By Cole Parkinson
Preliminary discussion around Yellow Lake and potential flooding issues have started between the Municipal District of Taber, St. Mary River Irrigation District and the County of Forty Mile.
Yellow Lake is located southeast of the Hamlet of Grassy Lake with the reservoir being owned by the SMRID and is a dead basin, meaning that any water that makes its way into the basin with the exception of the water that is irrigated directly out of the reservoir on nearby lands must be pumped out of the basin in order to be utilized by the irrigation district.
While it is not a primary concern for the M.D., the topic was brought forward during their council meeting on Jan. 28.
“Craig (Pittman, director of infrastructure) and I met with members of the County of Forty Mile as well as some directors from SMRID regarding Yellow Lake,” explained Reeve Merrill Harris. “A cost-share letter was sent out and we had quite a discussion on lake levels and what everyone is comfortable with at Yellow Lake. It had been agreed in the past that it was going to be 782.6 metres as a winter target and the summer target would be 782.8. SMRID would like the summer target to be the winter target and if there was a need, they would start pumping first thing rather than in the fall. The idea behind that was some of the irrigators were running low on water and they pumped a bunch out in the fall and it hadn’t replenished itself in the spring so they were short.”
Administration’s memo highlighted the fact discussions have been ongoing between the three parties for several years to develop a pumping agreement to ensure water levels do not impact municipal roads crossing the reservoir.
Good news for the M.D. is their roadway is not in the most danger if flooding were to happen.
“We’ve increased the height so our minimum centre line elevation is 784.376. As a comparison, the floor of the pump house is 784 flat so the pump house will flood before it goes over our roadway. Even with that 782.8 level that SMRID has a preference to, that leaves about approximately 1.5 metres of flooding capacity,” said Pittman.
With it not being a major priority for the M.D., they looked to the County of Forty Mile and SMRID to come up with a suitable maximum level, though Forty Mile had not established how high their roads were.
“Forty Mile didn’t have their numbers for what their road levels were, it is the one south of Burdett that is the one they are concerned about. If it’s too high then oftentimes in the spring, the wave action starts below the water across the road and causes damage there. I said it was up to Forty Mile to decide what level they are comfortable with because I don’t think we’ll get flooded out,” added Harris. “It seemed Forty Mile was okay with it as long as it wasn’t going to go over 782.8. As soon as it gets there, they want pumps to get turned on.”
Any potential costs for the Yellow Lake pumping would be funded from the municipal budget except years where a disaster funding application is made to offset expenditures, a portion of the pumping costs would be paid by the M.D. of Taber.
While no updated costs were presented, administration stated costs have ranged from $3,000 to $20,000 in past years.
Council asked how long it would take it to pump the lake down to suitable levels at the moment.
“It is slow because of the lake and the mass of it. It is a little bit uncertain but what I can tell you is they use one pump in the smaller of the two and it kept the water levels lower than our road elevation with the one pump. There is capacity to have an additional pump to be flowing to keep the lake level lower,” answered Pittman.