2018 flood preparations

Work is underway to prepare for the spring snowpack melt that flows into the streams and creeks that run through Kelowna.

We continue to closely monitor all flood factors in consultation with provincial departments, including snow pack levels, temperatures and precipitation forecasts. Freshet flows depend on these factors and will dictate the timing of peak flows.

As a precautionary measure, we have plans to proactively place flood prevention measures such as sandbags or bladder dams in specific areas along strategic locations of creeks that run through the city. When reliable information is available about freshet peak flows, residents in areas that have been identified as being at an increased risk of creek flooding will be notified and sandbags will be made available to them.

The potential for flooding exists this year, as it does every year, and property owners living near creeks, streams, low-lying areas and lakefront are responsible for having a plan and protecting their properties. Subscribe to receive email updates or learn more about local, provincial and federal preparedness resources at www.cordemergency.ca.


The flooding reports we have received so far are about groundwater seeping into basements. Sandbags are not useful in these situations.

This year’s high groundwater situation is very unpredictable and it’s not something we see every year. Groundwater is a force of nature that we can’t control or predict and have no influence over when it happens on private property.

In some specific cases, the City is working with property owners to do what we can to mitigate the flow of water overland from uphill developments due to still-frozen or saturated ground. When it comes to water flowing overland, the City plays a role in advising and working with property owners to control the release of water overland as well as routing. 


Properties along Okanagan Lake are currently not at risk for flooding. The lake level is being closely monitored and managed by the province and is not anticipated to be a concern in 2018.

Residents undertaking repairs to docks and/or retaining walls damaged in last year’s flood are required to apply for a permit from the Province (FrontCounter BC; 1-877-855-3222; FrontCounterBC@gov.bc.ca).

City crews will be tending to the Maude Roxby boardwalk repairs in the near future, including decking and railings and some damaged pilings.

Work is also planned for parks and public spaces with damaged walkway pavers, picnic tables, signs and wheelchair ramps.

Flood questions & answers

Due to unprecendented flooding in 2017, flood preparedness is of particular concern for residents who experienced last year’s flood damage.  In addition, there have been localized water damage caused by groundwater issues.

Where can I get sandbags?
  • Sand and sandbags are available at locations across the Central Okanagan for residents that are in vulnerable areas or who have previously experienced freshet flooding. Visit cordemergency.ca/map to find sand and sandbag pick up locations.

  • City of Kelowna has sand and sandbags at the Apple Bowl parking area (1555 Burtch Road). Residents should bring  small shovel to fill and assemble the sandbags they need.

  • In the event that a homeowner needs to construct a sandbag dike or wall to protect their property, residents are encouraged to review the sandbagging tips and information provided by Emergency Management BC.

What is the current situation?

Updated: April 23, 2018

  • For the most up to date information, visit cordemergency.ca.
  • Emergency officials and local government staff are responding to various reports of small landslides and localized flooding because of groundwater and high water levels in low-elevation streams throughout the Central Okanagan.
  • Freshet is underway. The Emergency Operation Centre has been activated to support crews in the field responding to the issues of localized flooding during the 2018 freshet.
  • Peak spring runoff flows from higher elevation snow melt to the valley bottom is estimated to be about two to four weeks away. Weather including rainfall and temperatures are variable factors that can affect the risk of flooding.
  • Preparation work is focusing on creeks that run through the City. Crews are placing bladder dams, baskets and sandbags in strategic locations. 
  • At this time, the lake is not a concern and it is not anticipated to be a risk this year. The lake level has been lowered 51 cm compared to the same time last year.
What is "freshet?"

While it sounds like it could be a brand of scented cleaner or facial tissue, freshet is the snow melt that typically occurs from April to July, in British Columbia. Freshet can become a problem when winter snow packs melt rapidly, overwhelming stream channels and creating floods.

What is the difference between freshet flooding and groundwater?
  • The difference is overland flow versus seepage.

  • Water will overtop stream banks when flows are greater than the stream's capacity to convey the volume of water from rain events and spring snow melt.

  • Groundwater damage will occur from seepage that occurs below the surface and finds its way through cracks and porous areas of a structure’s foundation.

  • Groundwater can be unpredictable. If property owners have historically experienced wet basements or seepage, they should prepare accordingly. Suggestions include installing a sump pump inside, below floor, or outside the structure, below basement level, at the location of seeping and/or making sure foundation drains (if present) are working.

What is the City doing to prepare for spring runoff?
  •  City staff monitor creek flows on an on-going basis and do their best to predict surges in flow and the probability of flooding. However, Mother Nature can, at times, be unpredictable.

  • The emergency management crews are in daily contact with Provincial departments to monitor creeks and rivers. They expect it will be about three to five weeks, depending on weather, before spring runoff peak flows from higher elevation snow melt arrives in the valley bottom.

