Birdseye view of speed boat and its wake

OCCP is pleased to announce the release of the Kalamalka and Wood Lake Boat Impact Study on Source Waters. Growth in the Okanagan region and an increase in boating activity has generated an interest and a need for a comprehensive and scientific analysis of the potential impacts of boating activity on water source protection. With this in mind, the Districts of Lake Country and Coldstream, RDNO, RDCO, the Okanagan Similkameen Invasive Species Society, and OCCP collaborated to retain Ecoscape Environmental Ltd. and Larratt Aquatic Consulting Ltd. to undertake a study that would investigate the potential threat of boating activity on source water protection for the municipal and domestic intakes on Kalamalka and Wood Lake.

The consultants used physical data and a spatial model to quantify the risks and determine the areas of highest vulnerability on Wood and Kalamalka lakes. The data collection included water sampling, mapping the lake bottom, monitoring currents and monitoring and modelling boat activity. The study suggests that boating recreation is capable of sediment re-suspension within shallow areas, most notably in the south and north ends of Kalamalka Lake. Further, this sediment can migrate towards municipal intakes under the right conditions.

The study was completed over the summer of 2016 and the consultants presented the report the District of Lake Country, the District of Coldstream and the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee (GVAC) in June of 2017. The presentations noted the main risk of power-boating on water quality is related to either contaminants (pathogens, bacteria, hydrocarbons and metals) released during sediment re-suspension from boat propellers or from chemical spills, most frequently occurring during re-fueling, cleaning, or disposal of waste. There are approximately 8000 boats registered in the Greater Vernon area, with a projected increase of 2000 boats in the near future, and an expected increase in demand for boating facilities such as; marinas, docks, boat launches and dry storage facilities.

The Districts of Lake Country and Coldstream and GVAC supported the report’s main recommendation to focus on a multi-jurisdictional collaborative approach to implement the report. The specific recommendations focus on addressing spills, reducing the re-suspension of sediment, and protecting ecologically productive areas. To achieve these goals the report suggests creating spill management strategies, no wake zones, and public education programs on the issues and solutions to protect water source protection.

February 2020 Update

The report’s findings identified the lake bottom sediment contains bacteria, heavy metals, pesticide residues, and hydrocarbons. When sediments are re-suspended by boat engine propulsion they can drift to the drinking water intakes.

The report also identified large waves from boats are damaging shoreline property through erosion, swamping floating bird nests, and destroying Kokanee salmon spawning habitat.

Local governments are considering mitigating negative impacts with the following recommendations:

  • Recreational use should occur in locations that reduce risk to drinking water intakes and the environment
  • Designate power boat corridors away from shoreline
  • Designate low wake zones
  • Develop spill safeguards and response plans
  • Inform the public on the importance of our lakes

In 2018, OCCP surveyed 270 community members in the North Okanagan. There was an overwhelming 97% in support for the report’s recommendations.

See the Report [PDF on EcoCat].