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Waldsea still in dire situation

They're looking at a difficult spring. But they're not the only ones and they know it.
The berm at Waldsea Lake was raised a number of times in the past year, including once last fall, in order to keep rising waters away from cabins that were flooded in 2007.

They're looking at a difficult spring. But they're not the only ones and they know it.
Cabinowners and the regional park board at Waldsea Lake are waiting at the moment - waiting for what the winter will bring for snowfall, waiting to see what the thaw will be like in the spring, and waiting to see if the government is going to help them out financially.
Cabins at the lake were first flooded in the thaw of 2007. Since then, the government has built berms and raised cabins to try and keep the waters of the lake away from the cabins. However, due to a huge amount of rainfall this past year, the berms have been raised at least twice in the past six months, and they still may not be high enough to keep the waters back in the spring.
"Every time I look, it's not good," said Naomi Ramsay, chair of the Waldsea Lake Regional Park Board and a cabin owner at the lake. "Right now, we're really watching the snow. Any amount of precipitation is going to be detrimental."
The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority (SWA) has had a huge presence in the Humboldt region over the past few years, due to the massive flooding taking place in the region, especially to the north of Humboldt, where Waldsea, Deadmoose, and other saline lakes have overflowed their banks.
And the SWA is telling the cabinowners at Waldsea Lake that if there is a regular run-off in the spring, the cabins should be safe. However, anything above that, they cannot guarantee that cabins will not be flooded.
The SWA is talking to the provincial government about a plan for Waldsea, Ramsay noted, and the cabinowners have submitted ideas about what they feel would be best, but the plan, when it is drawn up, has to take into account not just the lake and its cabins, but surrounding farms and other campsites, such as the one belonging to the Scouts at Waldsea.
"They have been impacted, too," Ramsay said. "It's a pretty big process."
They have heard nothing at this point about what a plan may include, Ramsay said. Cabinowners have no idea whether they will get any funding to do what they can to save their cabins - or even just save what they can out of them - before the spring thaw.
There is a general feeling out at the lake right now that people can't put another penny into their cabins. On average, owners who have kept cabins at the lake have spent around $60,000 on repairs since 2007.
Ramsay is just hoping that any governmet funds cabinowners receive would get back some of the investment they've already made trying to save their cabins.
"I'd like to see people break even," Ramsay said. "No one would have invested if they knew this was going to be the outcome."
Ramsay said she believes that if there is flooding in the spring, the plan will be to decommission the lake and park permanently, with no chance for redevelopment of the area in the future.
"The regional park would be dissolved," she said. "That's what I believe, and there's a very good chance that's what's going to happen."
The government, she noted, can't continue to put money into a park that's going to flood again and again.
"If we continue to have wet cycles like this, there's really not a way to deal with that water."
It's not that Ramsay wants to see the lake gone, especially with its 100th birthday as a park just around the corner, "but it may just be inevitable," she said.
The cabinowners at the lake understand what is going on.
"I believe some were very shocked. Some were hoping everything was going to be okay. At this point, I would say, that's highly, highly unlikely."
In the meantime, while the government is working on a plan, the Waldsea Lake cabinowners are studying their options. They've spoken with a developer at Lucien Lake, who has agreed to open up lots to cabins from Waldsea.
That was presented to the SWA as an option, Ramsay noted - that the cabins at Waldsea simply be moved north to another lake.
"Whether it's being considered, I don't know," Ramsay said.
That may be, she noted, the only alternative for people wanting to save their cabins, as other lakes have certain criteria that have to be met for cabins being moved in or built on their lots. Many lakes do not accept older cabins, or mobile homes, or smaller structures, which excludes a lot of the structures presently up at Waldsea.
"The majority of cabins that were saved out there are older cabins at the south end of the lake," Ramsay said.
Should the government approve funding to move the cabins soon, they could possibly move some out before spring, Ramsay noted.
"They have to be moved when the ground is frozen," she said. Cabinowners have been advised to line up movers if that is what they want to do.
Really, what happens at Waldsea in the spring is very dependent on what Deadmoose Lake does.
At some point, Ramsay feels, Deadmoose is going to overflow its berms and run into Waldsea.
"We're a lot lower than Deadmoose right now," Ramsay said, and Waldsea is also a basin for a lot of water off farmland in the area.
The biggest things that would help the lake right now is for there to be no more snowfall this winter, a slow spring runoff and a drought next year.
"I'd like to see a hot, dry year," she said.
The cabinowners at Waldsea are not the only ones looking at issues if there is flooding in the spring, and they know it.
Water is actually still running in lakes and other bodies of water throughout the region - they have not frozen yet, even into December. There's just too much water moving.
"It's so wet - so many people are impacted. There is not one municipality not looking to the spring and thinking they could be looking at a huge disaster," Ramsay said. "It could be a very bad spring for everyone. I love my lake, but it's going to be a small part of what happens out there. We love our cabins, but it's not our homes, or our livelihoods."
Keeping that in mind, Ramsay said, puts things in perspective for them.
However, she added, if the community would show support for the lake, the government may just consider trying to save it.
"If the government hears enough voices, they might hear it, and decide to save it," she noted, but they need to hear from people other than cabinowners who value the lake.
A letter-writing campaign to the government has begun.