Photo: Brad Farrell

A large crane over a burned out construction site is at risk of collapsing, forcing an evacuation order

The City of Kelowna says crews are still trying to “determine next steps” in dealing with a damaged crane at a burned-out construction site in Glenmore.

The apartment job site at the corner of Glenmore Road and Union Avenue went up in flames Tuesday morning, and since then, there has been worry the large crane at the site could collapse.

The situation has forced the evacuation of homes within a 300-foot radius and the closure of roads in the area.

“This is quite a unique and complex situation, requiring very specialized professionals on several fronts,” said Lance Kayfish, City of Kelowna risk manager.

“Safety is the top priority for the public and for any workers involved in the removal of the crane. The owner of the crane has sourced well qualified professionals to oversee mitigating the situation quickly and safely. That work is underway.”

Glenmore Road remains closed between Cross and Scenic Road, and Union Road remains closed between Wyndham Crescent and Valley Road. Sidewalks on Glenmore between Cross and Scenic are closed to foot traffic as well as sidewalks on Union between Glenmore Road and Snowsell Street North.

Southbound traffic has been rerouted to Snowsell Street North and Scenic Road, while northbound traffic has been directed to Snowsell Street North and Valley Road. Electronic message boards and signage have been installed to help direct traffic.

Residents are asked to avoid closed off areas on and along Glenmore Road and follow the traffic and sidewalk closures, signage and detours. The city says closures and detours remain in place until further notice.

Evacuated residents have been told they could hope to return home early next week, but the city has not announced that timeline publicly.

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Photo: Contributed

Interior Health officials say they are continuing to keep a close eye on the potential fallout from that large party at Charley Victoria’s Restaurant at Big White nearly two weeks ago.

The well documented event included a packed house of party-goers who ignored public health orders by not wearing masks and not physical distancing.

The owner had his lease revoked by the ski hill and faces other fallout from Interior Health.

“We are keeping a close eye on that. We have not seen a huge number of cases, or a surge at this point,” said IH chief medical health officer Dr. Albert de Villiers during a weekly news conference Friday.

“Cases can develop up to 14 days after. Sometimes we will get a case…and people don’t always tell us where they’ve been and where they picked it up.

“It sometimes takes a little bit of investigative work on our end to find out because they might be ashamed they were at that party.”

Interior Health also continues to investigate a party aboard a Kelowna Cruises houseboat Saturday night.

Dr. de Villiers says the health authority is working with the operator, a process which is ongoing.

However, he stopped short of saying fines will be imposed on the owner.

“Our first role is usually to make sure it stops, and at this point we are working to that end.

“If it was a misunderstanding, sometimes we let people off with a warning.

“If it was a blatant decision to push the limits and not following orders specifically at that point, we can impose a fine.”

The owner of the boat has agreed to stop operating until April 24 and de Villiers says IH is looking at available options.

A large barrel racing event in Kamloops last weekend which had attracted as many as 300 competitors was successfully shut down.

Dr. de Villiers says that was a misunderstanding, and it was voluntarily shut down after Interior Health cleared up the misunderstanding with the organizer.

Photo: Contributed

The Central Okanagan’s unemployment rate fell in March, making it the second lowest mark in the nation among metropolitan areas.

The group of people without work last month in Kelowna and West Kelowna was 5%, which was down from 5.2% in February, according to Statistics Canada. Only Quebec City had a lower unemployment rate at 4.9%.

The Central Okanagan’s work force decreased by 2,600 people last month, and the participation rate, which is the percentage of eligible people working or looking for work, dropped from 64.5% to 63%.

The Thompson Okanagan’s unemployment rate in March was 7.3%, which is down from 7.5% in February.

Nationally, the economy added 303,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate dropped from 8.2% to 7.5%, which is the lowest it has been since the COVID-19 pandemic started more than a year ago. There were about 95,000 more retail jobs for the month, fully recouping losses sustained in January lockdowns.

There was also an employment bump of 21,000 in the accommodation and food services sector, which Statistics Canada noted still leaves that sector the furthest from a full recovery at 24.4%, or 298,000 jobs, below pre-pandemic levels.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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Photo: Oregon State University

Microplastic poses a growing concern in oceans and other aquatic habitat.

Are microplastics polluting Okanagan Lake?

That’s a question researchers with FreshWater Life will try to answer this year with funding from the Okanagan Basin Water Board.

The OBWB this week awarded 16 grants worth $350,000 to Okanagan non-profits, local governments and irrigation districts.

The study in partnership with the City of Kelowna will sample water to determine if microplastics are present in the lake, and if they are, if wastewater is to blame and create solutions to the problem.

