As higher than normal winter snowpack begins to melt, some property owners in the Annie Lake Road and South Klondike Highway area are already seeing a return of the water that flowed freely across their land last spring.
The source of the flooding seems to be McConnell Lake, just off the Annie Lake Road. At present, it isn’t easy to discern where the lake ends and property owned by Neil and Meagan Gillis begins. This is their second spring on the property and the second that has seen meltwaters spill out of the swamp adjacent to their home.
The high water is spilling across their driveway, saturating nearby land leading to dead trees and rushing by their house to pool up beside it before draining further down the slope. Ducks, and at least one muskrat, could be seen swimming a few feet from their door and an old cabin they use for storage has flooded.
Neil said the government had been discussing a plan for permanent drainage that doesn’t cross their property but instead redirects water into the Watson River. This would stop it from following the course it took last year down to homes along the South Klondike Highway. Last spring, water originating from McConnell Lake breached the berm created by the disused White Pass and Yukon Line railroad track leading to sudden flooding of at least one property closer to the highway.
Phone and email exchanges with government representatives in recent weeks left Neil with the impression that work on the drainage won’t be done this spring.
“That was supposed to take place last fall, everything was good. Everyone seemed to be on board. And then nothing happened,” he said.
Neil said earlier this year, calls were made to local MLAs and emails to the government emergency measures organization (EMO) but nothing was done besides a checkup on the property from a Wildland Fire Management crew. Wildland fire had helped with sandbagging last spring. He said it seems that is all the help they can count on receiving.
Neil said he was advised that they are more or less on their own for this year and should look at getting a temporary dam in place but he is concerned that any berms or dams they put in place could push water towards Annie Lake Road.
He says they’re lucky because their house sits on high ground and it would take significantly more water to reach it. With deep mud holes already formed on their driveway, he said there is some concern about losing access, but they have reinforced the driveway and plan to do it again when it dries out. Meagan said they are looking into raising their access road and would have to install culverts if they did, but don’t feel that is helping the situation for the properties at risk of flooding further down the hill.
EMO says they are still keeping a close eye on the flooding situation with site visits from Wildland Fire crews throughout the past week.
“At each visit, crews from Wildland Fire Management assess the water levels in the area and check in with potentially affected residents. As of our latest assessment, waters appear to have begun receding in the area. We are continuing to monitor the area and working with homeowners to ensure that they have the support required to keep their homes dry,” an EMO representative stated.
“We’ve been encouraged to see homeowners in the area taking individual preparedness actions, such as building berms and planning for potential flooding.”
The representative said there are fewer permitting requirements in place for building these types of berms on private property than elsewhere but work near waterways does require permits. They said residents should be mindful of the impacts of berms or dams and seek assistance with designing them in order to mitigate risk.
The government also say they have not abandoned plans for long term drainage or other mitigation for the area. The government representative said assessments are underway and drone footage is being collected to help inform planning. The results of that work are being awaited before it is decided if work on drainage can go ahead this spring.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com