Letter to the Editor: A dam mistake

Dear Editor,

The flooding in the Quill Lakes wetland complex in Saskatchewan is no longer just the problem of a few farmers – it is soon to become everyone’s problem. Every taxpayer has a stake in this. 

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The “dam” proposal by the Water Security Agency (the Kutawagan Diversion) is just the beginning of a long and expensive mistake that is completely avoidable. It will cause countless expenditures long into the future, just to attempt to justify the original mistake.

Recent history involving our immediate neighbours to the south-east should be our warning.

The state of North Dakota is still losing money over forced decisions made in dealing with the Devil’s Lake fiasco, with expenses by federal, state and local governments exceeding a billion dollars so far.

The US National Weather Service describes “the new climate” when talking about high water events in the North American Great Plains. Also, there are predictions from the US geological survey that this current flooding cycle may last for decades or longer.

In a 2011 article by Douglas Larson in the American Scientist magazine, the final paragraph sums up the tragedy perfectly. It states:

“With the crisis unfolding, nature appears to have the upper hand, at least for now. Humans, seeking a technical fix at this late hour, may have lost control of their environment, a lesson about the importance of pre-emptive action to forestall or reverse an impending environmental disaster. This may be particularly true now that unpredictable climate change appears likely across the globe. Having lost the proactive advantage, those working to solve the problem at Devils Lake have been reduced to a rearguard strategy. That is a position that may become familiar to people around the world in years to come.”

We are those “people” at that crossroad, right now, here in this province. The opportunity to take a pre-emptive action is right now. If we try and hold back unwanted volumes of flood water, we are just copying the same mistakes made to the south of us, all over again. This will cost the province massive expenditures long into the future, and that should be everyone’s concern.

To prevent flooding, upstream and down, we need an immediate controlled release of water Quill Lakes now and a commitment to maintain a constant water level at today’s elevation or lower.

From our flood committee’s investigations we have learned first-hand that the majority of the Last Mountain Lake/Qu’Appelle waterway is concerned with flood issues already taking place.

The statements almost unanimously from community to community are “we can’t handle the water we have now!”  Current fall rain events are mimicking the conditions that caused the spring of 2011 flood.

Added to that scare is a now-threatening 2.1-million-acre watershed area that has risen vertically 6.5 metres in 11 years, and rising, with less than a metre to go to spill point.

This is an opportunity to get downstream infrastructure fixed now to reduce their threat of repeating flooding. This will help everyone along the system from the Quills to Hudson Bay prepare for the “new climate” realities.

All future flooding of the Quill Lakes are almost entirely avoidable, as proven by studies already provided by consultants on this issue. This is now a choice. Flooding for everyone is not necessary; a controlled release will protect downstream property owners as much as it will the Quill Lakes.

Who will be responsible for future losses from this decision? Will the people along the Last Mountain Lake-Qu’Appelle chain and the province of Manitoba pay for the costs of this dam, and all of the economic losses that accrues? If it’s a federal decision, will the federal government pay? Or will the Saskatchewan taxpayers be hung out to dry? The cost of this dam project is too much – for everyone.

Kerry Holderness

Chair, Quill Lakes Flood Victims Organization


Jason Friesen

Chair, Quill Lakes Flood Impact Organization

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