2017 Okanagan Lake Flooding

 

Risk:

Risk is a consequence of actions taken in spite of potentially undesirable outcomes.

If one puts a bullet in a six-shooter, points it at someone and pulls the trigger, there there is a known risk. This risk can be quantified as a 1 in 6 chance that someone will be maimed or killed. If one proceeds, they automatically become liable for the consequences and no excuse, other than insanity, will be entertained. The act was willful and the risks were known.

Examination of the flood risk that FLNRORD operations created reveals it has two components and both must be true in order to have any flooding at all:

  1. Inflows must exceed outflow capacity 

  2. Lake levels must be abnormally high

 

The Law:

The WATER SUSTAINABILITY ACT  under Section 29 defines responsibilities of Dam Operators in the Province.

Rights and responsibilities of applicants and holders
29 (1) The following persons must exercise reasonable care to avoid damaging land, works, trees or other property of another person:

(a) an applicant for an authorization, change approval, drilling authorization or permit;

(b) the holder of an authorization, change approval, drilling authorization or permit;

(c) a person who, in accordance with the regulations or an order of the comptroller, a water manager or an engineer, makes changes in and about a stream or diverts or uses, including stores, water.

(2) A person referred to in subsection (1) (a), (b) or (c) must properly inspect, maintain and repair works constructed, operated or used by the person,

(a) in accordance with any prescribed requirements,

(b) in accordance with an order, and

(c) in a manner that ensures that the works do not cause a significant risk of harm to public safety, the environment, land or other property.

It does not limit liability for making mistakes. If ones actions causes property damage, then you're liable!

 

 

Acts of God:

An 'Act of God' is defined as an event that directly and exclusively results from the occurrence of natural causes that could not have been prevented by the exercise of foresight or caution; an inevitable accident. FLNRORD claims that “unforeseen weather” somehow excludes them from liability.

  1. FLNRORD was not only aware that adverse weather conditions were a possibility but attempted to predict such events.

  2. Their reliance upon inflow data, known to be suspect, fully demonstrates their lack of caution. (see Hyatt email)

  3. Their job description may as well be, “avoid flooding by compiling an analyzing weather prediction data.” 

Their actions were deliberate, lacked sufficient caution and the risk of “unforeseen weather” was known. Not an Act of God!

 

Lake Levels:

Regardless of the merits of their ridiculous “unforeseen weather” excuse, higher lake levels exasperated flood damages. The Ministry readily admits they deliberately maintained extremely high Spring lake levels in anticipation of a drought yet do not explain where this 'drought prediction' came from. It is also easily demonstrated that altering the natural lake levels exasperated flooding and subsequent damages.

 

The graph above was created from Okanagan Lake 'mean elevation' records  (Kelowna 08NM083) sent to me by Environment Canada. The Orange line is the 2017 profile superimposed at the same April 14th date and elevation of 1.206 in 2018.

*** Note the April 14th lake elevations of 1.685 and 1.206

The April 14th 2018 elevation of 1.206 could have easily been achieved on this same date in 2017. Had FLNRORD used the same April 14th 2018 elevation of 1.206 in 2017, instead of acting upon their 'drought prediction', no flooding would have occurred at all. The cause of the 2017 Okanagan Lake flood was therefore acting upon a 'drought prediction' as if it were written in stone! The Associated report should have fully investigated FLNRORD's 'drought prediction'.

 

The Associated Report:

Table 4-1 details the 'Okanagan Lake Regulation System Operation Plan' and details, "340.236 m is used to convert to GSC datum."

Table 4-2 details 'Okanagan water management guidelines' and rule #1 is "Do not fill Okanagan Lake above 342.75". Annual inflows can range from 78 million cubic metres to 1.4 billion cubic metres with an elevation operating range of about 1.2 metres.  342.48 is termed "full pool". If one subtracts this from the 340.236 conversion we obtain:  2.514 on the graph above. This is approximately the maximum height of the ORANGE line in the graph above and confirms flood levels would not have been reached had 2018 lake elevations been used.

Figure 7-2 of this report states, "Note: March end-of-month target was "As High as Possible" due to low inflow forecasts." This is undeniable proof that FLNRORD deliberately raised the lake level early in 2017. According to this graph, starting in October of 2016, Okanagan Lake elevation was allowed to rise above the established 'mean daily water level'. The obvious question is: What information did FLNRORD use to predict a drought 6 months in advance? The word 'drought' was only used 9 times in the entire report and considering the root cause of the flooding was this 'drought prediction', one can only conclude it was conveniently omitted.

 

The above graph has been altered from Associated's Report (Figure 7-2). The dark orange line is the 2017 lake levels superimposed to match "mean daily water level, 1943-2015" on May 1st. The elevations were also stretched to enhance the vertical axis and show the max, elevation reached at 343.25 M.  This visually shows that had FLNRORD met the same 1943-2015 average lake level on May 1st, the max. lake elevation would have reached +/- 342.7 (550 mm less) and flood damages would therefore have been minimal to non-existent. On May 1st 2018 the lake elevation was even lower at +/- 341.5 (1750 mm less than 2017 max. flood level) yet there was no downstream fish loss or lack of irrigation water reported!

 

The graph above (7-1) is also from Associated's Report and depicts 2017 inflows in weekly increments. Total snow at the Vernon North climate station recorded 342% of normal in February 2017(3) yet FLNRORD continued as if a drought was eminent. In conjunction with the previous graph, inflows were above average in March (indicating a drought was no longer eminent) and FLNRORD had more than sufficient time to lower the lake level to match the "1943-2015" May 1st average.  

