difficult conversations and decisions, opting instead to fight floods—by stopping the water, by building walls, by pushing the problem away,” said Lyle.

“With a changing climate, and more extreme weather and flood events, we can’t continue to build our way out of the problem. We have an opportunity to do things differently, and to do them better—to learn to live with the water rather than fighting against it.”

Lyle was one of the keynote speakers at the annual general meeting of the Okanagan Basin Water Board held Friday at the Innovation Centre in Kelowna.

Lyle said the impact of flooding is not limited to just those who are directly impacted, as the recovery cost for damages affects the pocketbook of all Canadian taxpayers.

“Floods are something that affects everyone. Flood damages cost Canadian taxpayers hundreds of million of dollars a year, disrupt businesses and damage the environment and cultural assets. This is something that Okanagan residents know intimately. Recent flooding, and the stress and toll associated with it, will be remembered by those directly affected for the rest of their lives. Limiting future impacts is something we should all care about.”

Lyle said floodplain development is a provincial concern, as more than 675,000 people and more than 180,000 buildings currently exist in floodplain areas.

“We have seen that impact on the Lower Mainland of increasing exposure to risk of population and business growth on floodplains, and also here in the Okanagan. Mission Creek is identified as a floodplain but there are many others susceptible to flooding,” she said.

Lyle said the future direction to address flooding has to reside in less reliance on engineers offering technical solutions based on limited weather and flooding water level research data that currently exists, different building practices to address potential flood concerns, and more discussion about community values in flood control strategy.

Brian Symonds, former director of water stewardship of Okanagan Lake with the environment ministry, also spoke at the annual general meeting, echoing Lyle’s sentiments as the impacts of climate change become more readily apparent.

Related: Efforts in 2017 to respond to flooding threat

“We are going to see more of the extreme weather conditions we have seen here in the Okanagan these past two years and we a have to consider the flooding consequences, the economic, environment and social impacts,” he said.

Symonds said future flooding issues and how they are addressed now rest at the civic government level, in particular future and existing floodplain development management, such as building homes elevated above the ground and increasing riparian setbacks from shorelines in high flooding hazard areas.

“You have to start planning for that now and face the future,” Symonds said.

Anna Warwick Sears, executive director of the OBWB, said the annual general meeting theme “Preparing for the future” was chosen as it best describes the focus of the water board’s work this year.

“I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about climate change, which is affecting the weather in the Okanagan and exacerbating the impacts to our communities. There is a lot of uncertainty about how the weather patterns will play out, but we know that we are going to have more extreme events—floods, fires and droughts.

“It’s not too late to reduce the impacts of we take climate change seriously.”

Much of the OBWB’s work this past year has focused on helping communities develop drought plans, floodplain mapping and gaining a better understanding of environmental needs for water, she said.

Work has also been done to research ground and surface water supplies and its interconnection in our valley, along with expansion and protection of wetlands to address flooding and promote improved water quality, she added.

“All of this work is intended to help our communities make better decisions to meet the challenges we are facing today and in the years ahead,” Warwick Sears said.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Christine Perkins is the new superintendent of schools for the Vernon School District, effective Aug. 1. Perkins moves to the North Okanagan from the Kootenay Lake School District in Nelson. (Vernon School District photo)
Vernon School District names new superintendent

Dr. Christine Perkins moves from Kootenay Lake district to take over from the retiring Joe Rogers

Vernon Public Art Gallery executive director Dauna Kennedy and board member Kyle Britton accept a $43,400 grant from the BC Arts Council one-time StrongerBC fund amid the COVID-19 pandemic April 9, 2021. (VPAG)
$43K boost for Vernon gallery

Province backs local art gallery with one-time pandemic grant

A 46-year-old man from Armstrong died in Revelstoke hospital after being injured in the Lumby area. (File photo)
Armstrong snowmobiler dies in Revelstoke hospital

46-year-old man injured in Tsuius Mountain area of Monashees around Lumby area

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Spallumcheen landlord’s home trashed by tenants

Rooms filled with junk, garbage, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

B.C. wineries are open for indoor tasting despite new provincial health regulations. Photo- 
50th Parallel Winery, Instagram.
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

The Red Pill Rapper performs to the crowd gathered for the Rally For Food Security at Blackburn Park on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Kristal Burgess Photography)
The Red Pill Rapper performs to the crowd gathered for the Rally For Food Security at Blackburn Park on Saturday, April 10, 2021. (Kristal Burgess Photography)
Suspicion of ‘fake news media’ makes rally uncomfortable for Salmon Arm event photographer

More than 300 people counted at city park for ‘Rally For Food Security’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

The former Summerland Asset Development Initiative building on Prairie Valley Road in Summerland was suggested as the site for a temporary transitional housing facility for the community. However, Summerland council has rejected this proposal. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Summerland council rejects transitional housing facility

Concerns raised about short timeline and condition of municipally-owned building

Shayla, an 8-pound black and grey Havanese, was stolen from outside a store on Banks Road on Saturday. (Contributed)
Stolen pup located, Kelowna RCMP confirms

Mounties said on April 12 that Shayla, the 8-pound, black and grey Havanese dog, has been located safe and sound

Penticton Vees continue their winning streak carrying a 5-0 win title as of Sunday night's hockey action. (Cherie Morgan/Cherie Morgan Photography)
Penticton Vees continue winning streak

Sunday night’s 6-1 win has them with five in a row since the start of the season

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Most Read