Osoyoos mayor to chair Okanagan water board

Sue McKortoff brings South Okanagan perspective to board chair’s role

The new chair of the Okanagan Basin Water Board is no stranger to water issues.

Sue McKortoff, mayor of Osoyoos, steps up as chair of the water board for 2019, replacing Tracy Gray, who stepped down as a Kelowna city councillor to run for the Conservative Party candidate nomination for the Kelowna-Lake Country federal riding.

McKortoff follows in the path of former Osoyoos mayors Stu Wells and John Slater, who both previously served terms as water board chair.

“I guess it is a kind of rite of passage for the Osoyoos mayor,” she laughed.

RELATED: Kelowna city councillor re-elected as water board chair

McKortoff, who represents the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District on the water board, said water issues are something she has been involved with in Osoyoos for some 40 years, dating back to the arrival of the invasive milfoil to Okanagan lakes back in the ’70s.

“Back when milfoil was first introduced into Osoyoos Lake, some of us realized what a mess it was going to be,” she recalled.

“Now the only thing we can do is try to manage it as we can never eradicate it, but back then there was about eight or 10 of us who were really keen to do something to raise awareness and try to raise money to buy a milfoil harvester, so we hosted a spaghetti dinner for the community.”

In the years since, McKortoff has been actively involved with both the Osoyoos Lake Water Quality Society and Osoyoos Lake Water Science Forums hosted in 2007, 2011 and 2015.

RELATED: Okanagan water board seeks mussels funding

While milfoil control is one program the water board oversees today, McKortoff said it has also taken on initiatives to broaden awareness of water quality and flood control issues, and lobbied the federal and provincial governments to intensify border inspections for detection of vessels carrying invasive mussels.

“I am happy to work with our board directors and mayors up and down the valley to make the best decisions we can about managing our water and looking after this fabulous resource we have here. Sometimes you think, ‘Boy is this an overwhelming task,’ but we have very qualified and dedicated staff along with our directors working on this,” she said.

As a South Okanagan area resident, McKortoff says she brings a different perspective from other water board directors in the Central and North Okanagan regarding both governance and flooding issues.

She said management of Osoyoos Lake is a shared task between Canada and the U.S. as the lake crosses the international border and dams impact the south end of the lake system in both Orville, Wash., and Penticton.

RELATED: Water board receives radar technology funding

“Whether it rains or snows further up the valley, it eventually all ends up in the same place at our end,” she noted. “We had our flooding issues this spring and we had a public meeting where people were asking why they couldn’t just hold back more water in Okanagan Lake from being released through the Penticton dam.

“Unfortunately, we learned how our flooding issues we far more complicated than that, that even if we held water back, the high groundwater was feeding into the streams and causing flooding issues for us as well. That’s why it is important for all of us in the valley to work together to share the best practices for water management on behalf of the entire Okanagan.

“We are all partners in this and we need to talk about these issues and bring a strong voice forward to make sure the federal and provincial governments take us seriously.”



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

Vernon's 28 Street will be closed between 41 and 39 Avenues from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (Black Press file photo)
Detour in effect on 31st Street in Vernon

Motorists to face small detour to avoid sanitary line work

Area resident Shandel Dyck submitted a photo of a police situation in a mobile home park in Lumby Oct. 26, 2020. She said she saw officers with their guns drawn as they surrounded a suspect unit. (Shandel Dyck - Contributed)
UPDATE: Neighbouring weapons threat puts Lumby school on lock down

Further details released on morning excitement near elementary school

More than 6,000 people attended the popular Downtown Vernon Association summer concert series known as Civic Sounds. (Peter Solymosi)
Vernon organization requests $20K to bring back park-based fun

Downtown Vernon Association seeks funding for 2021 programming

Comedian Mike Delamont will take the stage at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre for two socially-distanced shows Nov. 14 at 5:40 and 8 p.m. (Contributed)
Comedy returns to Vernon’s stage amid COVID-19

Cabaret-style shows let audience in on the live action once again

The 100 Radon Test Kit Challenge targets municipalities across Canada where radon testing has been limited, but where there is a potential for homes to have elevated radon levels. Vernon is participating. (Image contributed)
Vernon takes on Radon Challenge

200 free radon testing kits are up for grabs as part of the third annual challenge to test for gas

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Kelowna Secondary School. (SD23 photo)
Second case of COVID-19 confirmed at Kelowna Secondary School

Interior Health has confirmed the new case is unrelated to the one announced Sunday

The Stuart Park ice rink in January 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Popular Kelowna outdoor ice rink will open amid COVID-19 pandemic

City council approved COVID-related changes to the Stuart Park ice rink’s operations

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health sees 31 new cases of COVID-19 over record-breaking weekend

Eighty-six cases remain active and one person is hospitalized with the virus

Salmon Arm RCMP responded to a seven-vehicle chain reaction collision early Monday morning, Oct. 26. (File photo)
One person injured in seven-vehicle chain-reaction collision in Salmon Arm

Snow packed to ice, speed contributing factors behind collisions

RCMP responded to a single-vehicle collision on Highway 1 east of Salmon Arm early Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (File photo)
Salmon Arm man killed in collision on Highway 1

RCMP say slippery road conditions contributing factor behind collision

Jordan Naterer, 25, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. He planned a hike in the Manning Park area, and has not been seen since. Photo Facebook.
Parents not giving up, after official search for Manning Park hiker suspended again

‘We are determined, but eventually the money is going to run out.’

Most Read