RM declared disaster area
by Phil Ambroziak
The entire RM of Meadow Lake has been declared a disaster area in response to high levels of water that recently flooded fields and farmland in various parts of the municipality.
The decision was made during the Aug. 12 RM council meeting, at which time a letter was received from Kathie Sergent who, along with her husband Richard, ranches in the northeastern portion of the municipality.
“The flooding began at spring melt,” Sergent’s letter reads. “The Meadow River continues to be very high, not allowing the water to drain back. Therefore, this has caused a huge financial setback with very limited grazing on our ranch.”
The letter went on to state areas of the ranch most productive with grass are under water.
“We’ve had to take some of our cattle elsewhere for pasture,” Sergent continued. “We will also be unable to put up any hay in the meadows, which means having to purchase a lot more hay than we normally do. My entire sheep pasture is covered in water and many of the fences have been destroyed. I’ve had to feed my sheep flock of 550 hay bales that had to be purchased for the entire grazing season.”
Sergent’s concerns were shared by Bob McIntyre, another rancher who lives nearby.
“It (water level) certainly has been an issue,” McIntyre said. “I bought this place in 1967 and this is the worst I’ve ever seen it.”
McIntyre said there are two main problems he’s been dealing with – one is the excess moisture in the hay fields while the other is the flow of creeks and other water sources being dammed up by beavers.
“I’m purchasing the same amount of feed as I have for the past five or six years, but it’s certainly having an impact on the pastures,” he said. “I lost six cows this spring because they became stuck in the slush out there and we had no way of getting to them.”
Meanwhile, Sergent’s letter also claimed the RM should be considered a disaster area because of the seriousness of the flooding issue. Prior to last week’s meeting, the RM was hesitant to describe the situation as a disaster, but reeve Rodger Zuchotzki said that’s all changed.
“The people have become rebellious,” he said. “There are producers within the area who’ve been quite restricted when it comes to accessing their property for livestock grazing or hay baling – the water, particularly in this part of the RM, is just kind of sitting there, It’s not dissipating. We knew something like this was probably coming, but it was actually a member of the public (Sergent) who brought it forward, so now we’re acting on it.”
Zuchotzki also said this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, but added people would typically adapt to the problem and eventually move on.
“Now, they’re getting frustrated,” he said. “There are issues like this all over the province. If this keeps up, producers may have to find alternative sources to feed and graze their animals, or they may have to liquidate some of their herds.”
The main area affected by the presence of water is in the northern part of the RM, but council decided it would be best to declare the entire community as a disaster area.
“You can’t segregate only some out and, even though there may be a few who would never ask for help and prefer to suck it up, this way it will hopefully make the Ministry of Agriculture and the government realize this is a serious problem here,” the reeve said.
Zuchotzki believes an ideal solution would be for the government to invest in some sort of drainage system for the area and, for the time being, compensate those affected by the flooding financially.
“Fall is coming soon and we’re going to see more precipitation,” he said. “Come next spring, the thaw will be here again and it could make things even worse. It’s sort of a catch 22 because the government is always talking about preserving wetlands, but we’d like to meet with Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison, the minister of agriculture and even the premier if possible to discuss the issues.”
Since last week’s meeting, a letter seeking government support was forwarded to the province. Zuchotzki said now it’s a matter of waiting for a response before determining what steps to take next.
“They have provided financial support in the south during times of drought, so what’s so different about what’s going on here?” he said. “If we don’t hear anything, we’ll take it to the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) and have their delegates approach the government with it again. We don’t want it to happen that way, so hopefully we’ll get some sort of reaction sooner rather than later.”
McIntyre believes the situation has put the RM is in a tough spot.
“But, if they can work with the government to get something done, more power to them,” he said.
Meanwhile, the RM of Loon Lake has been designated an eligible assistance area under the provincial disaster assistance program. Property owners there could be eligible for assistance if they suffered private property damage as a result of flooding from April 26 to May 6.