B.C. and Oliver partner on irrigation repair to keep agriculture economy flowing
The B.C. government and the Town of Oliver are partnering on a $1-million repair project to an irrigation system so area fruit, vegetable and crop growers can continue to be an economic driver in the region.
The project will repair a section of pipe near Gallagher Lake that was damaged by a January rock slide to ensure the Town of Oliver, the Osoyoos Indian Band, and about 400 farmers in the Regional District of the Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) have reliable access to irrigated water.
“The wine and tree fruit industries around Oliver have always depended on irrigation to thrive,” said Premier Christy Clark.
“By repairing and then replacing the damaged pipe, we’re taking immediate action to protect Oliver, and the local economy.”
The B.C. government is providing $525,000 to the project, with the Town of Oliver contributing $475,000.
The section of pipe is part of an irrigation system that connects water users with a canal about five kilometres north of Oliver. The section damaged in the slide was installed in 1997 and is over two meters in diameter, made of reinforced concrete, and was buried about three metres below the surface.
“It is imperative that these repairs be undertaken to ensure that irrigation is not interrupted for the present growing season and that the canal infrastructure will provide needed water for years to come,” said Ron Hovanes, Mayor of Oliver.
“The Town of Oliver is very grateful for this significant contribution from the Province of British Columbia towards the repairing of the Gallagher Lake siphon that supports the Osoyoos Indian Band, the RDOS and the town’s agricultural community.”
The two phase project involves the insertion of a sleeve in the damaged pipe to allow the water to flow for the short-term, while the permanent replacement of the pipe and stabilization of the area around the slide will continue this summer and into the fall.
The Oliver area is home to over 30 wineries and produces more than $30 million worth of wine grapes, cherries, peaches, apples and forage crops each year. Almost all crops in the area require irrigation water to grow, with irrigation usually beginning in early April.
B.C. growers produced more than 126,000 tonnes of apples, cherries, peaches, pears, plums/prunes, nectarines and apricots in 2014. The total represents nearly 30% of Canadian production and $105 million in farm cash receipts.
The province’s grape growers work to meet the demand for high-quality grapes for B.C.’s internationally famous wine industry. B.C. is home to over 4,000 hectares in grape production and over 26,000 tonnes of grapes. In 2014, B.C.’s wine and table grape production was valued at almost $47 million in farm cash receipts, accounting for 14% of the province’s overall total fruit receipts and 40% of Canada’s total grape receipts.
“The Osoyoos Indian Band is very relieved to hear that the Province is providing funding for the repair of the siphon at Gallagher Lake,” said Clarence Louie, Chief of Osoyoos Indian Band.
“Water is the mainstay of the economy and the canal is very important to the 300-acre Nk’mip vineyard and all the other orchards and vineyards in the Oliver area.”