Quill Lakes Watershed Association Flood Mitigation Strategy
The Quill Lakes Watershed Association has been working closely with the WSA to ensure we follow proper protocol with our unique problem and our potential solution. The Quill Lakes are filling up at unprecedented levels and speed, threatening to overflow for the first time since 1914, or possibly since European Settlement. This has, and continues to cause severe damage to the economy, and the environment in the Quill Lakes Region, and threatens much more if the Floods overflow. It threatens Highways, CPRail and the transportation on them. The Common Ground concept proposal emerged from information available to QLWA, as two scientifically engineered flood mitigation options, recently identified in two separate studies commissioned by the WSA/provincial government, completed between 2015 and 2016.
This is not a new threat or concept, nor is it secretive, as it has been one of the most publicized, and lengthy natural disasters in the province’s history. Requests for a solution started in 2007!
Many have expressed concerns; few have attempted to develop, or fund, a viable solution.
To our knowledge, the Quill Lakes Watershed Association is the only entity working on any solution at this time, that is attempting to address the concerns of a majority of stakeholders.
The Kutawagan Valley, between the Quill Lakes and Last Mountain Lake, would be the natural overflow route should the Quill Lakes overflow. Because of its topography, it’s storage capacity, and its location, it holds the best potential for flood protection of the downstream, and is an obvious component of a diversion project channel for rerouted runoff waters, as it follows the natural runoff channel.
It is most important that everyone involved with the decision making of this project understand that if nothing is done, the environmental and economic consequences of a natural overflow will by far exceed “anything” that has been proposed, to prevent future damages.
Mitigation means preventing or minimizing damages before they happen!
In our investigation into the larger proposal, we recognized that with the rate of rise in the water levels of the Quill Lakes, and the speed of the expanded flooding up the spill channel, that the water could overflow in the next one to two years. During that “on the ground assessment”, we realized that there was one small segment of the overflow, that was still not flooded. Preparation for a larger project could be started there, with a reduced cost and risk to environmental concerns. Also in the small-scale Phase One salinity issues could be further researched and monitored to gain valuable information for the larger project. (The Salinity concerns were expressed by QLWA in the Executive Summary of the Crusher Report, in November, and posted on the QLWA website.)
Some are concerned that they haven’t been consulted. To date, the vast majority of the people and groups we have engaged with outside of our watershed boundaries, have been done so by specific invitations to QLWA. Consequently, because of the complicated nature of our problem and the potential solution, when it is explained by QLWA, accurately, it is generally understood, and generally preferred over the “do nothing approach”.
The Engagement Process
WUQWATR (Wascana Upper Qu”Appelle Watershed “Taking Responsibility”), an organization overseeing water quality issues on and around Last Mountain Lake, was the first group we took the concept of our Common Ground proposal to for their opinion and advice. Their concerns were provided to us in writing. We attended a special meeting in Raymore hosted by SUMA (Sask Urban Municipalities Association), for the urban municipalities of LML and the Qu’Appelle Valley communities. Regina Beach Ratepayers meeting (Originally invited in Sept. 2017, postponed until January 2018), was the only one we couldn’t get to last year. We have tried to present and discuss our project with anyone who invited us. We also presented the concept in numerous locations including Ratepayers Meetings, water management conventions, and public stakeholder forums.
In general, the majority of the people we presented to, wanted an alternative to a Natural Overflow of the Quill Lakes. The Common Ground Concept has the best potential to provide just that.
There were many written letters of support for our concept project proposal.
We reported our engagement activities to WSA and Department of Environment, for their input as to fulfilling our commitment properly. We were told that we were doing a good job in the engagement process. We had asked ‘if’, ‘when’, and ‘how’ we should start the Consultation process.
Common practice is to engage people with the concept and consult with the adequately engineered project design.
We explained to many people that we did not have an approved or even an approvable design completed, and many of the questions were being asked, or would be asked, would have many of the answers in a final project. We explained that the information that was being asked for was not completed yet.
That explanation was ignored by some people
The segments of the project proposal that had been submitted were “just pieces” of a larger puzzle. The information in the pieces we had submitted, would help determine the development of the next steps of a complicated process.
As we are a relatively new organization, and the problem we are trying to find a solution is very unique to all involved. There will be a constant flow of questions. Realizing this we, began developing a website for our organization in the fall of 2017, in order to attempt to address the information requests that were ramping up as our project design, and the flooding progressed. We started the website development in October, and had the rollout of our website online in Late December of 2017, and have people hired to update information on a regular basis.
Ian McNichol, Chair
Kerry Holderness, Executive Director
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