By Justin Seward
The County of Forty Mile, St. Mary’s River Irrigation District (SMRID) and the M.D. of Taber all signed off on the Yellow Lake agreement by Feb. 1.
County Forty Mile Reeve Steve Wikkerink said now there is a proposal where rather than pumping extra water down to the river in the fall, the county is agreeing to let a little more water stay in the lake come fall time.
“SMRID is going to use their irrigation works around the lake and producers around the lake to help manage the levels,”he said.
“They are going to treat it more as a reservoir and a place to store water. We did let them come up a few more inches from where they were. And some of the levels where the County would have had to pay before—some years we’re paying $20,000 a year and we really didn’t pump much water out of ther. But because of how the other agreement was, we’re paying money every year towards that lake.”
The new agreement has it where SMRID will manage the level and cover the costs to maintain the levels.
“The only time the County will be at the table is in an event—so either a big snow melt in the spring (or) a big storm during the summer that may raise the lake suddenly and to an unsafe level, then the County will be at the table to help cost share the pumping costs to make everything safe again,” said Wikkerink.
The M.D. of Taber will be at the table for the same scenarios to that of the County.
Wikkerink says with the agreement it should save the County and the M.D. money each year moving forward.
The new agreement comes after many years of issues with keeping the water levels lower to avoid water coming up on top of the road surfaces and damaging the County’s infrastructure.
“When we had it way down to where we wanted the water level to be at the end of the irrigation season, then there was a number of irrigators—especially towards the west end of the lake— who had a real hard time reaching water,” said Wikkerink.
“After the spring of 2011 when we had that major flooding, basically all the roads crossing Yellow Lake were flooded. Probably between the summer of 2011 and 2012, the County of Forty Mile and the M.D. of Taber, we raised all of our roads that crossed Yellow Lake, except for what we called the Burdett oiled road.”
The County has GPS on the elevations of all the roads crossing Yellow Lake.
“Now we have all of our roads high enough, that even at the upper level of what SMRID will run the water at, we won’t have our roads endangered of being eroded,” he said.