Okanagan communities get $1.45M boost for 3D flood maps

A $1.45-million government grant will help communities in the Okanagan create digital maps of the landscape to help prepare for flooding, officials announced Tuesday.

Funding will use LiDAR technology to predict water flows in case of flooding

Kelowna experienced significant flooding last year. (Josh Pagé/CBC)

A $1.45-million government grant will help communities in the Okanagan create digital maps of the landscape to help  prepare for flooding, officials announced Tuesday.

The funding from the National Disaster Mitigation Program and the B.C. Community Emergency Preparedness Fund will allow the Okanagan Basin Water Board to use light detection and ranging (LiDAR) radar technology to create 3D images that will identify low-lying areas at risk for flooding.

"This is a huge grant for a huge, significant project," said Anna Warwick Sears, the executive director of the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

The grant  was announced at Kinsmen Park in Kelowna, which experienced serious flooding last year.

"There's always been floods here, but what's different is our communities have grown rapidly and built closer to flood-prone areas," Sears said. "Our weather is changing, and we expect much more extreme precipitation in the future and changes to the frequency and magnitude of the floods."

Chief Chad Eneas of the Penticton Indian Band said the maps will help First Nations communities prepare for emergencies. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Chief Chad Eneas of the Penticton Indian Band applauded the news.

"A number of our communities have been impacted by ...  climate change," he told reporters. "The ability to have access to information to prepare for that is very important for our families and our communities."

The LiDAR maps will show where water is likely to end up if water levels rise and help model the magnitude of the expected floods.

With files from Brady Strachan