Fish Water Management Tool (FWMT) & Okanagan Lake Levels FAQ

June 16th, 2017

It was recently reported that Okanagan Lake water level was not lowered sooner due to the decision to protect fish stocks (Global News, June 9, 2017). Unfortunately this position is out of context and missing key information, particularly in regards to the use of the Fish Water Management Tool in current Okanagan water management.

Fish Water Management Tool FAQ

1. What is the Fish Water Management Tool (FWMT)? 

The FWMT is an internet-accessible, multi-user, modelling software designed specifically for the Okanagan basin. The software provides in-depth information and models for making weekly water releases from Okanagan dam that account for flood, drought (irrigation concerns), protection of sockeye eggs in the river and kokanee eggs in the lake. Okanagan Lake and Okanagan River levels are taken in to consideration, but not any of the tributaries. A FWMT Steering Committee meet to discuss Okanagan Lake and Okanagan River flows. Members of committee include the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA), Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), and Ministry of Forest, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO).


2. How are water-flow decisions made in the Okanagan?

Managing flow is extremely complex; there is no way to predict the sudden changes in precipitation and flows. The Water Manager in the region is FLNRO. FLNRO is also a member of FWMT committee. Typically, decisions on lake and river levels are discussed collaboratively, however the FWMT group has no jurisdiction over FLNRO water management. FLNRO makes the final decision but have been understanding of fish needs. FLNRO Water Managers are diligent about flows and lake levels, so much that the lakes and river level have been consistent over the years. This may be part of the current problem – it creates expectations that water levels vary only in feet whereas it is normal to vary in meters.

3. Why was 2017 challenging in predicting spring water flows?

March, 2017, snow packs were 86% of normal in the Okanagan. The FWMT model relies heavily on this snow pack data to model spring runoff levels. Thus the planning and modelling from January to April was for a drought. The Okanagan River flows were higher than normal over winter which did draw down the lake water levels, but still the thoughts were to be conservative in case the weather tipped toward a drought scenario as forecasts were for hot dry summer this year.

Since mid-April, precipitation exceeded predictions, and with lower than normal temperatures snow accumulation continued (being measured at 140% of normal), rapidly doubling the projected in-flows. The discussion at the FWMT committee was that water management planning was now around flood, which means to increase river flows to draw down the lake to make room for tributary flows.

4. What was the process for decision making? 

In April, FLNRO Water Managers, as part of the FWMT committee, discussed the potential flood concerns. At this time Water Managers were planning on increasing river flows. ONA and Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB) field crews collected the data needed to ensure that the fish were emerged and safe. Flows were raised shortly after, but the rains continued and flooding was the result in Okanagan Lake and many of the tributaries. Allowing time to confirm fish emergence did not cause the current flooding in Okanagan Lake, it was the result of the unpredictable perception at the time.

For further information please contact:

Howie Wright, ONA Fisheries Manager / / 1-250-707-0095 ext. 104

Ceremonies Integral to Returning Salmon to the Columbia Region

June 15th, 2017

Westbank, BC Syilx Okanagan Territory: From June 15-20th, 2017, a series of five Salmon Ceremonies will take place throughout the Columbia Basin. These Salmon Ceremonies empower Syilx Okanagan people throughout the Territory, providing the opportunity to both honor their ancestors and continue to conduct ceremony for the successful return of the salmon. All locations are […]

Okanagan Nation Continue Bringing Home Salmon to Okanagan Lake

June 6th, 2017

Okanagan Nation Territory (Westbank, British Columbia): Starting June 6, 2017, the Okanagan Nation Alliance’s (ONA) kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓  Hatchery will be providing sockeye salmon fry for releases taking place at 6 Mile Creek, Trout Creek, and Mission Creek. The releases of 230,000 fry are in recognition and celebration of the Syilx peoples’ continued successful efforts […]

2017 Okanagan Nation Sockeye Salmon Fry Release

May 17th, 2017

WHEN: Wednesday, May 17th, 2017. 9:30am – 11:00am WHERE: Penticton Channel, off Hwy 97 & Green Mountain Road, Penticton, BC. Please drive slowly. Parking will be available along the left side of the Dyke and behind the Save on Gas station. Due to higher than normal water levels we are asking people to be particularly […]

Okanagan Nation Alliance’s Annual Spirit of Syilx Youth Unity Run

May 10th, 2017

WHAT: The Annual Spirit of Syilx Youth Unity Run will begin at Blanket Creek Provincial Park, heading north to Revelstoke, on to and around BC Hydro’s Mica Dam. In total the Run will go through 309 km of the Okanagan Territory, ending at Martha Creek Provincial Park. We are estimating around 120 Syilx youth to […]

A Statement from Friends & Family in Regards to the Roxanne Louie Verdict

April 8th, 2017

First, we want to thank our communities within the Okanagan for their continued support. Specifically, we want to thank those who came forward with information when Roxanne first went missing. Thank you to all those who showed their support during the “Prayer Walk” while Roxanne was still missing. We believe the added pressure from community support finally drove the Robotti’s to confess their crime. Thank you to everyone who organized and attended rallies at the Penticton courthouse during the bail hearing and preliminary hearing. Thank you to all the organizers of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s annual vigil on February 14th. Additional thanks to the UBCO Women’s Resource Centre for holding Tea Talks on Missing and Murdered Indigenous women. These events are crucial for raising awareness and empowering Indigenous voices. Additional thanks to the Osoyoos Indian Band and the Okanagan Nation Transition Emergency House (ONTAH). Also, special thanks to Okanagan Nation Alliance emergency response team for their support throughout the trial.

Verdict Provides Initial Steps Forward for Family and Community

April 7th, 2017

Okanagan Nation Territory/Westbank BC: The Louie and Hall family have endured years of arduous judicial processes and litigation in regards to the murder trial of Roxanne Louie, yet in the face of these challenges they have found the strength and resiliency to persevere. Justice here is found in both the verdict, as well as in […]

B.C. Court Confirms Rights in Arrow Lakes

March 27th, 2017

Syilx Okanagan Nation Territory, Westbank BC:  The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) is welcoming the provincial court’s March 27, 2017 Desautel decision. The decision arose as a result of hunting charges laid by the Province against Rick Desautel in 2010. The court acquitted Desautel and held that the descendants of the Sinixt continue to exist and […]