Some Carmacks-region residents in the downtown area may be ordered to leave if the wastewater treatment plant does not hold up.
As of June 19, the Village of Carmacks and Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation have been issued an evacuation alert amid a flood warning in effect for the area.
“We’re up to our arms in water and trying to get out of it,” Carmacks mayor Lee Bodie said by phone on June 20.
Bodie indicated that alert could escalate to become an evacuation order only for the people in the immediate downtown area that are served by the wastewater treatment plant, which he said is “on the verge of shutting down.”
“The plant is not underwater, but it has so much groundwater that we’re dealing with that it can’t keep up with the inflow of all this extra water,” he said.
“We’re pumping water out as fast as we can.”
A flood situation report dated June 19 at 8 p.m. states that water levels have exceeded or will exceed banks or flood stage “very soon” and areas beside affected lakes and rivers will flood.
A boil water advisory is currently in place for some residents of Carmacks and Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation.
The village is located at the confluence of the Yukon and Nordenskiold rivers. It is the homeland of the Northern Tutchone people of the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation.
“There is nobody that’s in immediate danger,” Bodie said.
The flood situation report advises that three houses on Gyo Road on Lower Bench are threatened by flooding. Water levels have risen up to River Drive between the wastewater treatment plant and Pocket Park in another area where officials are monitoring a house.
Bodie said the key risk is if the wastewater system completely shuts down, which could lead to “dire consequences” and sewers backing up into peoples’ homes.
“We’re just asking people not to flush any water that they don’t have to right now to help us out,” he said.
“Try to use as little water as you can.”
The report notes the wastewater treatment plant is still running at above-capacity, although the mayor suggested it could need to be shut down in the coming days.
“Wastewater is still bypassing some treatment, but still meets water license standards before it enters the river,” the report reads. It indicates incident staff are assisting in maintaining operations at the plant in the village.
Bodie said the surging river is not expected to peak until the end of June.
In the report, the hydrologist forecast estimates the Yukon River is likely to peak approximately 20 centimetres above current levels. It has gone up 8.8 centimetres in the last 24 hours and 21.5 centimetres over three days, as of the June 19 report.
The Carmacks Health Centre itself is not presently at risk, according to the mayor. The nursing residence, however, does have a basement.
“Anyone with basements is bound to have water in their basements because of the high water tables right now,” Bodie said.
Bodie also works at the Tatchun Centre General Store, which is part of Hotel Carmacks. For example, he said, the hotel is “sitting low” and it has water being pumped out of the basement.
“If we do have an evacuation order in place, then the hotel will have to shut down,” Bodie said.
“The store will remain open, but the hotel will have to shut down because you can’t have guests in a hotel without the proper facilities.”
In the flood situation report, there are three pumps removing water from the far side of River Drive back to the Yukon River. One of those pumps keeps going 24/7 while the other two pumps run during the day. The report also mentions a superbag berm has been completed around at-risk Lower Bench homes. Crews have put in sumps and a sandbag berm in the basement of a local hotel where COVID-19 isolation is taking place.
In the report, a sandbag machine is being used by a team in Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation to prepare sandbags.
The report outlines incident resources including a Yukon Wildland Fire Incident Management team, six wildland firefighters and five Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation staff, as well as nine pieces of heavy equipment and two flagging contractors.
The News has reached out to Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation. The First Nation’s website indicates in a June 14 notice that the offices and the daycare are closed “out of an abundance of caution” until June 27, noting a number of staff are sick.
Bodie said crews are working to keep River Drive open given that it is a key route for northern schools and subdivisions beyond.
“People on the other side would then have no access,” he said. “No way out of the town. No way for emergency services to get in.”
So far, Bodie said the water bladders and tiger dams are “doing their job” holding back water.
“We’re between the devil and the deep blue sea, so we’re doing everything we can to keep that main thoroughfare open.”
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org