Resident Curtis Hallborg believes snow buildup in the West Park subdivision could lead to drainage problems this spring, but city hall doesn’t think that will happen based on history.
Hallborg — who lives on Hodges Crescent — appeared virtually during city council’s March 14 regular meeting to ask that the city take action to address the potential flooding. However, council accepted city administration’s advice that the problem was not an issue and voted unanimously to receive and file the report.
Hallborg — a professional civil engineer — explained how drainage on the west side of the subdivision works, including how a six-metre-tall drainage “swale” takes water south. The big problem, he noted, is houses are exposed to the open fields and west winds that blow in snow.
“In a typical year, we might see (some) snow fill that drainage swale. There has been a few instances in the past where it has come over top of their fences,” he said. “It hasn’t really been an issue; it’s actually been a lot of fun (for kids to build forts).”
However, this year, six to eight feet of snow has filled the swale, while many backyards are covered with more than six feet of snow, Hallborg continued. The 18 affected property owners fear that snow could flood their yards and basements; there likely won’t be much water infiltration since the ground is clay, while there was deep frost penetration this winter.
Hallborg then showed several photos of the snow buildup in his yard and his neighbours’, with snow covering — or reaching the top of — fences, decks and a play structure.
What Hallborg wanted was for the municipality to clear snow from the swale starting at Broda Terrace and going 320 metres (1,050 feet) to the catch basin. He acknowledged that this could be difficult due to utilities buried under snow.
Secondly, he wanted city hall to investigate and implement a long-term solution to this problem, such as a temporary snow fence or a permanent fixture such as planting trees or shrubs.
Thirdly, he wanted the municipality to consult with residents about addressing this issue.
Coun. Jamey Logan initially thought the issue looked simple, but after visiting the area, he saw the damage city crews caused to some homeowners’ property buried under snow while clearing part of the swale. He was worried more buried property could be damaged if a commercial snowblower cleared that area.
“Looking at the (long-term) forecast is our saving grace,” he said. “That is the perfect scenario for these folks.”
Logan added that residents should not store their items on municipal property since heavy vehicles may need to access those areas in an emergency.
Coun. Doug Blanc agreed with Logan, noting that if those homeowners were concerned about basements flooding, they should remove the six feet of snow between their homes. He also agreed that planting trees or shrubs could be a solution.
Hallborg and the department of public works and utilities exchanged emails between March 7 and 9, with the department later locating two area catch basins and ensuring they were clear, said director Darrin Stephanson.
West Park is in northwest Moose Jaw and has a 16-metre-long berm and six-metre-high drainage swale backing Hodges Crescent, he continued. The berm drains water to Spring Creek by overland drainage and a catch basin connected a five-foot-diameter storm sewer pipe.
That area has not reported any flooding since its inception nine years ago, Stephanson noted. While there has been more snow this season, there is no indication the drainage infrastructure will be insufficient. Moreover, the time and cost to remove 700 metres of snow eight feet high from the swale are unknown. Public works crews spent a full day clearing 40 metres of snow from the catch basins, but this work was risky since crews were in a field and there were public utilities, infrastructure and private property buried underneath, the director continued. Crews damaged some infrastructure clearing that snow and will repair it this summer.
The Water Security Agency has indicated that Moose Jaw will see below-normal spring runoff, so the storm sewer outlets should be fine, Stephanson stated. Further, the long-range weather forecast is positive for a controlled melt during the next few weeks.
“We do agree with some of his points … ,” the director added. “(Planting) hedges and trees is a good solution to eliminate these problems.”
The next regular council meeting is Monday, March 28.