Inland lake creates impassable roads

Nathan Liewicki
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Landlocked farmers near Tuxford asking for help from RM, ministry

Seagulls circled overhead and swaths of green algae lined the edge of the water. With temperatures above 20 C and a cooling breeze flying in from the south, Thursday was an ideal day to be at the beach.

Unfortunately for Cliff and Keith Delahey, standing a few metres from a submerged stretch of Highway 202, it was obvious that their lives were anything but beachy.

Heavy rains this spring created an inland lake covering part of Highway 202 – about 10 kilometres east of Tuxford – and a grid road that bisects the highway.

According to Cliff, the water was within six inches of crossing the highway last fall – a far cry from the sight he has beheld for the last four weeks.

“I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never seen it this bad,” Keith told the Times-Herald, while pointing to a stop sign that had almost been swallowed by the water.

“Grandpa came here in 1888 and we’ve been fighting for a decent road ever since.”

Part of Highway 202 was closed by the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure back in April due to flooding, but it’s worse now than it was then.

After water again flooded the banks of the highway four weeks ago, making it impassable, the ministry set up a detour.

Travellers can now take the detour road – 10 Mile Road – to Highway 301, which can be followed north before hopping back onto Highway 202 and accessing Buffalo Pound Provincial Park. It’s about a six-kilometre detour.

“The area that's affected is naturally low lying and there's no direct drainage paths out of there,” Joel Cherry, a communications consultant with the ministry said of the flooded roads. “Drainage of that would require extensive pumping across a fairly large distance and would only be a temporary solution in any case.”

Cherry added that the ministry is looking for a “permanent engineering solution” to the flooding that has plagued that stretch of Highway 202 over the past few years. They have employed engineering company AECOM to help create the solution, but Cherry says there is no timeline to reopen the road.

Dave Delahey, the cousin of Cliff and Keith, isn’t waiting any longer. He owns land adjacent to both Highway 202 and the flooded grid road.

It’s Dave’s tractor and water transport truck that is at the western edge of the submerged highway, trying to gradually pump water out of the flooded area.

RM of Moose Jaw Reeve Darol Owens told the Times-Herald that Dave offered to pay for the expenses associated with attempting to pump out the water, but didn’t rule out Dave being reimbursed at a later date.

Owens said there is “no logical way” to get rid of all the water in the area, but noted the RM is looking to provide an alternate route for residents of three farmsteads in the area, including Dave and Cliff’s.

Although the alternate route – along the grid road south toward the 10 Mile Road – is not completely impassable, there are massive ruts and two sections where water from the nearby slew still flows across it.

Stepping out of Cliff’s truck, which got stuck in one of the ruts earlier in the week, it was obvious the road was still saturated – evident by the three-inch shoe impressions that were left behind.

“I just want them to dump some gravel and push it into the ruts so I can get through it,” Cliff said of the grid road. “I don’t need a big highway, just a road that I can get in and out of.”

He might get his wish sooner rather later.

According to Owens, there’s a chance work to begin temporarily stabilizing the grid road could occur next week.

With no time frame in place, Owens said the RM is trying to handle the improvements in stages. He added that repairs would likely cost in the range of tens of thousands of dollars.

“It's very frustrating from their point of view, but they are basically willing to work with it,” said Owens. “It's not a very pretty situation.”

For now, however, the Delahey clan will use the makeshift road that runs through one of Dave’s fields and onto Highway 202 to get around.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for their farming equipment.

“We've got to get something done to the grid road otherwise we'll never get any harvesting done,” said Keith. “We can't get the combines and equipment out on to the fields.”

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Times-Herald, Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure

Geographic location: Tuxford, 10 Mile Road, Buffalo Pound Provincial Park

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  • Greg Lien
    July 25, 2014 - 23:59

    There is a ravine about three kilometers north of this slough which drains into Buffalo Pound Lake. A simple siphon would drain the slough and keep it drained. The Delaheys would be happy to maintain the siphon. This has been proposed for years!