© Submitted photo
A snowmobile fell through the ice on the Moose Jaw River in Wakamow Valley on Dec. 28, 2013.
Wakamow, police remind everyone to use caution on the ice
There is a reason it’s illegal for snowmobiles to be driven in the city and on the river.
On Saturday at 1 p.m. an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) fell through the ice on the Moose Jaw River in Wakamow Valley. Members of the Moose Jaw Police Service, Moose Jaw Fire Department and Moose Jaw and District EMS attended to the scene. A police report said no one was injured and the occupants got out of the vehicle before it went partially underwater.
“They were on there with quite a large machine … and they ended up going through the ice,” said Margaret Moran, CEO of Wakamow Valley Authority. “We do always tell people to exercise extreme caution when you’re on the ice because it’s not a static thing. There is always like springs that can occur, like natural springs, and what it does it is it doesn’t allow the ice to form uniformly.
“So it’s sort of like trying to freeze something that’s running constantly, like a tap. It just doesn’t freeze as solidly.”
There is a city bylaw prohibiting snowmobiling in the city limits, which includes Wakamow Valley. The bylaw states that there is “No snowmobiling within City limits except as expressly authorized.”
Moran said she encourages people to phone the police if they see someone snowmobiling on the river.
“It is a safety hazard not only for the wildlife that are on the river but also for the people that are enjoying it for the winter sports,” said Moran. “It is safe if you’re snowshoeing or cross-county skiing or just even walking on the river. It’s definitely safe for that.”
Parts of the river are approximately 10 to 13 inches thick, but caution is still required, she said.
Moran added another concern about illegally riding on snowmobiles on the river is it scares wildlife away and affects the riverbanks.
“When they’re getting on and off the river they have to use the river bank and our river banks … are very unstable and very prone to erosion and they just weaken the already weakened river banks,” said Moran. “That causes even more erosion to occur in the spring.”
It also affects the turbidity of the river. She said turbidity measures how clear the water is. According to Wakamow’s river values, a lot of sediment goes into the river, resulting in “murky-looking” water, she said.
“It kind of raises up the river bed itself so that the river is actually more shallow than what it may appear to be,” said Moran. “It’s just not good for the river to lose its river banks like that and it does contribute to the flooding because once you start having the river banks erode into the river, it widens the river as well and it makes the river banks where it widens not as stable.”
Any flooding would more likely take place at those specific weak points. Water could potentially flow onto residences and other places in the valley.
“It’s a part of the natural flow of the river,” said Moran. “We have to respect it but we should avoid doing things that are going to cause even more problems.”
The police report also said the driver of the ATV was charged under the bylaw prohibiting using snowmobiles and off-road vehicles in city limits.
Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.