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New Oliver irrigation system to flow for orchards, wineries, farms

New Oliver irrigation system to flow for orchards, wineries, farms

April 9, 2021 at 1:23 pm  BC, News, Politics

Work is underway to ensure Oliver-area orchards, wineries and farms have a stable irrigation system to help the region’s agriculture community continue to support B.C.’s economy and food security.

A $5-million contribution from the B.C. government will help reroute the town’s agricultural irrigation system around Gallagher Lake to serve as a dependable source of year-round irrigation water for growers for years to come.

“The new pipes will deliver more than water to the farms, orchards and vineyards in the area,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries. “They will also bring the peace of mind a reliable irrigation system provides growers and their families. Our ongoing partnership with the Town of the Oliver represents the commitment, support and appreciation both governments have for the excellent fruit growers and winemakers in the region, and the impact they have on the community and province.”

The new system, expected to be complete in April 2022, will replace temporary piping that was established following a rockslide in 2016. The slide damaged infrastructure that carried irrigation water to the Town of Oliver, the Osoyoos Indian Band and farms, wineries and orchards in the Regional District of the Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS). The temporary piping has delivered irrigation water since the slide, but at reduced capacity, and with vulnerabilities during hotter years with lower precipitation.

The provincial contribution completes the funding for the $11-million partnership with the Town of Oliver and was contingent on the town raising the remaining project funds, consulting with stakeholders and completing an environmental impact assessment and archeological review.

The new irrigation system brings stability to crop production in the area and reduces the risk of crop and financial uncertainty for growers, their employees and the larger community.

Updates on the project are available here: https://oliver.ca/gallagher-lake-siphon-repair/


Roly Russell, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen –

“The production of fruit and wine is a key element of our communities’ economy, atmosphere and identity, and it all depends on irrigation. The new system will keep the water flowing to the RDOS’s growers and continue to support the fruit, wine and recreation Oliver and the surrounding area are so greatly admired and appreciated for.”

Martin Johansen, mayor of Oliver –

“The canal pipeline has served a critical role in delivering irrigation water to over 5,000 acres of farmland in Oliver, surrounding Area C (rural Oliver), and the Osoyoos Indian Band lands for 100 years. The 2016 rockfall significantly threatened this crucial irrigation water supply. The $11-million rerouting project is currently underway along Gallagher Lake and this $5-million provincial contribution towards this project is gratefully received by many small and large farms, orchards, wineries and businesses in the agricultural sector.”

Michael Bartier, winemaker/owner, Bartier Family Vineyards Ltd. –

“In Oliver, we’re farming in a desert climate. The importance of our irrigation water supply cannot be overstated  With this project, I know there’ll be much relief to local anxieties on this water supply, our livelihoods, and the Province’s food security.”

Quick Facts:

  • There are approximately 1,300 farms and 10,000 hectares of irrigated land in the Regional District of the Okanagan Similkameen.
  • 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, with the regional district producing over $130 million worth of crops annually.
  • The Osoyoos Indian Band is a key user of the irrigation system and has several agricultural leases for viticulture purposes on their lands. Without the system improved, lessees would be forced to find alternative sources of water, which would entail using groundwater aquifers/sources.
  • Almost all crops in the area require irrigation water to grow, with irrigation usually beginning in early April and running throughout the growing season.

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