What’s next for Marten Beach? Probably not much

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

For what it’s worth, the provincial government seems to be paying some attention to the plight of flood-prone Marten Beach. So is the M.D. of Lesser Slave River, which has been pushing the province to be decisive.

“Make a decision!” says reeve Murray Kerik. “One way or another.”

Kerik says that’s what he urged Premier Jason Kenney and interim Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver to do in a conference call a couple of weeks ago.

“If you are going to help them – what? If not, have the spine to tell them.”

Last week came the follow-up call with McIver.

“He told us that really, they’re not doing anything,” Kerik says. “It’s not looking good.”

The consensus seems to be that doing berm work along the creek is not worth the expense, “because it would only work for a few years anyway.”

The more sensible solution would be to relocate people to higher ground. But no commitment to pay for that has been made. And McIver made it plain that even if it did, it would only apply to permanent residents.

“On secondary residences, no help whatsoever,” Kerik said the minister told him. “That’s just the way it is.”

What might shake loose with regard to permanent residences in the flood zone is far from certain. The only thing that is certain at this point, Kerik says, is that somebody from the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) is going to visit the area and take a look at the situation. That would include studying the recommendations in the three flood studies done on Marten Beach so far. That includes one done in 1989 that the M.D. discovered, dusted off and looked at a couple of weeks ago.

Kerik says the report, done by an outfit named Torchinsky, has pretty much all the same info, plus the same recommendations as any subsequent one. The main difference is that it was a lot cheaper.

“What did we learn?” says Kerik. “The best solution is to move people.”

In other words, open up new land on the high side of the hamlet and relocate people from the lower, flood-prone area. This was the strong recommendation in 1989, but the idea was scuttled for one reason or another.

Bad floods two years running (2018 and 2019) are what forced this issue into the spotlight. Some residents/cottage owners are still struggling to find their feet. Complicating matters is the fact the M.D. has become reluctant to issue permits to do any building/renovating in the flood zone. This has made moving forward difficult for some, and lawyers are being consulted.

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