  • Crews are now busy working to restore the creek channel capacity along Bellevue and Mill Creeks. Considerable damage occurred in these channels during the 2017 flood event.

  • City has approval from the Province of BC to undertake these flood mitigation efforts and a consultant is monitoring to ensure compliance. Replanting of trees and shrubs above the high-water mark along Mill Creek will be done in the fall.

  • Bellevue Creek works are complete, but the channel capacity restoration works along Mill Creek will be slow going and may take several months. The challenges are due to the limited access to the channel for crews and equipment. When completed, this work will help to reduce the frequency and severity of future flooding.

  • Pumps are being installed at the south end of Roberts Lake to move water alongside Curtis Road and into Brandt’s Creek. Pumps are expected to be there for six to 10 weeks.

  • When completed, this work will help to reduce the frequency and severity of future flooding.

What if I am worried my property will flood?
  • Private property owners are responsible for protecting their structures from possible flood damage and anyone who has historically experienced flooding should prepare accordingly. Equipping yourself with a flood plan and the tools needed in case of a flood can help prepare you.

  • Suggestions include making sure the ground is sloped away from your structures and water is directed away from your house by ditching or piping.

  • Do not to pump water into the sanitary sewer system.

  • Prepare a 72-hour kit for your family that includes food, water, a first-aid kit, identification and medications. A full kit list is available on the cordemergency.ca website.

  • Know where the power and water shut-off is in your house.

  • Ensure your family’s important documents and identification are located on an upper floor and sealed in a plastic bag.

  • Have an evacuation plan, including arrangements for your pets.

  • The insurance industry now provides coverage for damage resulting from overland flow but will usually not cover damage from groundwater seepage.

  • Emergency Management BC expects property owners to obtain flood insurance, when and where available. Property owners who choose not to obtain flood insurance, where available, may not be eligible for Disaster Financial Assistance.

Can I get financial support if my property floods?

The Provincial Government has announced that Disaster Financial Assistance is now available for eligible British Columbians in the Central Interior who may have been impacted by overland flooding or landslides from heavy rains that began on March 22, 2018. For more info, visit gov.bc.ca/disasterfinancialassistance or call 1-888-257-4777 and email dfa@gov.bc.ca.

I live on the lake – what should I do?
  • Properties along Okanagan Lake are currently not at risk for flooding. The lake level is being closely monitored and managed by the Province and is not anticipated to be a concern in 2018.
  • Residents undertaking repairs to docks and/or retaining walls damaged in last year’s flood are required to apply for a permit from the Province (FrontCounter BC; 1-877-855-3222; FrontCounterBC@gov.bc.ca).
What do I do if I notice a potential problem or flooding concern?
  •  To report an emergency, including threat of life, call 9-1-1.
  • Anyone noticing a potential problem or a flooding concern within the City of Kelowna is asked to call the Public Works Yard at 250-469-8600. 
  • Outside the City of Kelowna, please contact your local government public works department.
Where can I get more information?
  • A flood information line, 250-470-0674, has been set up for City of Kelowna residents and businesses. The number will be monitored during regular business hours. Outside regular business hours, please contact 250-469-8801 for non-emergencies.
  • Visit cordemergency.ca for the most up to date information, and resources on how to be prepared to keep your family and property safe.
  • Sign up for e-updates on the cordemergency.ca website to have the latest news delivered to your inbox. It’s the most direct way for staying informed if there is an emergency.
2017 flood recovery plan

Record setting rainfall in 2017 combined with snow melt, saturated ground, and high groundwater levels resulted in major flooding in Mill Creek with considerable damage to Bellevue Creek and the Okanagan Lake foreshore. 

City staff and contractors are working through a list of 52 locations in Kelowna that require repairs after last spring’s snowpack melt and ensuing flood, at a cost of approximately $10.7 million. About $3 million in works completed or underway so far include the repairs to Upper Vernon Creek and Bellevue Creek dredging.

Creek channel capacity restoration projects continue to be our priority right now, with crews doing erosion remediation and more gravel removal from Bellevue Creek and Mill Creek. Contractors are also removing vegetation in and around Mill Creek, along with dredging to increase the creek’s ability to handle higher water flows that occur during spring runoff.

Bellevue Creek

Bellevue Creek originates near Little White Mountain and flows northwest through Okanagan Park which also includes Crawford Falls and Canyon Falls before it reaches the apex of the fan near Woodhaven Regional Park and flows to Okanagan Park near Fuller Road.  The lower reach of the creek is considered by the province to be Rainbow Trout and Kokanee fish habitat although it is not used extensively at this time.  The reach from Woodhaven Regional Park to the mouth at Okanagan Lake has old berms along the tops of the banks in some areas that are legacy items from historical channel clearing by the province and some retaining walls near the lake on private property that were built to contain high flows.

