British Columbia

Leave driftwood to protect beaches, Okanagan officials say

Flooding and near-flooding in recent weeks has left Okanagan Lake beaches covered in an unusual amount of driftwood.

'It actually acts as a bit of a shock absorber for the waves on Okanagan Lake,' official says

Kids play with driftwood at Rotary Beach in Kelowna while their mother looks on. The unusual amount of driftwood on local beaches has inspired some people to get creative with it, but officials say it's best left where it is. (Alya Ramadan/CBC)

Officials with the Regional District of the Central Okanagan are telling residents to leave the driftwood on Okanagan Lake alone.

After flooding and near-flooding situations in B.C.'s Interior, driftwood and debris from streams and rivers flowing into the lake have washed up on many beaches, creating a dark ring around the water's edge.

Bruce Smith, an emergency operations centre officer with the regional district, says the driftwood is best left where it is.

"It actually acts as a bit of a shock absorber for the waves on Okanagan Lake," he told Radio West host Alya Ramadan.

"If we get any high winds or wind events, then we'll get some wave action and it'll help to preserve the shoreline and protect it from erosion."

But not everyone has heard that message, and in places like Rotary Beach, on the east side of Okanagan Lake, visitors have taken to arranging the driftwood in creative ways.

Flooding conditions have resulted in streams and rivers depositing a large amount of debris in the lake. (Alya Ramadan/CBC)

Smith would prefer if beach visitors just left it alone.

"While they are getting artistic and creative with some of this material, we would encourage people to leave it alone and rest on the shoreline and it'll be cleaned up at the appropriate time when this is through," he said.

"The threat is far from over. This [flooding danger] could go well into June as the lake continues to rise."

The City of Vernon is also advising boaters to use caution in Okanagan Lake with all the debris about and to reduce speeds. Boaters are also encouraged to reduce their wake to lessen shore erosion.

Listen to the full interview:

With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West