Thursday, 19 April 2018 13:35

County of Forty Mile still dealing with flood issues, Foremost dodges a bad one

Written by  Jamie Rieger
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Contributed by Ken Kultgen Contributed by Ken Kultgen

As of Thursday morning, the County of Forty Mile still had 60 road closures and multiple areas that had overland flooding issues, according to County of Forty Mile reeve, Steve Wikkerink.


On Wednesday evening, the county held a meeting was where it was determined that 67 roads in the county had been closed. Seven have since reopened.
It was around midnight on Saturday evening when Wikkerink received the first call of flooding taking place in the county. That would be the first of many such calls for Wikkerink.
"It hit about midnight on Saturday when a canal spilled east of Bow Island. We got that dealt with, then Sunday and into Monday it was towards Rattlesnake and Forty Mile Park with the snow and ice causing flooding," he said.
Flooding then started occurring near Rattlesnake Dam, as well as near Forty Mile Dam, with county crews working with St. Mary's River Irrigation District, who has control of the canal system, in alleviating the pressure on the water channels and contracted a number of high hoes to deal with the flooding.
"I think for the first 36 hours, the county used its high hoe to help SM, but then we had to pull ours back to deal with our own stuff," said Wikkerink.
The county is still dealing with flooding in a number of areas of the region.
"Rattlesnake has lots of room, but they are fighting the snow melt and ice still and there is a nasty spot west of Forty Mile Park. There are still three streams coming from the south. It's still building south of the dam and it is still serious," said Wikkerink. "It is really bad by Skiff still."
Burdett and Winnifred also have areas that continue to be flooded.
"In my area (Winnifred area) and by Burdett there are still issues (as of Thursday morning). At Burdett, we had to build a berm around the lift station. It was the only thing, plus one house, that was being threatened," he said. "The road bans are on and we have to be hauling gravel."
The County has also hired a water company to assist with water pumping and allow staff to concentrate elsewhere.
"Council made the decision to hire an outside water  company to pump water for us. In 2011, the county pumped at Burdett for four months and it took two days just to set up the pipe. We made the decision that our staff did not have the time to do it," said Wikkerink.
To add to the challenges being faced by the County, a staffing shuffle had just taken place at the beginning of the month.
"On April 1, Keith Bodin started training for his new position as County CAO, with Wes Hollingsworth taking on Bodin's former role as public works superintendent. As well, a new construction manager had just recently been hired. This just added to it, but our staff have done a great job," said Wikkerink.
Prairie Rose School Division transportation manager, Derek Beck kept contact with the county each evening since the flooding began.
"All bus routes were going, but some parents had to drive their kids a bit to get to their bus," said Wikkerink.
As the water starts to subside, Wikkerink said they have to get through this weekend and asks ratepayers to not pump water off their fields.
"Ninety-eight percent of our ratepayers have been very good and patient. We don't want them pumping water into the SM system or any other system. They don't see what's happening downstream. We ask that they please continue to be patient with us," he said.
As of Thursday morning, about half a dozen residences had some water or being threatened.
A state of local emergency remains in place for the County of Forty Mile. Updated, comprehensive information can be obtained by visiting their website at 40mile.ca.

Disaster averted in Foremost
The Village of Foremost was unable to be completely removed from the overland flooding that has occurring throughout the County of Forty Mile, but managed to avoid a serious flooding event, thanks to quick thinking and lots of individuals stepping up to help out.
"On Monday, one dam on the west side of town overflowed and our overflow system could not handle it. Our irrigation pumphouse west of town was under water. We shut off the power to the pumphouse and a propane tank went floating so we had to use a picker trucker to pick it up," said Foremost mayor, Ken Kultgen. "At 3:55 on Monday, we declared a state of local emergency. "Local Hutterites brought pumps and we got a pump from Alberta Emergency Management. Those were going day and night."
Twenty-four hours later, the situation took a more serious turn and it was all hands on deck to help out.
"On Tuesday evening, all the water on a ridge east of Foremost. That water drains to along Highway 61 east of Foremost and eventually drains by the airport,," said Kultgen. "What that water got to the four-way stop (at the south end of Foremost), it overflowed. It came straight north into our industrial section. It got very serious then.  The water was coming way too fast for the pumps. Klatt's (located where the flooding was taking place at the south end of Foremost) had a stockpile of gravel. Tyler Ehnes was coming through with a load of bales at the same time."
Kultgen immediately got on the phone with a representative from Alberta Transportation to obtain permission to build a berm to stop the water from heading into a residential area of the community.
Once they received the necessary approval, a berm was built of gravel and hay bales at the south end of the village.
"This all had to be done quickly. Volker Stevin was there with a payloader and county was helping haul gravel," said Kultgen, noting that another berm was built at the north end of the industrial area.
"We built that berm so it wouldn't go down the street. Another hour and it would have flooded the east side of Foremost," he said. "It was very quick thinking. There were lots of volunteers helping with direct traffic. People were coming with trucks and Hutterites brought in more bales."
Kultgen noted that members of the Kingslake, Shamrock, and Plainsview Colonies came out to assist the Village, as did workers from the county, Volker Stevin, and local residents.
"There was very good cooperation from the County, the Village, residents, and Volker Stevin. We averted a big disaster," said Kultgen.

Neighbour helping neighbour
When it looked like the overland flooding in the County of Forty Mile was going to be widespread and severe, a call was made to their counterparts to the east looking for assistance. Cypress County, a municipality that has seen its own flooding events in the past, had no problem stepping up and helping.
"We received a call from (the County of Forty Mile) for assistance and we created 800 sandbags and delivered them to their public works shop in Foremost. And, we built an additional 2,000 bags in case they needed them," said Cypress County director of corporate services, John Belanger.
Cypress County also loaned the County of Forty Mile blockades to help manage the  multiple road closures.
County of Forty Mile reeve, Steve Wikkerink said the county appreciates all the help they have received.
"Cypress County, the City of Medicine Hat, Bow Island, and Volker Stevin have all been very good to us, said Wikkerink. "Alberta Emergency Management has also reached out to us, helping with signs, pumps, and pipes." said Wikkerink.

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