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Society formed to push cleanup of Okanagan canal

A GoFundMe has been started to fund the project
Residents look to raise money to dredge the Oyama Canal and make it safer. (Jordy Cunningham/ Lake Country Calendar)

Lake Country residents are eager to see Oyama Canal cleaned up.

Started by Brian Keyser, a GoFundMe is aiming to raise $250,000 to dredge and restore the canal on Vernon Creek.

The fundraiser states the canal was last cleaned of mud, weeds, and rubbish in 1994 and has since become hazardous for water activities.

Keyser said that if there was an emergency situation on the south end of Kalamalka Lake, it would be significantly impacted when the quickest access to the area is unable to be accessed via the Oyama Canal and the Wood Lake boat launch.

Oyama Canal FAR Management Society was formed to write the required applications to push the project forward and handle the funds raised.

Society president Andrew Spear said they’ve been pushing for dredging of the canal for four years and explained why they are now actively fundraising.

“We’ve had several local businessmen that have been kind enough to make quite substantial donations to get us this far. Now, of course, the District of Lake Country has provided zero funding for us and they’ve signed away all the assurances onto the canal society. If anything were to happen during dredging or from the canal being dredged that is 100 per cent on the society for responsibility.”

Spear said the district has been difficult to deal with and the mayor hasn’t returned any phone calls.

“It’s just really sad though, because at the end of the day this is a federal waterway that everybody should have the safe right of passage to.”

The society is said to have the support of the local fire department and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue.

“It is my number one priority to correct the safety issue. Not having that as a passable waterway is a huge liability for the search and rescue boat. If they can’t get through they have to launch on Kalamalka Lake which takes them 25 minutes longer than if they were to just zip through the canal and be right on route to a drowning victim.”

Spear said the lack of signage in the area is also cause for concern.

“There’s no signage from the District of Lake Country or from anybody letting kids know you can’t jump off the bridge. Many people have jumped off there as they grew up as kids, the problem now is that the water is only a foot-and-a-half deep. In the event that somebody were to jump off they’re going to get injured.”

The money will be used to pay for professional services including environmental assessment, sediment sampling, and completing a dredging plan, as well as pay for the necessary signage.

The Oyama Canal is approximately 180m long through the Oyama Isthmus, connecting Wood Lake to Kalamalka Lake, and was first constructed (dredged) in 1908. The canal facilitates navigation between the two lakes by pleasure craft operators and mitigates flooding risks.

READ MORE: Plenty of support to dredge Oyama canal


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