Province keeps close eye on rising water levels

·3 min read

Heavy rain since June 12, coupled with a greater-than-normal snowpack beginning to melt, has raised concerns of flooding as river flows and water levels continue to increase.

Updates on potential flood conditions were provided at Alberta government press conferences June 13 and June 14. Currently the City of Calgary and Municipal District of Bighorn have declared local states of emergency as water levels continue to rise.

Although most of the province has experienced the deluge, the areas experiencing the heavier amounts of precipitation — ranging between 60 and 80 millimetres — include west of Sundre, west of Calgary and south to Pincher Creek. The areas west of Calgary have been hardest hit, receiving up to 110 millimetres.

The low-pressure system delivering the rain is expected to taper off later on Wednesday, June 15.

The precipitation has prompted several advisories across the province, the most severe being in central and southern Alberta.

“We are working with municipalities to make sure they have the most up-to-date information so they can keep people safe, put into place their emergency plans, and make sure that things are being executed with safety of people and infrastructure in mind,” said Lisa Jackson, executive director of environmental emergency management for Alberta Environment and Parks.

Locally in the Oldman River basin, the only flood watch that has been initiated is for Waterton Lake, which could rise 0.3 metres over the next few days; such an increase would put the water level half a metre below the known infrastructure flood threshold.

River levels in the basin could rise between one and two metres. High streamflows have been announced upstream of the Oldman Reservoir, as well as downstream to the Saskatchewan River confluence.

High streamflows are also being reported for the Waterton River basin between Waterton Lake and the reservoir, and down from the reservoir to the Belly River. The advisory carries down all the way to the Oldman River confluence.

The Willow Creek basin is also reporting high streamflows.

A flood warning has been issued for the Little Red Deer River south of Sudre and a flood watch for the Pipestone River outside Lake Louise. Multiple high streamflow advisories for river systems west of Calgary are also of concern, particularly since the damage caused by the 2013 floods resulted from a lack of emergency information as monitoring equipment was washed away.

Although noting that the effectiveness of emergency infrastructure is unknown until an emergency event occurs, Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon said the province has been working hard to prepare for this type of situation, which includes a $1-billion emergency contingency in the 2022 budget.

“We feel a lot more confident than they would’ve in 2013 and the years before that, and we’re very happy that we’ve continued to invest as a province and as municipalities as well to be able to deal with moments like this,” he said.

Up-to-date information is available on the province’s Alberta Rivers app. Albertans are encouraged to download the app and follow the guidance of local authorities.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze

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