"we have not identified any recommendations that would have resulted in improved outcomes." A 342% above normal snow-pack was observed in February, lake levels were well above mean average and March inflows were almost double yet the FLNRORD 'drought prediction' remained in effect? Did Associated fail to connect the dots or was this omission deliberate?   Figure 7-1 proves lake levels were well above mean average and inflows were almost double in March.  Inflow data did NOT support 'drought' and even slightly above normal temperatures and rainfall could spell disaster yet FLNRORD did nothing! 

 

The Associated report does not examine the reliability of the current operational plan other than mentioning some methods used were flawed.  It fails to even recommend an independent risk assessment be performed. Such an assessment would have revealed the current operational plan relies upon data known to be suspect and even if their operational plan is followed to the letter, inflows due to weather (heat & rainfall) will always remain unpredictable. In other words, uncontrollable flooding can just as easily occur as an insufficient downstream supply. FLNRORD's operational plan relies more upon guesswork than science.

The report also fails to single out causation. It mentions numerous aspects that could be improved but fails to reveal a "smoking gun"(1). Even with Guy's suggested improvements, there's no guarantee that flooding will not happen again and again. With this in mind, alternate methods that might reduce flood risks should have been at least suggested. Suggestions that didn't involve "weather forecasting" weren't even mentioned.

 

excerpts from the Associated report:

Page iv:   "Okanagan, Kalamalka, and Nicola Lakes were managed professionally and appropriately in 2017, and we have not identified any recommendations that would have resulted in improved outcomes." (1)

 

Page 4-14:

"The DFO input is considered advisory, as the Water Manager retains responsibility for managing the Dam." (2)

 

Page 5-3:

 "...total snow recorded at Vernon North climate station was recorded to be 130% and 342% of normal for December 2016 and February 2017..." (3)

 

 

Fake News & Shifting Blame:

Global News reported that DFO had instructed Reimer to keep lake elevations high. Hence the title of their report:

Okanagan Lake wasn’t lowered sooner to protect fish stock - Globalnews.ca

"In early spring, Federal fisheries asked Reimer to wait to discharge more water from the dam until sockeye eggs hatched downstream near Oliver." Obviously if DFO had requested the already dangerously high lake level be maintained then blame would be shifted from Reimer to DFO. However, "DFO input is considered advisory"(2) and Reimer shouldn't have deviated from Rule #1 of the guidelines (screw the fish...avoid flooding at all costs). I confronted Reimer by email about this:

 

 

Kim Hyatt's Inflow Program (FWMT):

"Each spring, inflow volume forecasts are estimated by the ministry’s River Forecast Centre. These forecasts use precipitation data, lake elevation and snow data. These forecasts combined with real-time data of lake levels, flows and other factors, are input to the ministry’s fish water management tool (FWMT) to plan and track the annual operation of the Okanagan Lake Regulation System." "Inflow" is melting sno-pack and rainfall = WEATHER. Everyone knows weather can be unpredictable and most Meteorologists agree that forecasts exceeding a week is mere fortune-telling. Kim Hyatt of DFO, co-wrote the Inflow Prediction Program being used by FLNRORD to establish safe lake levels and FLNRORD starts entering forecast data into it months in advance. I emailed Mr. Hyatt to find out what went wrong and he replied:

In 2017, weather data known to be suspect was used and resulted in an erroneous drought prediction. Eg: "10-day forecasts are often barely useable and certainly are not reliable". FLNRORD then and acted upon this prediction as if it were written in stone by setting the lake level approx. 1/2 meter above "1943-2015" averages. Considering the lake only fluctuates 1.2 meters on average, this is huge! By the time FLNRORD started to lower the lake, it was too late. FLNRORD's excuse for flood causation was, "unforeseen weather conditions". Kim Hyatt however states causation was reliance upon suspect forecast data from Environment Canada and the River Forecast Centre, neither of which are owned or operated by God!

 

FLNRORD knowingly creates a flood risk yet circumstances do not exist where they would accept liability. This is bullshit! When risk is taken, liability is automatically assumed.

 

Existing Methods:

 

To my knowledge, FLNRORD has not investigated methods that do not rely upon weather predictions yet could minimize or eliminate flood risks. Part of the Associated report objectives was to "identify opportunities for improvement". It doesn't take a Rocket Scientist to figure out that weather predictions are unreliable and other solutions should be investigated.

 

 

A Siphon Alternative:

Okanagan Lake is some 4 miles away and 16 feet higher than Skaha. A simple pump and/or siphon system between the lakes could meet seasonal downstream needs while allowing Okanagan Lake to be left at a safe level.

The following online tool calculates gravity-fed pipe flow:  http://www.calctool.org/CALC/eng/civil/hazen-williams_g

The following image is of this online tool being used to calculate flow of a 1.2M diameter steel pipe that drops 3M over 1.5 Km:

The resultant flow is 2.19 M3/sec or 77.7 CuFt/sec.

The Oliver Irrigation works can only handle a MAXIMUM of 110 CuFt/sec.

 

 

Drought Predictions:

OBWB has been examining 'DROUGHT PREVENTION" for years and it is all documented. On Nov 16th, 2016 Reimer made a presentation before the OBWB on making drought predictions:

https://www.obwb.ca/newsite/wp-content/uploads/3_SHAUN_OLRS-Management-Mainstem-Drought-Workshop-Nov-2016.pdf

Is this why he predicted a 'drought' for 2017?