Saddle Lake struggles under state of emergency

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017 8:04pm


All Saddle Lake services are on hold, but people can pick up bottles of water at the fire hall.


By Windspeaker Staff

With files from Jeremy Harpe, CFWE FM


Leslie Floyd Steinhauer, a band councillor with Saddle Lake Cree Nation, said people haven’t seen such conditions since back in the wagon days.

The nation’s chief called a state of emergency on Sunday April 16, because of melting frost and a heavy snowfall that is washing out roads and leaving mud up to the axles of 4X4s. Buses can’t move and emergency vehicles need the assistance of graders and backhoes to respond to people in need.

Last Thursday and Friday saw a big snowfall, just in time for the frost to come out of the land. Three ambulances had to be pulled from the mud. Police services too have had problems with vehicles in stuck in the mud. Water deliver to the community is being hampered, and it will be an estimated week before water trucks can service the 170 homes that are on cisterns in the community, said Steinhauer.

The community encompasses about 20 miles by 20 miles of land with people spread out throughout the whole community with about 140 km of road.

The community has called on the federal government for help, as well as disaster services. Government officials have been in the community, traveling the roads, but so far, no response as too the assistance they could offer.

Steinhauer has been working on the infrastructure of the reserve since elected, and has notified government each year as to the need for upgrades. Through studies, it is estimated costs of upgrading roads is about $15 million and driveways another $35 million, just to put gravel down.

INAC has received that information, but infrastructure upgrades have not been done, and now the community is in an emergency situation, said Steinhauer. “They are aware of this situation.”

The community’s roads and nearby county roads are in very different conditions, he said. A water line is going through the county, and Steinhauer is wandering what about Saddle Lake?

“We try and accommodate every year, but it’s just falling behind and falling behind…. We are talking every evening and planning every day. What are we going to do about these (roads)?

The nation is monitoring their state of emergency over seven days and trying to return to a state of normalcy.

All Saddle Lake services are on hold, but people can pick up bottles of water at the fire hall. In the long-term, within two weeks, the hope is to have homes serviced, but it will depend on the weather, which has hit the northern Alberta communities pretty hard, said Steinhauer.