The floods of 2011 are continuing to have a major impact on the provincial government's budget.
The Ministry of Highways announced last week it will spend an additional $66 million to repair highways that were damaged by both flooding and the high water levels that plagued certain areas of Saskatchewan. Roughly $46 million of that total is new funding. The remaining $20 million was announced in July. The province expects a sizable chunk of the money will be covered through federal disaster assistance programs.
"The men and women of the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure worked hard to keep our highways open when they could and keep motorists safe and informed of changing conditions," Minister of Highways and Infrastructure Jim Reiter said. "We know there are roads in bad shape and people are getting frustrated, but rest assured we are working as quickly as possible to get the job done."
More than 120 sections of highway have been closed at various times this year due to flooding or water-related damage. Damage the ministry has been responding to includes damaged pavement washed out bridges and culverts, landslides and mudslides along sections of highways. The ministry has identified approximately 400 repair projects to be completed, including two projects that will raise low spots to prevent possible future flooding.
One of those two projects recently wrapped up on Highway 39 near Macoun. The road had been closed since Aug. 3 to allow crews to raise a low spot 0.6 metres. The section of highway in question had been flooded since the spring.
"It's great to see this milestone reached and to see this portion of Highway 39 back in service, as we work to repair provincial highways damaged by flooding and high water levels," Reiter said. "Motorists should still be cautious in this area where the project occurred as some final work takes place on the side slopes of this road. We certainly appreciate all the patience and understanding of motorists."
Traffic will be reduced to one lane in the area during daylight hours only, as rocks are placed along the side slopes to prevent water erosion. Motorists are reminded to be alert, cautious and obey all signage and flagpersons as this work happens, which is targeted to be finished before Labour Day weekend.
Other work in the area included the repaving of sections of Highway 18 east of Bienfait that were badly damaged by the wet spring. There was also patching work on Highway 18 west to Torquay carried out because of the flooding.
As well, traffic on the Highway 39 bridge near Roche Percee will be reduced to one lane while crews carry out regularly scheduled improvements. The bridge underwent extensive work earlier this year due to the flooding but this current work is regular maintenance to install expansion joints that allow the bridge to expand and contract in various temperatures and prevent cracking.
Kelly Lafrentz, the reeve of the RM of Estevan, was in Regina for last week's announcement. He said that although the new funds will not have any direct impact on the RM, he was on hand to speak about the co-operation between the RM and ministry during the height of the spring flooding. The two groups, as well as SaskPower, worked together to improve the Rafferty Dam road to allow SaskPower to get coal and supplies to the Boundary Dam Power Station when their main access points and coal roads were flooded out.
"That whole project cost us $200,000 to get the Rafferty Road up and running and also that stone road south to go around the south end of the dam. Highways probably picked up 60 per cent of that cost and SaskPower picked up a bunch of that cost because they needed to get coal to Boundary Dam. It didn't cost the RM a whole bunch of money other than some time and the equipment to grade it and make it nice."
Lafrentz is also continuing to deal with the fallout of the spring flooding in the RM. A number of roads were flooded earlier this year while many more suffered extensive damage.
"We are working everyday on fixing stuff," he said. "We have access back to most homes, farms and land. There are a few places that aren't yet.
"We started with over 100 sites and I think we are down to 60 or something less that need a little bit of attention yet. We are hitting them on a priority basis, whichever ones are creating the most hardships for anyone to get to their house or farm."