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Osoyoos Lake: The Movie

IJC admin | 2016/08/16

By Anna Warwick Sears, International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control

 


Numerous movies have been shot around Osoyoos Lake. Its desert landscape is used as a stand-in for Westerns set in the U.S. Southwest.

Yet the lake has never had a starring role, until now. Over the course of this year, extending into early 2017, a small film crew will be documenting how the water and land are shared by people and wildlife on both sides of the Canada-US international boundary. Supported by an International Watersheds Initiative grant from the IJC, the filming highlights the successes and challenges of water management and cooperation in the West.

The Canada-US border bisects Osoyoos Lake, between the town of Osoyoos in British Columbia and the city of Oroville in Washington state, in the Okanagan valley watershed. Residents on both sides of the border have much in common, especially members of the Okanagan Nation, for whom the 49th parallel separated families into different countries.

Indigenous and settler communities from north and south ranch cattle, grow fruit and nurture a thriving tourist industry. The gorgeous setting and good neighbor relations may qualify Osoyoos as the most idyllic of all transboundary lakes, and peace and prosperity are maintained through cooperation and careful management of water in this semi-arid corner of the West.

Like most of western North America, the waters of Osoyoos Lake and the Okanagan River are carefully controlled by dams. Osoyoos Lake levels are controlled by Zosel Dam, near the southern outlet of the lake, operated by the Washington Department of Ecology. The Zosel Dam operator stays in close touch with the dam operator upstream in Penticton, British Columbia, which controls the much larger Okanagan Lake and provides most of the flow to Osoyoos.

Looking north toward Canada at Zosel Dam, which controls the level of Osoyoos Lake. Credit: Dan Millar,  Environment Canada
Looking north toward Canada at Zosel Dam, which controls the level of Osoyoos Lake. Credit: Dan Millar,  Environment Canada

The International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control oversees the management of Zosel Dam and Osoyoos Lake levels – focusing on balancing the concerns of all the different users and the environment on both sides of the border. The board has 10 members, five each from Canada and the United States, and includes a mix of senior government technical experts and local community members.

The board applied to the IJC for $60,000 for the Washington Department of Ecology to make this film as a way to communicate with local communities. It’s currently in production and is due to be released in October 2017.

The film will take viewers on a year-round journey of discovery, following the seasonal changes as they unfold. It is to begin with the snows of winter, the spring melt, and the careful management of dams and flows to protect from flooding, provide water for emerging salmon fry, and prepare for the summer irrigation season.

Through this 30-minute film, the board will celebrate the unique beauty of Osoyoos Lake and the Okanagan River, and with interviews and film footage explain the tradeoffs and what is being protected. The film will be available on the Internet and shared by agencies and organizations on their websites.

A boat anchored in Osoyoos Lake, 2011. Credit: Dan Millar, Environment Canada
A boat anchored in Osoyoos Lake, 2011. Credit: Dan Millar, Environment Canada

Anna Warwick Sears, Ph.D., is a member of the Canadian Section of the International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control and executive director of the Okanagan Basin Water Board in Kelowna, British Columbia.        

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