The situation has gone from not great to dire out at Waldsea Lake this fall.
A wet spring could, in fact, mean the end of Waldsea Lake Regional Park.
That's what Naomi Ramsay, chair of the park board, revealed to the Journal last week.
"It sounds very dire," she said of the possible flooding the park could see next spring. "It could be the end of Waldsea Lake if we have a bad spring, if we don't get some heat and everything else," she said.
Rising water levels first flooded the cabins at Waldsea Lake Regional Park in the spring of 2007. Since then, the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority (SWA) has been working with the cabin owners and the park board to protect those cabins not destroyed by flooding and keep the cabin area free of water.
Every year, the berm gets a little more dirt piled on it as the water keeps rising on the lake. This year alone, the berm has been raised one and a half metres, said Dwayne Rowlett with the SWA.
Crews were out the week of October 11-15 raising the berm again.
"Right now, we're just trying to provide some protection for next spring," Rowlett said. "This will allow for some runoff to come in and (the berm will) still be above water level."
While the berms are getting ever higher, wind and wave erosion is starting to impact the topping applied this year.
"We are keeping an eye on the erosion," Rowlett said. "It has eroded, but it is still manageable."
In addition to the berms, since 2007, the level of the cabins has been raised, and the park was cleaned up in the hopes of opening up to the public once again this past summer.
But a wet spring and an even wetter summer prevented that from happening.
Two feet has been added to the berm in front of the cabins at the lake since mid-August, Ramsay noted.
Crews scooped dirt from directly behind the berm in order to build it up and keep the water, deepened by late summer rains, contained, Ramsay noted.
"The lake came up six inches after the one rain in September," said Ramsay.
Water, she said, ran from the development on the west side of Humboldt, over two grid roads and in to the lake
"Up until that point, things were looking not great, but not really bad," she added. "Now it's looking a lot more dire."
It is a climb to get up onto the berm now, which is still wide enough to walk on, Ramsay said, and at this point, cabin owners are feeling somewhat protected by the berm.
But the park board will be holding a meeting for cabinowners within the next few weeks to discuss "what might and what might not be the future out there," Ramsay said.
"If the water comes over (the berm), they need to be prepared," she explained. They will present the information they have so cabin owners can decide what to do with their property.
If any want to move their cabins off-site to protect them from a potential spring flood, that will have to be done when the ground is frozen, Ramsay noted, as the ground is still too wet at this point to support heavy equipment.
Moving a building is expensive, Ramsay noted, and could be unnecessary if the winter is a dry one, "but (cabin owners) are going to have to make that decision," she said. "We can't offer 100 per cent safety."
The berms at Waldsea aren't the only concern.
The SWA is building up the berms around Deadmoose Lake, since the issuance of a federal order closing the culvert and stopping the flow of water between Houghton Lake and Lenore Lake to the north.
"We've stopped Deadmoose from flowing into Waldsea," Rowlett said. "If we hadn't built the berms, it would be flowing in."
Those berms have also had work done on them several times this year, he noted. They were first built in May and June of this year and since then they've been raised about a metre in two stages of about half a metre each, Rowlett explained.
"The berms are getting wider and longer over time," he stated. "We just hope it's enough to contain the spring runoff."
The berms between Deadmoose and Waldsea are being built to withstand wind and wave erosion, he noted, as well as contain high water levels.
SWA will be keeping an eye on the berms and the amount of snowfall the area receives throughout the winter, Rowlett said. Once spring comes, further decisions will have to be made on if the berms need to be raised more.
From Ramsay's viewpoint, though October offered weather that dried the soil a bit, it won't be enough to make a significant difference if there is any amount of run-off into Waldsea or Deadmoose in the spring, Ramsay believes.
Even if the legal issue is settled and the culvert under the 777 grid is re-opened, allowing water from Deadmoose to flow north, that's no guarantee Waldsea won't be lost, she said.
"We don't know.... if that would open in time to make any difference," Ramsay noted.
If Deadmoose goes up one foot, it goes up six feet at Waldsea, Ramsay said. And if the water at Deadmoose goes over the berm, it means another 800 acres of land will be flooded, including Waldsea Lake Regional Park and other homes on farms and acreages in the area.
The saline water from Deadmoose will leave the land in poor condition, she indicated, and it will mean that Waldsea will likely never be used for development or cabins again.
"The government won't allow it, likely," she said. After all, she added, protecting the cabins out there now has "cost a fortune."
Rowlett reported that SWA has spent approximately half a million dollars this year alone on the berms at Waldsea and Deadmoose lakes.
The situation at Waldsea, Ramsay said, "has been a lesson for everyone on these terminal lakes, and what can happen."
"It's sad," Ramsay said of the situation they are in at the lake right now.
"For some of us who have been there forever, it's really hard to watch, knowing it could disappear and never be there again. It will (also) be sad for the community when (Waldsea) is gone," she said.
"We don't know where we're going, but it's not looking very good."
What makes this especially tough is that in just 18 months, Waldsea Lake as a developed park will turn 100 years old.
If they can survive next spring, they will celebrate that anniversary, Ramsay said.
Right now, they're all praying for a dry winter and looking at other options to prevent more runoff into the lake.
For instance, the park board hopes to talk to the city about the water that flows from Parker's Slough into Burton Lake and from there on to Deadmoose and Waldsea.
The city can stop water running from Parker's Slough to Burton Lake as at one point, the town got its water from Burton Lake, Ramsay stated. Whether they will do that is something the park board still needs to talk to them about.
Not having that water run could make a real difference for Waldsea, Ramsay said.
They are also continuing to work with the SWA and the Ministry of Corrections and Public Safety, she added, about what is going on at the lake.
"The water may be winning here at this point," Ramsay said. "The (SWA) has done everything they can for us, but water will have its way in the end."
It's a wait-and-see situation at this point.
The best-case scenario would be no run-off in the spring and hot weather right off the bat, so things start to dry up and get better.
But there are no guarantees that will happen.
"The winter will sort of tell that story."