The Saskatchewan government is hoping extra measures to protect highways in the province will reduce the risk of damage from flooding.

"Extensive sections of the highway network were under water, or in the case of Highway 1 near the Alberta border, wiped out entirely by flooding last year," Jim Reiter, the minister of highways and infrastructure noted Thursday. "The ministry is making every effort to be as prepared as possible in the event that we see more flooding this year."

According to the province, extra equipment will be used to ensure frozen water in culverts can be thawed. The government has also placed orders for extra pumping equipment.

As well, bridge replacement components have been stockpiled to ensure quick restoration of bridge structures.

The province said it will also make sure staff can be deployed quickly when trouble spots arise.

The province also announced Thursday that nine communities in the Humboldt area of the province would share about $300,000 to be spent on a variety of flood protection measures.

A map, released Thursday, shows large sections of the province can expect higher than normal spring runoff.

Melting has begun

The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority reported Thursday that spring runoff had begun in the southwest corner of the province.

"Where runoff is under way ... moderate daytime highs with overnight freezing have so far resulted in a gradual melt," the authority said in a news release.

In areas where the runoff had not yet started, concern was expressed that when it does begin it may not be a gradual melt.

On the bright side, however, the weather forecast was not calling for rain.

The area expected to experience a very high runoff includes all of the Assiniboine River basin and parts of the Qu’Appelle and Souris River basins, the authority said.