Flooding hits northern Alberta producers

Flooding in northern Alberta has displaced thousands of residents and is affecting some farmers, potentially delaying seeding plans.

The Alberta government said last week that the flooding, caused by ice jams in the Fort McMurray and Fort Vermilion areas, has forced roughly 14,000 people to flee their homes.

There are about four farmers affected by the flood near Fort Vermilion, said Grant Smith, the agriculture fieldman with Mackenzie County.

Smith said 600 to 700 acres have been flooded near Beaver Ranch, which is northeast of Fort Vermilion.

He said if these farmers are able to seed, it will be very late. As well, he said one farmer had 50,000 bushels of grain in bins that was wiped out.

“People are feeling dejected and we didn’t see this coming, and we didn’t think the waters would get this high,” Smith said.

Ice jams on the Athabasca and Clearwater rivers near Fort McMurray and on the Peace River in Mackenzie County have caused the flooding.

Fort McMurray has been badly hit. About 13,000 people were ordered to leave the townsite, though some people were able to return home on May 1.

In Fort Vermilion, about 455 people were evacuated. As well, 749 people from Little Red River Cree Nation have evacuated.

As of May 1, the ice jam on the Athabasca river reduced from 25 kilometres to nine kilometres, according to the government. Water levels have fallen by 7.6 metres in the Fort McMurray area.

The ice jam on the Clearwater River has melted, with water levels expected to fluctuate. The government’s River Forecast Centre isn’t expecting additional flooding as the ice moves downstream.

The ice jam on the Peace River as of May 1, however, grew an additional 20 kilometres to a total length of 44 km.

Environment and Parks minister Jason Nixon said May 1 the Little Red River Cree Nation has issued a state of local emergency.

Nixon said several thousand people in the First Nation could be affected by flooding. As of May 1, no homes in the community had been affected by flooding.

The area of Beaver Ranch and Fort Vermilion have seen water levels fall.

Smith said the county is being as supportive as it can, with neighbours helping each other out.

“People band together and farmers are resilient people,” he said. “They’ll work to rebuild and get on their fields again.”

The government is offering disaster relief payments to evacuees.

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