2040 Official Community Plan

Natural Hazard Areas

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Last Updated: 
January 10, 2022
2040 OCP - Chapter 15 - Natural Hazard Areas chapter header, image of flooding at Rotary Beach in Kelowna

2040 OCP - Natural Hazard Areas Pillars

Our lakes, streams, mountains, and valleys are some of the defining features of Kelowna. This unique natural landscape not only supports plant and animal species but is a major draw for people to live in our community.  The natural features that contribute to Kelowna’s beauty, however, can also pose significant risk from natural hazards. Steep slopes and ravines associated with our valleys and hillsides can be vulnerable to slope instability, landslides, and rock falls. Areas along our 27 creeks and the Okanagan Lake foreshore areas can be susceptible to flooding. Finally, wildfires are a natural part of Kelowna’s wildland ecosystem, however, the proximity of developed lands and to forests and grassed slopes results in a wildfire interface hazard for many areas of the community. 

Kelowna is already experiencing the impacts of climate change, and as global temperatures continue to rise, the risk associated with some hazards will be heightened. Increased precipitation and more intense storms will increase the risk of flooding and slope instability, particularly during the spring. Further, with the projected increasingly dry conditions and hotter days, the likelihood of being impacted by wildfire events is expected to increase.

Development in areas prone to natural hazards requires special consideration. Focusing on risk reduction at the interface between communities and the natural environment is necessary to minimize threats to personal safety and property while ensuring protection of our sensitive ecosystems.

Objective 15.1. Reduce wildfire risk to health and safety of the public, property and infrastructure.

Policy 15.1.1. Design Subdivisions to Reduce Wildfire Risk. 
Incorporate wildfire hazard reduction considerations in subdivision design.

Policy 15.1.2. Access and Egress. 
Improve access and egress to neighbourhoods at risk of wildfire as identified in Map 20.2: Wildfire Development Permit Area.

Policy 15.1.3. Use FireSmart Principles.
Encourage property-owners to use FireSmart principles on their properties.

Policy 15.1.4. Manage Forest Fuels.
Use a combination of new and conventional technologies and traditional syilx/Okanagan knowledge to manage forest fuels in accordance with a changing climate to reduce wildfire risk. 

Policy 15.1.5. Wildfire Fuel Modification. 
For properties to be transferred to the City that are located within a Wildfire Hazard Area, as identified in Map 20.2., require wildfire fuel modification to be completed prior to the transfer to a level deemed acceptable by a qualified professional in a wildfire hazard assessment.

Objective 15.2. Design and locate development to reduce risks associated with steep slopes.

Policy 15.2.1. Steep Slopes.
Restrict development on steep slopes. These areas should be retained as natural open space, either public or private.

Policy 15.2.2. Access Through Steep Slopes. 
Avoid roads (public or private) through +30 per cent slope areas. Consider allowing only when a qualified professional can demonstrate the road will be sensitively integrated with the natural environment (visual and aesthetic impacts minimized) and will present no hazards to persons or property, environmental threats or unreasonable servicing or maintenance challenges.

Policy 15.2.3. Design Development to Avoid Areas of Steep Slopes.
For properties identified in Map 20.1: Hazardous Condition Development Permit Area, design the development to lessen site disturbance and avoid areas of steeper slopes. For those developments that are also in a Wildfire Development Permit Areas (Map 20.2), ensure the development is designed to minimize wildfire risk.   

Policy 15.2.4. Retain Existing Vegetation. 
Maximize the retention of existing native vegetation during site development on steep slopes to enhance ecological services, minimize erosion and runoff, enhance ecological services and reduce visual and aesthetic impacts. In Wildfire Development Permit Areas (Map 20.2), some vegetation may need to be removed to reduce fuel loads as recommended by a qualified professional.

Policy 15.2.5. Locate Developments Away from Top of Slopes.
Set back development from the top of ridgelines, cliffs and ravines to minimize the impact on environment and risk to development as outlined in Chapter 20: Development Permit Areas (Hazardous Condition Development Permit Guidelines).

Policy 15.2.6. Retaining Walls in Steep Slope Areas. 
In areas of steep slopes, when necessary, design and construct retaining walls to minimize visual and aesthetic impacts and to reduce the impacts on existing adjoining neighbourhoods and the environment.

Objective 15.3. Design and locate development to reduce risks associated with soil and rock substrate.

Policy 15.3.1. Hydro-geologically Sensitive Areas. 
Reduce or eliminate irrigation water use in areas where limited or no infiltration capacity exists based on hydro-geological assessments of sensitive areas.  An assessment of potential ground and surface water seepage may be required as part of any subdivision on hillside lands in excess of 20 per cent slopes.

Policy 15.3.2. Sediment Control.
Use erosion control mechanisms during construction of all developments to minimize the flow of sediment into the surrounding environment.

Objective 15.4. Reduce flood risk to health and safety, infrastructure, property and natural assets.

Policy 15.4.1. Balanced flood protection approach. 
Take a balanced and holistic approach to flood protection through the consideration of:

  • Flood protection needs;
  • Improvements to water quality;
  • Ecosystem habitat objectives; and
  • Localized goals.

Policy 15.4.2. Developing in Floodplains.
Where development is already located in a floodplain, or zoning permits new development in these areas, as identified in Map 20.1: Hazardous Condition Development Permit Area or along any watercourse, the future construction of, addition to, or alteration of a building or structure should be constructed to minimize impacts of future flooding as well as meet Natural Environment Development Permit Guidelines. Development that minimizes threat to life and property, such as agriculture, parks or greenspace is preferred.  

Policy 15.4.3. Maintain Flood Data.
Maintain up to date flood data to understand the risk to the community and where necessary consult local Indigenous organizations for expertise and oral historical data.

Policy 15.4.4. Retrofit Critical Infrastructure.
Continue to retrofit critical infrastructure (airport, roads, bridges, sewer) within the floodplain to withstand increased frequency and intensity of flood events.

Policy 15.4.5. Repurpose public infrastructure during disruptions.
Repurpose public infrastructure (e.g. roads, parks, trails) during seasonal flood events to minimize flood impacts that may disrupt City services.

Policy 15.4.6. Improve flood resiliency. 
Work together with the public, agricultural community, and other stakeholders to improve flood resiliency for those properties located within the floodplain.