Manitou Beach hasn’t reached a point of crisis yet, but local business owners worry that they’re close.
The small village, 120 kilometres south-east of Saskatoon, is being threatened by rising water levels in Little Manitou Lake. Businesses along the popular shoreline are being protected by berms created by sandbags, as well as troughs to redirect any run-off water.
“We have about 10 feet too much water in the lake,” said Danceland Co-Owner Millie Strueby. “Evaporation won’t (bring the level down) anymore.”
Strueby added that if the berms were to breach, the horse-hair padded dance floor of her hall would be flooded. Danceland, built in the early 1920s, is considered a historical landmark by many.
She noted the berms have already seen some leakage, with water ponding along the main road through the village of 257.
“Everything is quite boggy all the way around,” Strueby said. “There’s not a whole lot we can do.”
Water levels in the landlocked lake have seen worrying rises in the past several years, but there’s renewed concern after the area was hammered by above-average rain in July. According to Environment Canada, the region received 183.5mm of rain throughout the month, three times higher than the 10-year average. In fact, it’s more than Manitou Beach has received in the past three Julys combined.
According to the Water Security Agency, the lake broke an 85-year-old record for depth in 2007 when it surpassed 495.65m above sea level. The agency’s latest data shows the water has risen a further two metres.
“In wet years like 2016, continued rain exceeds the evaporation and the lake will rise,” said Executive Director of Integrated Water Services Clinton Moldy. “In an average year, the lake will rise with the spring inflow and fall through summer evaporation.”
With no streams or rivers draining the lake, evaporation is the only natural means by which the lake can decrease its water levels. The WSA has worked instead to provide the necessary sandbags and water pumps to protect the community.
Despite concerns, another local business owner wants to get the message out that the village is still open for tourists.
“As far as I’m concerned it’s business as usual,” said Arnie Tiefenbach, the owner of Relics Art and Antiques. “With the reportage that’s going on, some of the hotels have had cancellations. People… get the impression that everything’s shut down.”
Tiefenbach says that while he thinks the government has done a good job of keeping the lake at bay from the community, they need to do a better job of getting the message out about what’s really happening in Manitou Beach.
At the same time, he says something needs to be done about the lake.
“There’s a crisis looming if the government doesn’t take action,” he said. “If we get six inches in two hours, it’s lights out.”