Prince Albert area looking at well above normal runoff

Jodi
Jodi Schellenberg
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Although the spring runoff is not predicted to cause as much flooding as last year, there is still a risk for flooding in the area.

The map put out by the Water Security Agency shows a well above normal runoff is expected for the Prince Albert area this spring.

On Tuesday, Ken Cheveldayoff, minister responsible for the Water Security Agency, released the April and spring forecast for runoff.

“There are a few minor changes from the March forecast,” Cheveldayoff said. “Central Saskatchewan and the Prince Albert region is the still the area that we are most concerned about.”

In addition, there will be above normal runoff across central Saskatchewan, he said. The rest of the province is expected to have near normal runoff.

There are a few factors that will contribute to the well above normal runoff in the Prince Albert region, Cheveldayoff said.

“The challenge we are going to be facing is the local streams and the water bodies,” he said. “In the Saskatchewan river system, the snow-packing conditions are generally above normal especially in the Prince Albert region where runoff is expected to be well above normal.”

The snow surveys the WSA did in March confirmed the snowpack was above normal, but less than what was seen in 2013.

“Looking at the major systems in the province, peak flows on the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers are largely determined by precipitation in the mountains,” Cheveldayoff said. “Since the March forecast, the snow accumulations in the mountains saw a significant increase. The North and South Saskatchewan River basins are both now well above normal but if we receive our normal amount of rainfall in May and June, we are not expecting any flooding as a result of this.

“Of course, we saw what happened last year in Calgary, so that is something the Water Security Agency will continue to monitor closely and is impossible to predict,” he added.

In addition, the moisture and water the region faced last year will also contribute to the water levels.

“That filled up many of the closed basins in the area so the water sitting there was sitting there last fall,” Cheveldayoff said. “There was nowhere for it to go and any snowmelt we have this year is just going to add to that. That is why we have the concern for the area there.”

There will be some flooding in the area, but he doesn’t expect it to be close to the amount there was last year.

“The Water Security Agency has been proactive,” Cheveldayoff said. “They have been working with the city of Prince Albert, with Shellbrook and Spiritwood and Humboldt and places like that to monitor things very closely.

“Based on the information we have right now, it is not going to be severe, but there are always a couple of variables, like that amount of precipitation that we get in the month of April and in the month of May,” he said. “Last year, we had some snowfall, we had some severe rains, so we really can’t tell. This is just a snapshot on the information that we have today and what we are expecting to happen in the future based on the information we have.”

He doesn’t expect the highways to flood like they did last year.

“We made some changes last year,” Cheveldayoff said. “We certainly invested a fair bit of money in the Prince Albert area, like on Highway 2 north there are three channels that were dug last year so we are certainly hoping we will be in a better situation this year than last year.”

Since there is a risk of flooding for some areas of the province, Cheveldayoff announced the continuation of the Emergency Flood Damage Reduction program, which can assist communities and individuals with flood mitigation efforts.

“Although for most of the province, the spring runoff won’t cause any major issues, there are still many municipalities, farmyards, businesses and First Nations who will face challenges this year,” Cheveldayoff said. “Our government believes in being there for the people of Saskatchewan. This has been the case since we started to see some flood-related issues across the province in 2011.”

The program provides engineering and technical assistance to municipalities, sharing the cost of permanent and temporary flood prevention works.

It will cover 100 per cent of engineering costs, 85 per cent for individuals, 75 per cent for municipalities and businesses for approved flood protection work, such as berms and culverts, and 50 per cent for temporary flood protection, such as sandbags and pumping.

Through the program, the Water Security Agency has invested $35 million in flood mitigation efforts to nearly 2,000 individuals and communities.

“An independent analysis was done on the 2011 program and showed for every dollar we invested we were able to save $20 in damages,” Cheveldayoff said. “We know many municipalities are starting to prepare for the spring runoff and this program will indeed support their efforts.

“The WSA and Ministry of Government Relations have already met with a number of communities in the above normal area as we want everyone to be as prepared as possible for whatever Mother Nature throws at us this spring,” he added. “We feel by investing in community-driven mitigation efforts this will help create flood protection, not only this spring but in years to come.”

Requests for funding can be directed to the nearest Water Security Agency regional office or by calling 1-866-727-5420.

The agency will also continue to provide spring runoff updates on their website at www.wsask.ca.

Organizations: Water Security Agency, North and South Saskatchewan Rivers, The North First Nations WSA and Ministry of Government Relations

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, South Saskatchewan River, Calgary Shellbrook

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