2017 Okanagan Lake Flooding
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.
FLNRORD was fully aware that altering the natural levels of Okanagan Lake created a flood risk yet proceeded anyway. Foreknowledge of this risk has been admitted and is also demonstrated by their efforts to control it.
It is ludicrous for FLNRORD to claim that, “unforeseen weather”, somehow excludes them from liability. They were not only aware that such weather conditions were possible but their job description may as well be, “avoid flooding by compiling an analyzing weather prediction data.” The act was willful and the risk of “unforeseen weather” was known.
Examination of this flood risk reveals it has two components and both must be true in order to have flooding:
1. Inflows must exceed outflow capacity
2. Lake levels must be abnormally high
Regardless of the merits of their ridiculous excuse, higher lake levels exasperated flood damages. The Ministry readily admits they deliberately maintained extremely high Spring lake levels in anticipation of a drought. It is also easily demonstrated that altering the natural lake levels exasperated flooding and subsequent damages.
The picture above is a graph of 2016 through 2018 lake levels derived from Environment Canada data.
*** Note the May 1st 2018 starting elevation of 341.5
The picture above shows the initial graph with 2017 lake elevations separated.
The picture above shows 2017 lake level data superimposed over the original graph with the same May 1st 2018 start elevation of 341.5 M. Note that the maximum 2017 level does not exceed that of 2018. Had FLNRORD used the same May 1st level of 341.5 M in 2017, no flooding would have occurred at all.
The Associated Report:
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.
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.
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)
"The DFO input is considered advisory, as the Water Manager retains responsibility for managing
the Dam." (2)
"...total snow recorded at Vernon North climate station was recorded to be
130% and 342% of normal for December 2016 and February 2017..." (3)
Reimer stated to Global News that DFO had instructed him to keep lake elevations high. Hence the title of their report:
Okanagan Lake wasn’t lowered sooner to protect fish stock - Globalnews.ca
I confronted Reimer by email on this as "DFO input is considered advisory" (2).
"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 Kim 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. By the time FLNRORD started to lower the lake, it was too late. FLNRORD's excuse for flood causation was an 'act of God', "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.
FLNRORD has also failed to investigate methods that could minimize risk. Okanagan Lake is some 4 miles away and 16 feet higher than Skaha. A simple pump/siphon system between the lakes could meet seasonal downstream needs while allowing Okanagan Lake to be left below 341.5 M on May 1st, eliminating flood risk entirely!
Nov 16th, 2016 Reimer makes a presentation before the OBWB on making drought predictions: