Every year when the snow melts, Mike Wheeler prepares for the worst. But this year has been an absolute disaster.
As the six-foot, two-inch man stands in water above his waist at his acreage in Sturgeon County, he surveys the most flooding he’s ever experienced in the three years he’s had the property.
“I'm devastated,” he expressed. “It's disappointing – you pay your taxes and think your county would have your back, especially on issues that affect several people.”
According to Wheeler, the culprit behind the flooding is Sturgeon County’s poor drainage system. The ditches alongside his property, which is located about five kilometres outside St. Albert on Villeneuve Road, aren’t working.
Instead of directing the waterflow away, the dugout is filling with water and spilling over.
Wheeler said every year his property floods, but this spring has been the worst. So far, he estimates it’s caused roughly $200,000 in damages, which won’t be covered by his insurance.
The water has caused structural damage to his work shed and has washed out his driveway. Along with fixing the buildings, paying for landscaping and repaving, he’ll have to pay for the water to be tested.
Tenants living in the home on the acreage have also moved out because of the deep waters, and his RV storage business has come to a halt.
“I can't operate out here at all right now, I have customers that can’t even come and check on their RVs,” he explained.
Wheeler said he’s talked with Sturgeon County Coun. Wayne Bokenfohr over the last two years about the issue. He said he feels the county is ignoring him, so he’s planning on creating a coalition with his fellow neighbours in the area.
But the area just outside St. Albert isn’t the only one experiencing deep flooding. Deb’s Greenhouse, located in Sturgeon County west of Morinville, has had to shut down operations during its busiest time of the year.
Right now, workers should be transplanting, seeding and tending to plants, but instead they’re unable to enter the flooded greenhouses.
“We’re losing time,” said Debbie Foisy, owner of the business.
Foisy has two greenhouses. Both flooded Sunday morning, with one holding about six inches of water. The tides have gone down since then, but the ground is still too soft to walk on.
According to Foisy, two ditches run along her property, with one belonging to Sturgeon County and another belonging to Transportation Alberta. She said both have been overflowing with water.
Last year, county councillors went to Deb’s Greenhouse to look into the issue, Foisy said. But so far, nothing has been done.
“They have the ability to make things happen, and they don't,” she expressed.
Bokenfohr said the county is well aware of the issues. He said they’ve been working on a master plan, which addresses the drainage system. It also identifies parts of Sturgeon County most likely to flood.
Each year, county council has been putting away one per cent of its revenue to fix the issue, he explained.
“It’s something that we’re trying to rectify,” he said, adding there is no timeline on dealing with the drainage.
This is the fourth year funds have been set aside for the county’s drainage system.
Bokenfohr didn’t say how much it would cost to fix it or how much money has already been saved up for it. He did say funds from the NWR Sturgeon Refinery would go toward the project.
As to why the issue has been ongoing, he couldn’t say why previous councillors haven’t dealt with it. He added fixing roads are just as important as dealing with flooding.