It is one of those years when Terry and Lydia Lyon of Barons are on pins and needles, waiting for the inevitable snowmelt and run-off that in bad years like this can fill their basement, fish pond and outbuildings.
The warmer weather could open the spill gates for the ocean of snow on cultivated land adjacent to their patch of ground. The Lyons are waiting for a permanent solution to their frequent flood woes.
In the meantime, Terry is prepared to jackhammer through the frozen soil to open up a hand-dug ditch that has, for the past three years, slowly released the melting snow water from his land to flow into the roadside ditch. He said the village filled in that ditch after it learned that water contributed to some of the village flooding.
“I don’t want to have another sleepless night over our water problems,” said Lyon. “I don’t want to flood the town (Barons). I don’t want to flood any town. But I also want to try to stop the flooding of my home.”
In a warm spell in February, water from their ditch filled the roadside ditch full of water, and because culverts had not been cleared of snow, water covered the country road about 10 centimetres deep in some areas.
Mayor Ron Gorzitza said the Lyons’ problem has been a topic every year the snowpack is big. He said the problem is the lay of the land where Barons was developed. It is located in the lower part of a basin, and most water drains its way. When the culverts on the roadside ditch are blocked, Barons’ main street and town basements are in danger of being flooded.
A solution for the flooding woes is in the works, but it will take time, said Gorzitza, who is hoping new work can be arranged in time for spring 2012.
The Wobick family owns the land where snow collects. The family has agreed to create an easement upstream from the Lyons’ acreage and several other residences. The County of Lethbridge has agreed to build a swale there to divert melting water north and south into a ditch. Some of that water would flow towards Highway 520.
Dennis Shigimatsu, County of Lethbridge manager, said he requires permission from Barons, the Wobicks and Alberta Environment before doing any work. Lyon admits no major earth work can be done with the ground frozen solid. But this summer, it should be fixed up, he said.
Gorzitza said Barons can’t afford uncontrolled water flowing into the village. It has no storm drain system to collect run-off from rains and melting snow. The sewer lines have limited capacity for that purpose and are at risk of filling the sewage lagoon quickly if extra water enters the sewer system. He is confident the proposed swale project will gain government approvals, but the big question is when. He said cost isn’t an issue.
“We have got to do it,” he said. Meanwhile, stream flows are
below to just above normal for the St. Mary and Belly rivers, and the Waterton River near the gates to Waterton Lakes National Park. Similar readings have been recorded on the Oldman River at Brocket and Lethbridge.