Lesser Slave flooding low land due to apparent ice jams

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Flooding first reported about a month ago along the Old Smith Highway suddenly got worse last week. At the farm of Blaine and Carol Bittorf, the haystack had to be moved and the cattle penned up on higher ground when the Lesser Slave River overflowed into their fields.

“Right now it’s coming in like crazy,” said Carol, in a phone call to The Leader.

Carol says they’ve had the place 18 years and this is the second time it’s happened. The first was six years ago – also, she figures, due to an ice jam somewhere downstream.

Efforts to find out who might take responsibility for the river flow haven’t borne much fruit. Carol says she started with the M.D., but didn’t get anywhere. She’s also called Alberta Environment and the federal Fisheries and Oceans department, which has some jurisdiction over fish-bearing streams. She believes silting is making it worse and that the weir upstream plays a role in that.

Carol figures the jam is around Kilometre 40. The river, wherever you can see it from the road, is certainly high anywhere upstream of that. Where the Muskeg River flows in upstream of Tollenaar Bridge the water is backed up under the bridge and along both ditches. West of that the Lesser Slave is up very close to the level of the road.

Several days later, Carol called again to say the water had kept coming up and had covered even more of their fields. She’d heard from a resident downstream that the same thing was happening there.

Winter floodwater creeps over the hayfield of Blaine and Carol Bittorf.

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