Erosion, cleanup | Programs are available to move corrals and livestock buildings under the Growing Forward 2 program
LONGVIEW, Alta. — Shirley Pickering has been hauling water for home use on her rural acreage ever since late June floods inundated her water well along the Little Bow River.
So have many other farm and acreage dwellers southeast of High River, Alta., a region that sustained major damage in late June and is still in recovery mode.
“Our property is up on the escarpment, our buildings, but our water well was in the valley, and it was severely impacted and contaminated,” said Pickering. “The ground water has been contaminated, not just at our well site but at many wells.”
Fecal E. coli is only one of the un-welcome contaminants in the water. Shock treating the well yielded only temporary results. Pickering said the ground water itself is contaminated, and it could take four to six months to clear.
Worries over wells, septic fields and debris cleanup led Pickering to spearhead a Sept. 13 meeting in Longview, where representatives from provincial and federal departments provided flood relief information.
Controversies over the lack of flood mapping and uncertainty over flood zone versus flood fringe have created confusion.
“There’s no guidelines on what they can or cannot do,” Pickering said about relocating septic fields, building berms and dealing with altered water courses.
“The other problem was all of the massive debris that washed down. Everything from campers to dead cows to trees and pieces of fence and kids’ toys, the whole gamut ended up in the valley. How do you deal with that massive amount of stuff that’s ended up on your property that isn’t yours?”
In Pickering’s region, landowners contacted the municipal district, which hired a contractor to collect, sort and dispose of debris.
Harvest has brought additional issues for farmers with land on both sides of the Little Bow, added Pickering. Every bridge between High River and Vulcan was destroyed.
Some farmers face lengthy trips to get from field to field, including use of Highway 2, Alberta’s busiest highway, to move their equipment.
Others are pulling their equipment through the river, which has its own risks and pitfalls.
Brad Andres, emergency program manager with Alberta Agriculture, said his department and others are working to find solutions to these largely rural problems.
“We haven’t done as good a job of communicating the disaster recovery program for agriculture as we have for homes and residences,” said Andres.
The key topics are erosion and loss of fences, though farmers are also pondering flood mitigation projects. Few had homes along the affected rivers.
Andres said programs are already in place to assist those who want to move corrals or other livestock-related structures, including several provincial programs and the federal Growing Forward 2.
His department can provide the necessary information, eligibility criteria and funding options.
Funding is available for those who are eligible. Kyle Fawcett, associate minister for recovery and reconstruction in southwestern Alberta, said there is a specific program for farmers affected by the floods.
“This is not a program that has a cap as far as the amount of money that is in it,” he said. “If someone’s eligible under the program and they make application, they will get covered for whatever they’re eligible for.”
Fawcett said he hasn’t heard much about agricultural damage, though many areas were certainly affected.
“A lot of agricultural and rural people, they just get up and do things, so I know a lot of them have just been going about getting their operations recovered.”
- Flood water can carry raw sewage and disease and cause mould growth.
- Many vegetables and berries are susceptible to bacterial contamination.
- Vegetables and berries that were more than two weeks immature at flooding should be safe to eat if harvested now.
- Any home preserves that were in contact with flood water should be destroyed because their seals cannot be adequately disinfected.
- When in doubt, throw it out.