Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

Making the Case for the Restoration of the Kelowna Flood Plain

John Wagner, Community, Culture and Global Studies at UBC Okanagan, presents Making the Case for the Restoration of the Kelowna Flood Plain as part of the Environmental Sciences Seminar Series.

Everyone welcome, and coffee and donuts provided.

Abstract

Most residents of the City of Kelowna are entirely unaware of the fact that the most heavily developed areas of the city, including the downtown and many residential neighborhoods, are located on what was formerly the combined flood plains of Mission and Mill Creeks.

This area formerly included extensive wetland habitat that was home to many species that are now much diminished in number or endangered or extirpated from the Okanagan.

Many of those species were highly valued by the Indigenous Sylix who maintained a seasonal fishing camp at the mouth of Mission Creek.

Beginning in the 1860s, Europeans began to divert, channelize and dike the creeks and eventually filled in most of the wetland areas between them to make way for roads, houses and farms.

But in the Spring of 2017, as an outcome of climate change, severe flooding occurred throughout the former floodplain area and along the foreshore of Okanagan Lake, and significant flooding also occurred in 2018.

In this presentation I review the historical characteristics of the flood plain, the means by which it was systematically dismantled, and the opportunities that have now emerged for the partial restoration of the flood plain as an alternative to building larger dikes and expanding upland water storage capacity.

Floodplain restoration is not only a cost effective way to reduce the risk of flooding, but also a way to restore biodiversity, resilience and habitat connectivity in the region.