On Thursday, August 1, Lac Ste. Anne County chartered a helicopter service to assess the scale of flood damage and better understand its contributing factors.
During two flights conducted over a five-hour period, representatives from the County’s Agricultural Services and Fire Services departments surveyed affected farmland, lakefront properties and County infrastructure. Additionally, the Pembina River and the Paddle Dam Reservoir and river system were studied.
This aerial survey enabled the County to identify potential blockage issues affecting agricultural land, County infrastructure and lakefront properties. Direct outcomes included photos, videos and first-hand eyewitness accounts that support the County’s State of Agricultural Disaster declaration; and that inform ways in which the County may mitigate future flooding and improve flood response.
Notably, the County determined that neither beaver dams nor the Alberta Environment-managed weir at the mouth of Sturgeon River are contributors as had been speculated. There is simply an overabundance of water due to excessive rainfall, resulting in higher-than-average water table levels and overland flooding events. This is the third consecutive year that the County has experienced an unprecedented amount of rainfall resulting in extensive flooding — including in areas where flooding has not historically been an issue.
The total helicopter cost amounted to $7500 for five hours of flight time. As mentioned, this excursion resulted in the collection of critical flood data to inform Council’s flood recovery strategy while providing an opportunity for the Agriculture Services and Fire Services departments to improve flood recovery and emergency response efficiencies across the entire County.
To provide context, this investment facilitated the collection of as much specialized information as efficiently as possible in order to meet the specific goals and objectives of each department. For example, Fire Services was able to map the entirety of Pembina River (vital and entirely new data) in less than an hour. To collect the same data from the ground likely would have taken more than three days. Further, Problem Wildlife Officers were able to view more than a dozen water bodies (and nearly double the amount of problem areas such as specific dams) in less than three hours – a process that would have taken weeks via conventional methods.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, in order to declare the State of Agricultural Disaster and seek provincial recovery assistance, County Council required numerical data or other tangible evidence of the crisis. Due to the recent provincial government changeover, historical data that would normally support such a declaration was not readily available. The aerial vantage point provided Council the undeniable proof they sought in this regard.
Further information will be posted as it becomes available via this website, and via regular County social media channels.