The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen is urging the public to keep off flood protection infrastructure.
All sandbags and installed armouring must remain in place until otherwise directed by your local authority. The RDOS is also asking people to not stand on tiger dams or sandbags as contents may have shifted due to wave action.
“We have found some people doing just that, standing on tiger dams and sandbags. Luckily there has been no major damage,” said Zoe Kirk, public works projects co-ordinator for the RDOS. “We are not out of the woods yet. With the lake levels where they are, if we get some wind it is really important everything is in its place. We have had some reports of people accessing the dam area in Penticton and pictures of people standing on tiger dams and sandbags. We want to keep people off to make sure there aren’t any holes being created and that rip rap stays right where it is.”
Despite the recent sunny conditions, the RDOS advised residents should be aware that the flood threat may not be over some time, as groundwater and floodwaters are still fluctuating.
Advance planning for the removal of sandbags is currently underway. The RDOS asks that residents follow the direction of your local government or regional district before disposing of sandbags or other materials. Municipalities are currently putting measures in place to deal with the volume of sandbags (empty or full) and debris.
“We are in the throes of region wide meetings with the ministries and the (Interior Health Authority) because the clean up will be just as comprehensive. We can’t overwhelm the landfills and the foreshores need to be inspected. We know everyone wants to start summer, but we have to be really careful,” said Kirk.
The RDOS said there are many factors to be considered before sandbag removal is undertaken including; have they been in contact with floodwaters and exposed to contaminants, local landfills need to be prepared to accept the elevated volumes of materials expected as the recovery processes take place and with areas of the foreshore that are habitat for endangered or rare species any extra sand loading or sluffed sand could seriously affect the ecosystems.
“With that last windstorm, it pulled the polypropylene sandbags in Peachland into the water and now we have floating material in the lake. It may be in the action plan that we ask for some citizenry to pull them out if they see them on the shore and put into designated bins,” said Kirk. “These are all discussions that are happening right now. We all live here because of the environment and beautiful lakes and when we go to clean up, we have to clean with that mindfulness.”
The regional district will consider special or urgent requests for sandbag and debris removal on a case-by-case basis. To contact the local emergency operations centre call 250-492-0237 or toll-free at 1-877-610-3737.