At this point, there is no published data on microplastics in Okanagan Lake and researchers believe they are inadvertently being discharged into the body of water, like many parts of the world. Microplastics are defined as smaller than five millimeters in length and can be found in anything from clothing to cosmetics.

“The public has become increasingly aware of plastic pollution, especially in the ocean, but are less aware of microplastics and even less so in freshwater,” said James Littley, OBWB’s operations and grants manager.

“This project will help us develop a baseline understanding of the issue, how it affects our lives, our drinking water and the environment in the Okanagan, and develop a response as needed.”

Other projects funded this year by the OBWV include on-the-ground restoration efforts, water monitoring, public outreach, and more.

One such project is “A Syilx siw?k? (water) Story: A Rail Trail signage journey” is to be led by the Okanagan Nation Alliance. The project involves the installation of signs along the Okanagan Rail Trail using key messages originally created for the 2016 Social Life of Water travelling exhibit which was featured in museums throughout the valley.

A third project is a pilot project to identify drinking water protection areas by the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS). Currently, there are 190 water systems (groundwater, lake, creek and river sources) in RDOS alone. The project will identify wells and intakes and define drinking water protection areas.

This will help water providers improve potential emergency responses, and ensure the public, developers, government staff and others are better informed before working in these areas. This project will also be available as a template for mapping efforts in other regions. “Ultimately the intention is to identify water sources and protect water quality in our valley,” added Littley.

Photo: Colin Dacre

Rob Gibson – Apr 9, 2021 / 4:00 am | Story: 330422

Photo: Contributed

The Central Okanagan Teachers Union is calling for greater transparency from the provincial government as COVID-19 exposures surge in the region and provincial case counts break records.

“The data is not out there and transparent,” said union president Susan Bauhart.

Bauhart represents 1,500 union members in the Central Okanagan who she says tend to fall into one of two camps, “nothing to worry about and very, very nervous.”

After a somewhat quiet winter, there are now 12 Central Okanagan schools with active COVID-19 exposures, according to IH.

Bauhart says she has noticed a shift since spring break ended, “whether it’s some parents holding their children out of school or an uptick in illnesses there appear to be more students absent after spring break.”

She says one of her big concerns is the threat of new variant strains of COVID-19, “as we’ve seen with the Vancouver Canucks, these variants spread quickly and they are impacting young healthy people.”

Bauhart indicates a growing level of frustration among her members that Interior Health is not releasing more information, “they always say it’s for privacy reasons but I’ve never asked for specifics about individuals.”

At the present time B.C. does not publicly share the number of school children infected with COVID-19 and the teachers union would like more data made public.

“Nobody here wants to shut schools down. We all feel it’s important, but right now, I get much of my COVID-19 information from Castanet. I log on every morning to get the latest information and that’s great but we feel we should have access to more data.”

Castanet has received a surge in messages from parents with similar complaints in recent weeks.

“There are hundreds of students isolating in SD 23 and there are a large number of students at home…” said one such message. “When are we going to find out the truth about what is going on in our schools?”

Bauhart says she understands the frustration and shares some of those same concerns, “[transparency] is just not there.”

Madison Erhardt

Although COVID-19 still very active across the Okanagan, both Tourism Kelowna and Travel Penticton are both hopeful and confident the region will be a hot spot for tourists this summer.

Despite the optimism, Tourism Kelowna’s Lisanne Ballantyne says it is do or die for many businesses.

“A number of them are in survival mode right now. This year, not even this summer, is going to be crucial if we are going to have long-term recovery. The businesses are trying to make up lost revenue from way back the last March,” Ballantyne said.

Tourism Kelowna says they aren’t worried about the number of visitors coming through, but they will be analyzing where visitors open their wallets.

“Oddly, last summer we had a very high number of visitors coming through even though they weren’t staying in traditional accommodations like hotels. We had a number of visitors staying with friends and family, or at campgrounds, but sadly they weren’t spending at the restaurants and they weren’t spending at the hotels,” Ballantyne stated.

Travel Penticton hopes that this summer will be very similar to 2020.

“We were quite fortunate to have good traffic here in Penticton over the months of July, August and September,” Travel Penticton’s executive director Thom Tischik said.

Although most of the normal events may not be running this summer, both Penticton and Kelowna say the Okanagan’s tourism staples still drive people to the region.

“We still have a lot of the great things to offer like wine, tasting and cycling and the great beaches,” Tischik added.

Ballantyne hopes those with a pent-up travel demand will choose late fall as an option to visit.

“We are one of those areas that has so much to offer a traveller,” she said.

Photo: Google Maps

Interior Health has confirmed a COVID-19 exposure at Kelowna Secondary School.

The individual is self-isolating at home with support from local health teams.

