Concerns raised about flood potential

The abundance of snow in Summerland’s watershed could result in flooding this spring.

“It really depends on how fast the snow pack melts,” said Shawn Hughes, chief water distribution operator for the municipality.

If the area suddenly receives warm temperatures, the snow in the hills would melt quickly, causing flooding.

“A slower melt would be beneficial,” he said.

Hughes said normally the water flow in Trout Creek peaks around the third week of May.

This year, because there is still a significant amount of snow to meet, he said the peak flow in the creek will be one to two weeks later.

The mid-elevation snow pack has melted, but there is still a significant amount of snow at higher elevations, which is just now starting to melt.

The most recent snow pack information, collected on May 1, showed a snow pack of 169 per cent of normal levels at Summerland Reservoir and a snow pack of 151 per cent of normal levels at Isintok Lake.

Both sites are at higher snow pack levels than have been recorded at this time of the year in the past decade.

Hughes said Brent Mountain also continues to show a significant snow cover.

Brian Symonds, director of water stewardship with the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations in Penticton, said staff at the ministry are watching conditions at Okanagan Lake as the snow melts.

At present, the lake is three-quarters of a meter below full pool level and staff are working to ensure the lake does not overflow.

“We are being fairly aggressive in our management of the lake,” he said.

This is done by releasing water from the lake.

He said the snow pack reaches its peak levels in early to mid April, but this year, because of heavy snowfall and cooler temperatures in April, the snow pack still remains robust.

“In general, we’ve got a delayed melt,” he said, “but at some point, that snow is going to melt.”

Flooding of the lake has been a problem during several years in the 1990s.

Elsewhere in the province, Symonds said flooding is a concern in Quesnel while Williams Lake is bracing for a water shortage.