The Quill Lakes watershed area, formerly known as a dead end “no outlet” system, is about to merge 2.1-million acres of runoff land to the already troubled Qu’Appelle and Assiniboia river systems, says the Quill Lakes Flood Victims’ Organization.
“We are less than one year away from possible catastrophic downstream flooding,” stated Kerry Holderness, spokesman for the group.
The Quill Lakes have risen 6.5 metres in 10 years and are only 1.2 metres from overflow. Since April 15, water levels have risen .8 metres and unlike other years in August, it has not yet begun to recede from evaporation. Add in the half-metre wind surges and the lake will be heading downstream uncontrolled, said Holderness.
The urgency of the situation prompted the victims’ organization to meet with provincial representatives, as further flooding will continue to affect pasture land, farm land and landowners downstream. Attending the closed meeting held late July were Premier Brad Wall, Environment Minister Scott Moe and area MLA Kevin Phillips as well as the reeve and council of the RM of Lakeside.
The week before, representatives from all five affected rural municipalities around the lakes voiced their concerns with the province’s Water Security Agency, stating that doing nothing is not an option.
“Within the next 10 months, if nothing is done, Highway 6 and 16 junction north of Dafoe will be under water and one of Canadian Pacific’s main rail lines through the prairies, carrying oil, potash and grain, may become unusable,” warned Holderness.
“Although the water levels have been rising for the past three years, no one expected the levels to reach as high as they have so quickly. Everyone, including the government, seems to be caught off guard,” he said. “We thought we had time to plan, but our time is running out.”
The meeting has resulted in the government going back to the drawing board in order to determine the solution.
“There’s a lot of options at play,” added Holderness. “Do we try to hold the water in and if so, then there needs to be some sort of compensation package for the producers who have lost thousands of hectares to flooding. If we let the water out, then we also need to let those downstream know.”
“The frustrations levels are very high,” he told the Wadena News on Friday. “Right now we are just trying to raise awareness of the situation. The government has a lot to think about to help us come to a solution.”
Posted on the Quill Lakes Flood Organization’s Facebook page is a wish list that includes the following:
“An immediate recognition from our government and its departments that our flood is not over, to the media. Our people need to know that someone knows and cares about what they have been through, that our battle is not over, and of the magnitude of the losses we have already had and continue to face.
“An announcement of an emergency task force to seek a rapid response to the situation by providing flood-prevention management for downstream recipients and for local residents, through a controlled release of water from the lakes. Set a relevant time limit for the task force.
“Set up a task force, or temporary agency, to identify and fairly compensate for the losses (permanent or short term) incurred by livestock and crop producers, of this and other regions experiencing this kind of long-term (perhaps generational) flood impacts.
“Identify and communicate the value of losses incurred.
“Develop an effective media campaign to explain to downstream governments, residents and businesses the risks and ramifications of doing nothing, and the urgent need to do something.”