Elkhorn groundwater levels to be examined

RM gears up, tackles heavy agenda

In a Regular Council Meeting (virtual), May 12, the RM of Wallace-Woodworth council considered a large agenda including firefighting and increasing fire ban signage, garbage bins for Lenore and caution signage for Errol Rd.

Weightier matters were also on the table such as a DU structure that may affect Elkhorn’s ground water. Although it is proving to be a dry spring now, less than 10 years ago Elkhorn experienced flooding and wet basements throughout the village.

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Delegation from DU

From Ducks Unlimited, Shaun Greer plus Dave Cobson joined the meeting to discuss the repair of a mini dam, a water control structure on Bosshill Creek about two to three kilometers southeast of the village of Elkhorn.

DU repair of the structure will maintain an important wetland in dry years. However, after repair, DU plan to turn over the maintenance of this weir to the landowner where the marsh sits.

Because the actual water gate structure is on a municipal road allowance right-of-way, in conversation, councillors saw the importance of retaining jurisdiction over it.

Not only that, there is a question of how water levels behind the dam may affect the village of Elkhorn. Cobson, for DU, has done wetland and creek level surveys recently, but council insisted that more groundwater levels within Elkhorn be checked.

From the DU survey, Greer said it doesn’t appear that the current levels of the marsh and creek have any bearing on Elkhorn basement levels. He cited a drop in elevation from Elkhorn to the area in question as some 22 feet.

However, Reeve Clayton Canart pointed out, “We don’t know the soil types or correlation to where the ground water may travel.”

Canart also acknowledged the ecological/human value of the dam. “If there is any correlation to the water level in the town as far as highwater table, it also has the effect of helping the ground water when there’s a low water table.”

He asked, “Would there be any interest or ability to have the control culvert lowered so there was more freedom to lower the level of the watershed there when we know we’re going to have a water event?”

Discussion around the council table in April brought to light the fact that the one-in-200-year flood of 2011 blew out that Bosshill Creek dam. After the water rushed away the badly flooded basements in Elkhorn dried out within days.

In an interview, the CAO for Wallace-Woodworth, Garth Mitchell, explained some history of the project which included discussions with DU several years ago. They were asked then to establish monitoring wells within Elkhorn to determine groundwater levels there.

The monitoring has not been done and it was decided to provide DU the access to several existing small municipal wells within the town, referred to as fire wells. The well testing project is moving forward immediately to provide further information to council, prior to licensing and repair.

The municipality must come to an agreement with Ducks Unlimited about water levels to be maintained and Greer agreed a license should include the landowner and the RM of Wallace-Woodworth.

The matter will come back to the next council meeting in May.

© Virden Empire-Advance