Surrounding lakes may look serene, but caution is required as debris from various streams and rivers is entering the lake. And boaters are reminded to go slowly near shore to protect bird habitat and shoreline.-Image credit: Barb Brouwer

High water levels call for caution

Boaters advised to watch for debris, go slowly near shorelines and use life-jackets

The Shuswap Watershed Council (SWC) is reminding boaters to use extra caution while lake levels and rivers are high.

“The weather is finally nice and people are eager to get out on the water,” says Erin Vieira, program manager for the SWC. “We’re suggesting that boaters be extra cautious. There is a lot of floating and partially submerged debris in the water that boaters need to look out for.”

As the lake levels rise in spring, logs, root-wads, firewood and other large debris can wash off beaches into rivers and lakes. The debris can be especially difficult to spot in dim light or wavy conditions.

Boaters are also urged to go very slowly near shorelines and keep their wake to a minimum to avoid damaging shoreline property. Low-lying land near shorelines can be swamped by wake and then erode, causing water quality pollution, a loss for adjacent property owners, and a disruption to wildlife.

“Transport Canada regulations require boaters to keep their speed to 10 km/h within 30 metres of the shore,” says Vieira.

With a forecast for a hot, sunny weekend, boaters are also reminded about the importance of life-jackets.

Shuswap Lake will be a safer place for families to go boating this year, thanks to the efforts of volunteers with the Royal Canadian Marine Search & Rescue (RCM-SAR) Station 106 Shuswap based in Sicamous, and many community sponsors.

The RCM-SAR’s Kids Don’t Float initiative, which includes building kiosks and equipping them with child- sized life-jackets for boaters to borrow free-of-charge on the honour system, is expanding this year.

RCM-SAR has already built lifejacket kiosks at the Sicamous boat launch, Canoe Beach Park, Shuswap Lake Provincial Park, Herald Provincial Park, and the Salmon Arm downtown boat launch.

Additional kiosks will be built this year at the following locations: Sunnybrae Community Park, Harbour Road Boat Launch in Blind Bay, Sandy Beach Community Park, Magna Bay Park, Old Town Bay Boat Launch, the Chase boat launch, and Markwart Road Boat Launch in Sorrento.

This will bring the total to 12 life-jacket kiosks in the Shuswap.

“The [Kids Don’t Float] initiative has received a very positive response from the community. Donors have come forward with cash and materials to build the kiosks, and we’re seeing the vast majority of boaters abide by the honour system of borrowing and returning the lifejackets,” says Bruce Weicker, a volunteer with RCM-SAR and lead on the Kids Don’t Float initiative. “Most importantly, we’re seeing more and more people wearing lifejackets when they’re out boating.”