Saturday, June 25, 2011

Flooding & A Prairie Road Trip

Wildfires, droughts and floods were once seen as freak conditions. But the environmental disasters now striking the province are shocking signs of “global weirding.”

Welcome to the climate roller coaster or what is being coined the “new normal” of weather. Our province is caught between fire and water these days. In the north we have forest fires due to drought, and the south seems to be inundated with water overkill. We in the center of the province are managing reasonably well, although the river is very high and very fast due to the upstream overflow. A typical summer flow rate of the river as it passes through the city is 150 cubic meters per second. I read in the local paper that this week it was estimated to be 1,300 cubic meters per second expecting to rise to 2000 cubic meters in some areas. It has created a warning to all residence to be extra diligent when being close to the river. River lookouts are closed to the public and ferries have stopped their service. According to city officials the water treatment plant is experiencing major problems with their filters and mandatory water restrictions have been put into place for the city. Further south, Regina and Moose Jaws water treatment plant has been shut down completely. All due to the high sand loads from the river water resulting in reduced output and major equipment failure.

The Saskatchewan river as seen at the Berry Barn in Saskatoon. 

Last week I ventured on a road trip to Manitoba to visit my good friend Gail. I traveled on highway 16 as far as Shoal Lake and then headed south. Numerous roads had been damaged and closed as a result of flooding caused by spring run-offs and detours where necessary. Farmers and landowners will continue to be threatened by flooding do to the water release at Gardiner Dam and rising river levels. What crop had been planted might all be lost. I can foresee a rise in the price of wheat and other foods.

Ducks sit atop a round hay bail in a flooded farmers field.

I traveled through a migration corridor were over 390 species of birds have been recorded and 287 known to nest. Over 70% of North American waterfowl originate our Canadian Prairies. A late spring has not stopped ducks and geese from arriving in this region, where excellent breeding conditions are predicted. Habitat conditions remain favorable primarily because of the excellent wetland conditions due to the open waters in the marshes.

A nesting basket for Mallard ducks

On my way home I stopped at Foam Lake Heritage center managed by Ducks Unlimited Canada for a nature watch and walk. The town of Foam Lake has developed three self-guided areas around the marsh that are great for spotting wildlife. There are boardwalks and viewing mounds that make it a satisfying experience. The boardwalk takes you through a marsh bog and offers resting spots and a chance to enjoy the diversity of nature. A great trail for bird watchers and enthusiasts of both flora and fauna with some spectacular views of the lake along the way.

Unfortunately the trail was kind of wet and due to the endless bombarding of barn swallows my walk had to be cut short. Here is a picture of Lynda Haverstock receiving a mallard-nesting basket by Foam Lake’s mayor, as seen at the tourist information center.
For a Timmy’s coffee and a gas fill I stopped at Russell and then headed north for a side trip. I stopped at Inglis for its interesting history of the area and with its restored Five-Grain Elevators, which is a national historic site. Some of these old structures vanish rather suddenly, sort of here to day and gone tomorrow and replaced with new buildings build of cement and steel. Once there were many of these old landmarks in the prairies, it’s sad to see the beauty of these old prairie elevators gone forever.
The restored elevators in Inglis are one of the last examples known left standing and are an enduring symbol of the prairies agriculture and a way of life once common, but now increasingly difficult to find anymore.

On my return home the dogs were happy to see me, as I am sure my faithful dog sitters had temporarily changed their usual routine.