Post-flood conditions

The 2017 flood caused significant channel bank erosion and channel scour within the eastern region of the channel which resulted in deposition in the reach at the mouth of the creek at Okanagan Lake.

Pending Ministry approval, the City intends to repair the erosion and channel scour locations as well as remove the accumulated gravels within approximately 500 metres of Okanagan Lake.  The City will also repair the trail berm and other damages in Cascia Drive Park.

Mill Creek

Mill Creek originates in the hills northeast of the city and flows southwest through the city entering Okanagan Lake near the W.R. Bennett Bridge.  After the creek crosses under Harvey Avenue near Burtch Road, it is constricted by urban development all the way to Okanagan Lake. These restrictions to the creek channel are an ongoing concern to the City and the Province since there is limited capacity to safely pass high flows during flood events.  

In response to these concerns, the City and the Province constructed the Mill Creek diversion structure in the 1980s that can divert  high flows for lower Mill Creek.

Post-flood conditions

Since the diversion works were completed in the 1980s the channel downstream of the diversion has become progressively obstructed by vegetation.  Some is brush that has grown into the channel, and some is large deciduous trees (e.g., willows) that have also grown in the channel and across the channel.  All this overgrown vegetation has progressively restricted the flow such that in 2017 the channel was not capable of diverting the flow levels it was designed for and certainly cannot pass the bankfull flow recommended in the Ministry of Environment report. As a result of the obstructed flows, there was severe and costly flooding within the city during the 2017 high flows.

Damage to city infrastructure due to the 2017 flood was identified at Spencer Road, where it crosses Mill Creek. The flood damaged the three corrugated metal culverts and caused aggradation within the channel upstream of the crossingand resulted in overbank flows which caused extensive residential flooding.

Pending Ministry approval for the work, the City plans to repair the damaged culverts and remove accumulated gravels prior to the 2018 freshet.  A longer range plan is to replace the existing culverts with a larger open bottom arch culvert (or equivalent).  This project is in the planning and design phase.  Pending funding and Ministry approval the works could be constructed in 2019.

The City's assessment also determined that the creek channel from Okanagan Lake upstream to Ethel Street has diminished capacity due to sedimentation.  It is likely that this sedimentation is related to the flood event in May 2017.  Vegetation, trees, and brush have encroached into the channel reducing the flow capacity to near zero in some locations.  In addition, there are constructed obstructions (e.g., private fences) that collect debris and reduce flow capacity which contributes to the potential for flooding.

Pending Ministry approval for the work, the City will begin removing the accumulated sediment and offending trees and vegetation in the channel to restore channel bankfull design capacity.  Due to the restricted access and complexity of the work involved, this project may take upwards of two years to complete the approximately 14 kilometres of channel.

Priest Creek

Priest Creek Linear Park consists of a walking path and three wooden bridges to allow for pedestrians, cyclists, and equestrians access into the Myra Bellevue Provincial Park.  This park provides a unique riparian experience as the walking path meandered alongside and over the creek.  At the south end of the park, Priest Creek is confined by a steep valley that was burned during the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park fire.  The northern portion of the park is undisturbed natural forest and the valley floor expands onto a fan; historic channels are evident.  The walking path was surfaced with crushed gravel on the fan and left as a natural dirt path at the south end of the park where the path climbs away from the creek on the east side of the channel.  Currently the park remains closed as it is not safe for public use.

Post-flood conditions

The 2017 flood caused significant channel erosion and scour as well as several channel avulsions within the park that isolated two walking bridges and damaging the walking path in several locations.  

Due to an upstream channel avulsion, the creek formed a new channel west of the original channel which was diverted by a deflection berm back into the main stem near the north end of the park.  The walking path crosses the new channel after passing over the deflection berm.

At two of the bridges, bed material filled in the original channel causing channel avulsions. The new channel has scoured to a greater depth than the original channel making it both difficult and expensive to try to restore the flow to the original channel.  Since this is a small natural park area, it is recommended that the flow be maintained in the new channel and the path be extended to cross the new channel using fords rather than bridges. 

As a result of the extent of disturbance in the channel through the park it is expected that the flows will remain high in the future during spring freshets.  For this reason, ford crossings are recommended rather than installing new bridges since a ford can be easily restored after a spring freshet if necessary.  If fords are used it may be necessary to close the park during the spring freshet when it would be unsafe to cross the flowing stream.  This approach is commonly used elsewhere where walking paths may be flooded during high flows.

Pending Ministry approval, the City plans to restore sections of the walking path by removing gravel and debris from the path, constructing stream ford crossings, and repairing one bridge.