Irrigation districts keeping tabs on flood potential

·3 min read

As water levels and flow continue to rise throughout much of Alberta, irrigation districts are closely monitoring for flooding potential.

“At this point, we’re just vigilant as to the flows coming at us,” Eastern Irrigation District general manager Ivan Freisen told the News. “Beyond that, there’s no other extraordinary actions we’re taking.”

Freisen confirmed, as of Wednesday, EID – which oversees portions of the Bow River and Red Deer River – has not drawn any water from reservoirs and has no immediate plans to do so.

“Prior to the rainfall events it was a drought situation and we were using our reservoirs to supplement our demand,” Freisen said. “With the rainfall event our irrigators are shut off, so our demand is down and the river is high. So, we’re able to divert and fill our reservoirs for later in the year.”

Along with monitoring water levels and flow, Freisen and his team are also monitoring debris, which has the potential to cause damage to district infrastructure.

“There’s always a debris concern which arises with big flow,” he said. “Debris can accumulate along the edges, above what is the typical water level. As the flow increases, it picks up some of the debris and carries it downstream. So we might see some larger trees that may fall into the river or erosion upstream. That’s what we look for. As of yet, we haven’t seen significant debris flows (and) I don’t know we’re anticipating it. But that’s just something we do.”

The News also reached out to St. Mary’s Irrigation District – which oversees portions of St. Mary’s River, Old Man River and South Saskatchewan River – however officials declined to provide a comment.

Water levels and flow in both irrigation districts have increased over the past week. A high streamflow advisory was released earlier in the week for the Bow River, which currently has an approximate water level of 6.35 metres and flow of 260 cubic metres per second near its mouth. These numbers are up from 5.1 metres and 25 cubic metres per second, as recorded June 9.

High streamflow advisories were newly issued for the Old Man River and South Saskatchewan River. Currently, Old Man River has a water level of approximately 3.9 metres and flow of 300 cubic metres per second at its mouth; up from 2.45 metres and 50 cubic metres per second on June 9.

The South Saskatchewan River has just exceeded a water level of 3 metres and flow of 300 cubic metres per second at Finlay Bridge; up from approximately 1.9 metres and 50 cubic metres per second on June 9. River flow remains at the lower end of its average for this time of year.

Total capacity for major reservoirs on the Bow and Old Man rivers sits at 80 to 95 per cent as of June 15.

KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

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