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Outflows from reservoirs continue to drop

After reaching a record high of 770 cubic metres per second, outflows into the Souris River are gradually beginning to drop.

After reaching a record high of 770 cubic metres per second, outflows into the Souris River are gradually beginning to drop.

According to officials from the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority, outflows from the Rafferty Dam reservoirs had dropped to 280 m3/s on Tuesday while releases out of Boundary Dam were cut off.

The decrease has brought the water levels along the Souris down but the situation still remains serious with low-lying areas stretching from Estevan to Roche Percee and into the United States still inundated with floodwaters. In fact, much of Roche Percee remains flooded while more than 10,000 people were evacuated from their homes in Minot. It's feared that residents in both communities will be out of their homes for weeks if not months.

"There is still a lot of water left in Rafferty Dam to get it down to its fully supply level as it is currently above its full supply level in its flood range," said Dale Hjertaas of the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority. "I don't have a firm projection on (when the water level will drop) but certainly it's measured in several weeks yet.

"In Roche Percee, it has to get where it's not overtopping their dikes. Then they have water trapped behind their dikes that will have to be pumped out."

Even when the water does drop homeowners will not be allowed directly back into their residences out of concerns about the integrity of the structures as well as potential health issues.

"Bear in mind that at the peak level, some of those houses were covered with water up to the eaves of their roofs," said Duane McKay, the emergency commissioner for the Office of the Fire Commissioner. "An inspection of those buildings to see if they will ever be able to be fixed will have to be done before people move back into that part of the community."

McKay added that Corrections, Public Safety and Policing is currently providing support to 148 people who have registered for assistance in the southeast and estimated that probably just as many people have been displaced but have not filed for support.

McKay also touched on the reports of break-ins and looting in the Roche Percee area. He noted that as of Monday morning, the RCMP had received just one report of a break-in. However Estevan RCMP issued an update Monday afternoon and said there were five reported break-ins from June 22 to June 25. In those break-ins, two flat screen TVs, a couple of hunting knives, an iPad and a few bottles of liquor were stolen.

In light of the break-ins, the RCMP is stepping up its patrols in the area and residents of Roche Percee will also be conducting citizen patrols.

Highways throughout the Estevan area also continue to be a concern.

Highway 47 south to the U.S. border was still closed as of Monday and is expected to remain so for quite awhile. Highway 18 to Torquay is also closed and there has been no word about when it will re-open.

Highway 47 north is open but traffic is reduced to one lane through Benson. Highway 39 west is clear with the exception of an area two kilometres west of Macoun where water is flowing over the highway. Sask. Highways has employees at the scene and are asking drivers to slow down when passing through that area. To the east, Highway 39 has been re-opened to all but overloaded traffic. Erosion issues at the bridge in the Roche Percee valley forced Highways to reduce traffic to one lane and redirect all heavy vehicles coming from the U.S. while repairs were carried out.

The City of Estevan is slowly ramping down its flood watch after a hectic few days that included the evacuation of the Willow Park Greens mobile home park. With flood waters reaching the south end of the park, residents were evacuated June 19 but were allowed to return Thursday.

In a report at Monday's regular meeting of city council, City manager Jim Puffalt commended the effort to evacuate the park as well as the work of City crews who pumped thousands of gallons of water away from the trailers.

"People may not know, but we stayed there three days straight to keep the trailer park dry," Puffalt said. "We are glad that we won that battle because a lot of effort went into it."

Puffalt noted the other major area of concern for the City continues to be the water treatment plant. Although the facility has continued to operate normally throughout the flood, despite dozens of rumours to the contrary, both roads into the plant are flooded and the only access for employees was on boats operated by members of the Estevan Fire Rescue Service. Puffalt added the City was also forced to use a helicopter to transport chemical to the plant Saturday.

"It was an incredible effort by everybody," Puffalt said.

In his comments, Mayor Gary St. Onge also praised the work done by City staff and the numerous volunteers.

He also touched on reports that some residents of Willow Park Greens were upset by the decision to evacuate the park and said the correct move was made.

"We were in unknown territory," said St. Onge who added that reports of looting in the park were completely false. "We didn't know where that water was going to go and how fast it was going to go in there. I won't apologize to anybody for the fact that we went in there right away rather than having to pick people off their steps or off the roofs of their trailers or out of their windows like happened in Roche Percee.

"Now we know, now we have a better idea of how the releases can come before we have to worry about them. I think we always, the fire department especially, will err on the side of caution."

St. Onge added he was also troubled by a small group of residents who were calling the City with what he described as trivial issues such as where their garbage can was at a time when people in the area were losing their homes to flooding.

"I would have been embarrassed to phone anybody during that period of time about such a thing."

The mayor also took time to thank the various local businesses who employ members of the Fire Rescue Service. St. Onge said some members of the department were away from work for the better part of a week while the flood situation was at its peak.

"We really appreciate these businesses co-operating with us."

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