Opaskwayak Cree Nation – Efforts to safeguard Bracken Dam located on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) are well underway in what has been deemed to be ‘a most uncertain event’ given the ice cover remaining on both the Carrot and Saskatchewan Rivers. Crews have worked tirelessly to secure the area using sandbags and aqua tubes. Says Onekanew Christian Sinclair “all but short notice, weather, degraded road conditions and ice have hampered efforts, but not the spirits of our OCN emergency personnel.”
Opaskwayak Cree Nation is situated along the Carrot and Saskatchewan Rivers and has seen its share of flooding and flood advisories over the years. “We have never seen a situation where ice has prevented flows causing a back water effect into the Bracken Dam area states Onekanew Sinclair.” Our challenge does not consist only of the conditions of the rivers, but delay in coordinating monitoring of risk with the Province of Manitoba. ‘We went from moderate risk to flood advisory in less than a 24 hour period’, states Joan Niquanicappo, General Manager of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation.
A flood watch remains in effect with concern about changes in temperature which may influence a quick thaw raising the risk for over bank flooding in affected areas. Monitoring levels are routinely provided without any projection on the river or when it will crest. This coupled with a 25% increase in projected flows gives rise to the uncertainty faced in this community. “The Province cannot model how the ice cover will respond to flows and changing weather”, says Onekanew Sinclair as we have never before experienced such conditions.
The elements have not been our only obstacle. Challenges with jurisdiction on the main access road has been a point of considerable debate. Representatives of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation have been asked to justify the cost to remediate the road for the purpose of ensuring safe passage for emergency personnel and vehicles. The threat of flooding and ice jams gave rise to the need to ensure safety of the public and those coordinating efforts. In the case of Opaskwayak a $15,000.00 investment was amendable in safeguarding an estimated $1,000,000.00 in personal property. As Onekanew of Opaskwayak ‘I believe the value and safety of our resident’s takes precedence at all costs….we can hammer out the actual cost when the threat has diminished’.
As we move forward Onekanew and Onuschekewak of Opaskwayak Cree Nation wish to commend the commitment and dedication of all those working tirelessly alongside us: the Red Cross; Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada; the Province of Manitoba; our sandbaggers and on the ground personnel. All efforts have not gone unnoticed or unrecognized.