without Urquhart, Times Chronicle
It’s been two busy months for the Osoyoos Lake Water Quality Board (OLWQB) with the shift to a new marina, change of plate composition and annual yellowfish formation around town.
The best news ever was the award of a supplemental berth at Sunrise Marina to OLWQB’s 5.8m pontoon boat for water quality monitoring by the town of Osoyoos.
The boat goes out every two weeks with up to four people on board (five if they are undergoing training) and spends a few hours collecting water samples around the lake.
The volunteer-led non-profit group had to leave its longtime home at Walnut Beach Resort and was looking for a new mooring spot earlier this year. After an extensive but fruitless public appeal to businesses and private homeowners, an appeal was made to the city to prioritize one of the much-coveted piers at Sunrise Marina and was eventually granted.
There was a slight delay before the boat was moved to the new “Excavations” in mid-May due to the town’s requirement that OLWQB have the required level of liability insurance.
One downside of the new location is that OLWQB does not have storage space with the new city marina. “We really enjoyed having the boat at Walnut Beach Resort because it provided a good berth for our boat, but it also provided great storage for all of our gear and we missed out on the great storage space,” OLWQS President Birgit Arnstein explains.
“Our equipment is now stored in one of the volunteers’ homes and in my crawl space,” she adds with a laugh. There are pros and cons to the new location, but ultimately we are glad to have that space.
“It’s basically an annual arrangement but we expect we’ll be able to apply and do that on an annual basis.”
yellow fish road
The Water Quality Organization has also been busy painting the city yellow with its annual stencil of yellow fish near rainwater drains across the city.
Ten OLWQB volunteers gathered early in the morning on Sunday, June 12 in the Town Hall parking area to pick up paint, stencils, maps, traffic cones and reflective jackets. The two-person teams spread out to cover a lot of important roads, starting with waterfront roads, according to Ernstein.
“We do this to remind people that what you put in a storm drain can affect different life forms in the lake such as fish,” Ernstein said.
“It’s a simple but important gesture that reminds everyone how valuable Lake Osoyoos is and how important it is to keep it that way for future generations to use and enjoy.”
“I hope people will see the fish and just think about it and wonder why the fish are there. While we were doing the stenciling process, all the volunteers reported that there were people who came asking them what they were doing,” she said.
She noted that they were all wearing Town of Osoyoos jackets, so people thought they got paid to do it, which is unfortunate because she wants people to appreciate the fact that the organization is totally motivated by volunteering.
Yellow fish are painted with non-toxic latex paint, repaint last year’s faded fish or paint a new fish.
While a large area has been covered, the team will return for another morning to finish Main Street as traffic was very busy on June 12 to complete it. It usually starts early and ends around noon due to the heat and traffic.
The weather was a challenge, but Arnstein points out that they had a perfect day for painting which is very important since the paint is water soluble to dry.
This year Arnstein was unable to engage the local schools due to the time needed to make arrangements around moving the water test boat to a new marina.
In the past, she says, primary school children have participated in beach cleanups and other events while high school has been involved in painting yellow fish.
Trout Unlimited Canada is credited with introducing the concept of painting yellow fish around storm drains in 1991 which became the award-winning Yellow Fish Road program.
This was Canada’s first water education program to educate Canadians that sinks are the entrances to rivers, lakes, streams and anything other than rainwater can harm life in and around the water, as well as Canadians who need clean water.
“Last year was not like any other for our community,” Arnstein said as he reflects on what has been pretty much the reality for everyone during the past two years of the pandemic.
Following all health and safety protocols, the organization was not able to conduct any of the usual fundraising and educational events throughout the year. But most importantly, “we are still able to monitor the waters of Lake Osoyoos using our trained volunteers and pontoon boat.”
This year sees a new addition to the Osoyoos Lake Water Quality Board – Dave Kumka who will work closely with fellow Board members Julie Umberger (Managing Director), Deb Sherwood (Vice President) Maxine Boxwell (Treasurer), Barb Chipperfield (Secretary) and President Birgit Arnstein.
Unfortunately, the organization loses the captain of the pontoon boat Brian Faltenson. “We are saddened by the loss of a boat captain who was a wonderful resource for all things boating.”
Ernestine notes that Valtenson was instrumental in securing the boat and pontoon engine and preparing them for use. She says he spent countless hours making sure all the parts were connected.
“He managed both the winter and preparation of our boat/engine for launch each spring. Brian also trained other captains and oversaw the safe operation of our boat for many years.”
Iain Fraser will operate the boat during this watch season, but Arnstein said they are looking for a new boat captain with a valid Pleasure Craft Operator card and technical knowledge of boat maintenance.
Kudos to all the wonderful volunteers who continue to support our association’s efforts to collect important water data, raise funds, educate and promote public awareness of the lake, covering issues such as conservation, pollution, and lake management.”
“We also couldn’t survive without the intimate and generous support of local organizations,” she said, noting the Walnut Beach Resort’s generosity over the years as well as the town of Osoyoos that continues to provide to the organization, as well as the Sunrise Marina. With winter storage space for boat and trailer and free meeting space at the Sonora Center.
The volunteer-driven community has been monitoring Lake Osoyoos since the early 1990s with the data collected being sent to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. The data is used to determine the health of the lake and to assess the effects of climate change on it.