Land flooded over fishery concerns prompts Ottawa-Sask. water deal

A legal challenge that Saskatchewan launched against Ottawa after flooding in 2010 has been settled.

The two governments last week agreed that any future concern about how flooding will affect fish and fish habitat will be handled by discussion rather than enforcement.

The Water Security Agency took action against Environment Canada after it, acting for the department of fisheries and oceans, ordered the flow of saline water from Houghton Lake into fresh-water Lenore Lake stopped to protect the fish.

The province disagreed with the order but complied.

A culvert under a grid road was closed, turning the road into a dam and flooding farmland that remains saline.

“We were responsible for that flooding so we wound up purchasing land that had been flooded due to holding the water back,” said WSA spokesperson Dale Hjertaas.

The legal challenge sought damages as a result of costs incurred by the province.

The agreement reached last week includes a payment of $4 million from Environment Canada to help pay for fish habitat protection. Hjertaas said that covers part of the cost of the farmland purchases and other work such as road reconstruction.

He said neither government gives up its right to issue enforcement orders, but there is a commitment under the agreement to take issues to a senior level within the agencies involved “to try to resolve a potential conflict in the broad public interest.”

Meanwhile, Houghton Lake was 30 centimetres below its 2011 high level at the beginning of June when measurements were last taken. Lenore Lake was 40 cm below its high point.

Houghton Lake flooded so much that it essentially took over Waldsea Lake to create one big water body in the area north of Humboldt.

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