“The safety and well-being of students, families, and staff remains our highest priority. Central Okanagan Public Schools will continue to implement the strict health and safety protocols and procedures that are in place so students and staff can continue to attend school as safely as possible,” said the school district Thursday night.

The Central Okanagan Public Schools are working closely with Interior Health to determine if any additional actions are required.

A full list of active COVID-19 school exposures in the Interior Health region can be found here.

Photo: Contributed

Kelowna Cruises file photo

B.C.’s provincial health officer did not mince words when she was asked about a party on a houseboat in Kelowna this past weekend.

“These are not the times to be doing that and they are not permitted under the orders that are happening right now,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said during Thursday’s press conference.

“There are fines for not only the people organizing these and the businesses that are allowing these to happen, but also for people who are attending in contravention of the orders. We have the support of the RCMP and police services to enforce these fines as well.”

Global News captured video of a Kelowna Cruises houseboat pulling into the downtown Kelowna docks after sunset Saturday night, with loud party-goers piling out of the ship.

Interior Health said it had spoken with the local company, and they’ve agreed to stop operating until April 24. IH said Kelowna Cruises will require an “adequate COVID-19 safety plan” before they resume operations, but Dr. Henry said Thursday houseboats are restricted under current public health orders.

“It has been in place since last summer when we saw this happening, we have an order that restricts vacation rentals and vacation accommodations and house boats fall into that,” she said. “We have enhanced those orders recently, so those should not be happening.”

She noted she was aware of “a number” of recent events in the Interior.

“There were a number of events that we heard about in the Interior that we heard about over this past weekend,” Dr. Henry said.

“I know Interior Health, the First Nation Health Authority and a number of local community leaders were involved in reminding people that we cannot be having this type of event right now, certainly not with people travelling from both inside B.C. and there was another event where people were coming from Alberta, Saskatchewan and other places. When we found out about that, it was shut down as well.”

While she didn’t elaborate on what event she was describing, it’s likely she was talking about the Kamloops Race Central’s Easter Barrel Race event, which was shut down last Friday.

Photo: BCCOS

Three Lake Country men have been fined a combined $11,000 for poaching four moose in two separate “party hunting” incidents.

Christopher Gross, Terry Knooihuizen and Timothy McCool all appeared in Kelowna court Thursday after pleading guilty to Wildlife Act charges.

One incident in Vernon in Nov. 2017 saw Knooihuizen shoot and kill two bull moose illegally and use McCool’s species tag to try to cover it up. Knooihuizen received $3,500 in fines for exceeding his bag limit and using another person’s tag. McCool was fined $2,000.

In a separate 2019 incident in Revelstoke, Knooihuizen poached another two bull moose, and this time used another friend’s species tag in efforts to hide it. He was fined an additional $3,500, for a total of $7,000. Gross received a $2,000 fine.

Knooihuizen has been banned from hunting for two years, while McCool and Gross received one-year hunting prohibitions.

All three have to retake the hunter education program (CORE) and cannot accompany anyone hunting or be in a hunting camp.

“Poaching is a reckless activity with a blatant disregard for public safety and wildlife,” said the BC Conservation Officer Service on Facebook.

All the penalty proceeds are going towards the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation.

with files from Wayne Moore

Photo: Colin Dacre

A group of a few dozen protesters gathered outside the Kelowna courthouse Thursday afternoon to demand justice for the victims of last month’s stabbings at a bush party on Postill Lake Road.

“These boys need justice,” said Carrie Macleod, a close friend of the victims, who was reluctant to step into the spotlight but felt the need to organize the event.

“Personally, with what I’ve seen them go through, this is what they need.”

Supporters of the victims wore white shirts at the rally. Those who were at the party where the stabbings occurred wore red, while blue shirts marked family members who “got the call that night.”

Protesters wearing masks spread out along Water Street and were greeted by supportive honks of passing cars.

The Kelowna RCMP says a total of eight people were hurt in the confrontation on March 28 at 2 a.m. on Postill Lake Road. Seven young men aged between 16 and 19 sustained stab wounds, two of whom were required to be placed on life support. A 25-year-old woman was treated for blunt force trauma.

The incident has deeply shaken her friends and classmates, said Macleod. Some of the witnesses, who drove the bleeding victims down the gravel road to waiting ambulances, have required counselling.

“They are very angry and very upset about why this happened.”

She said she hopes the rally pushes the justice system into action.

“These boys need it and need to know that this isn’t being pushed under the carpet.”

The Kelowna RCMP said in the days after the stabbings that they have multiple possible suspects from both parties involved in the altercation, calling it a “large and complex investigation.” Nobody has been charged in the incident.

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