After extremely high rainfall levels through June and July, things are starting to return to normal in Northern Saskatchewan.
Fewer rainfall events in the Churchill River and Lower Saskatchewan River basins means water levels have peaked or are expected to peak soon in almost all areas. That’s good news for local communities who have seen historically high water levels this year, but the Water Security Agency says there is still a need for caution.
“From our perspective, we’ve got to keep an eye on the weather right now,” WSA spokesperson Patrick Boyle explained. “If any more intense rain systems that come through, you’re adding on top of an already saturated area.”
The biggest concern is in La Ronge and Lac La Ronge, where water levels currently sit at 364.93 meters. Boyle said they expect those levels to increase slightly and peak at around Aug. 19. That would put them at around the same levels as 2011, when flooding in the area forced the provincial government to declare the area a disaster zone.
Ile a la Crosse and Sandy Bay are also areas of concern. Lac Ile a la Crosse is already at peak flood levels of 421.08 meters, and the WSA says they will remain high for the foreseeable future.
Sandy Bay was expected to hit its peak level of 10.15 meters on or near Aug. 4. SaskPower has already begun reducing outflows at the Whitesand Dam to offset higher flows further upstream. The area will see peak or near peak water levels for the next several days.
“A few areas saw some record levels,” Boyle said. “We’re coming down from some of those now and just getting some hot, dry weather here recently. That’s really helped us out over the last little while.
“Of course, every area is different, but as that hot dry weather continues, it certainly helps us when we’re looking at some of the recessions.”
Boyle added that they’re already been in contact with northern leaders to discuss possible flood mitigation measures. The 2011 flood forced evacuations in Montreal Lake and Timber Bay, and forced atleast eight northern roads to close due to flood damage.
They’ve also been in contact with the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency, who has assisted in those plans.
“(In) a lot of the communities, you have one road there, and if it gets washed out you lose your access, so it’s pretty important to try and ensure that all those areas are protected,” Boyle explained.
Not all northern communities are looking at peak water levels for the next week. The Cumberland Lake near Cumberland House peaked in July and has already started to recede. The WSA projects water levels will fall to 267.1 meters by Aug. 9.