Above average runoff expected for Prince Albert area

Jodi Schellenberg
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The flooding problems the Prince Albert area saw last year may continue into this spring.

The spring runoff potential map, created by the Water Security Agency, shows the Prince Albert region is looking at a well above normal runoff this spring.

The Water Security Agency of Saskatchewan released the February forecast for spring runoff on Thursday, showing an above average runoff expected in the Prince Albert region.

“The majority of the province we are projecting it to be near normal this spring but above normal runoff is expected for Saskatoon to North Battleford and over the Prince Albert and the Waskesiu regions,” said Ken Cheveldayoff, minister responsible for Water Security Agency.

The runoff has been predicted through a report of the snow pack in the province, he explained.

“The (map) shows the area around Prince Albert and it is well above normal as far as the runoff potential,” Cheveldayoff said. “It is showing a combination of things -- that the snow pack is more than normal and also there was an extensive amount of water in the ground already from last year.”

In Prince Albert, there are also many closed basins, which also present a problem.

“They are bodies of water where they really have nowhere to go,” Cheveldayoff said. “They do not drain out into any other bodies of water, they are stagnant and they are a concern because if the runoff flows into them, they can overflow their boundaries and will have some flooding.”

The problems the region had with flooding last year may be a contributing factor this spring.

“There is lots to do with what happened last year and above normal this year, so that combination causes us some concern,” Cheveldayoff said. “We are certainly working very hard to put the Water Security Agency and the officials in touch with the City of Prince Albert and the communities around Prince Albert as well as the RMs.”

Since flooding in the region may be a problem, they are already getting prepared to work with local agencies.

“Meetings will take place with officials and community leaders,” Cheveldayoff said. “In the past, we have had the emergency flood damage reduction program.

“Last year, for example, that program funded 714 applicants,” Cheveldayoff said. “It costs about $17 million. That is an emergency program so we will just wait and see what happens this year.”

Since 2010, the Water Security Agency invested more than $35 million in flood mitigation efforts to about 2,000 individuals, communities, rural municipalities and First Nations.

In early March, the agency will have more extensive and accurate information for runoff predictions.

“Of course the big variable going forward is how much precipitation will we have between now and the spring melt,” Cheveldayoff said. “Anything can happen.

“Judging from the last couple of days here where areas of the province received between 10 and 15 centimetres of snow, things can change very quickly,” he added.

They are hoping to work on prevention methods when it comes to potential flooding, he said.

“We found in the past that every dollar of prevention that we spend can have a multiplier of 20 to 30 times, so every dollar that we spend on preventative measures can save us $20 to $30 in disaster relief,” Cheveldayoff said. “We believe it is taxpayers money well spent.”

Those who have concerns about flooding can visit the Water Security Agency website for more information at www.wsask.ca.

“It can show water flow and all types of information regarding the area and the entire province,” Cheveldayoff said. “We encourage people to go and access that website.”

Organizations: Prince Albert, Water Security Agency of Saskatchewan, First Nations

Geographic location: Saskatoon, North Battleford, Waskesiu regions Prince Albert

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