No one is building an ark -- but spring flooding preparations are well underway in Saskatchewan.
There are four areas of significant concern, as illustrated in the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority's latest spring runoff forecast map released Thursday.
The first area covers nearly all of east-central Saskatchewan. Well above normal spring run-off is anticipated in a wide area from Elbow to the Manitoba border and from Weyburn to Tisdale.
The second largest region is on the western side of the province, including Leader, Kindersley, Rosetown, Spiritwood, Prince Albert and the area north of Saskatoon.
There are two smaller pockets in the southwest looking at well above normal run-off -- south of Cypress Hills and the Gravelbourg area.
The cold winter has meant very little snow has disappeared, setting the stage for a potential quick melt when the temperature rises in the spring.
"There are areas with more than four inches or 100 millimetres of water in the snow," says Doug Johnson from the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority. "That may not sound like much, but when you start translating over the basin, that's a fair amount of water,"
Many sloughs and low-lying areas are already full after record breaking amounts of rain last year, he adds.
The provincial government has established a $22 million Emergency Flood Damage Reduction Program. After only two weeks, 92 communities, 13 rural municipalities and 70 individual farm homeowners have signed up.
The program is not intended to be used for the protection of farmland, but will cover the entire cost of technical assistance, including engineering advice. The program will also cover 85 per cent of the cost for berm construction on farmsteads and country residences. Municipalities will get 75 per cent of the cost back for berm construction, diversion channels or channel improvements. The government will pay for half of short-term flood control measures, including sand bagging, removing snow from channels and steaming frozen culverts.
Flooding was the number one topic of discussion at the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities convention in Saskatoon this week. When making plans to deal with excess water, adjacent rural municipalities are trying to develop the best strategies without impacting each other, according to David Marit, SARM president.
"When there is too much water, nobody wants it. When there is not enough, everybody wants it. We just have to be able to work together, and I think you will see some good co-operation this year."
The Saskatchewan government used the SARM convention as an opportunity to announce a $500,000 pilot program to limit flooding damage caused by beavers. Rural municipalities will administer the one year program and decide what percentage of funds is used to destroy dams and reduce the beaver population.
The Canadian Wheat Board has heard from about 50 Saskatchewan farmers interested in moving on-farm grain in at-risk areas before flooding occurs.
"We have cleared out some elevator space in most of the flood risk areas and are preparing to send out letters to farmers who have registered, further advising them of the advance call that we want to get out in the next couple of weeks," says Maureen Fitzhenry, CWB spokesperson.
The Saskatchewan SPCA is also encouraging farmers and ranchers to make plans for potential spring flooding. Muddy or washed out roads could impact access to livestock. The location of feed supplies should also be evaluated.
To view the recent Saskatchewan Watershed Authority report, please visit: http://www.swa.ca/WaterManagement/MonthlyForecast/ProvincialForecast.pdf.