Northern Alberta community caked with mud as flood waters recede

A nightmare cleanup is underway in Marten Beach after heavy rainfall caused flooding, submerging much of the hamlet near Lesser Slave Lake last weekend.

'You don’t know if you should be saving your house again or running away in fear'

The hamlet of Marten Beach flooded on July 25, the water leaving a muddy mess in its wake. (Caroline Wagenaar)

A nightmare cleanup is underway in Marten Beach after heavy rainfall caused flooding last week, submerging much of the hamlet on the northeast shore of Lesser Slave Lake.

Crews have spent the past few days pumping water out of the community, leaving behind thousands of tonnes of silt, said Lesser Slave River Reeve Murray Kerik.

"The horror story there is you drive around and see the mud oozing out of yards and people are pushing it to the property lines," Kerik said. "We're gearing up to haul it all away, but it's a terrible, terrible job."

    Skid steers are being used to move some of the mud, but otherwise, Kerik said the weeks-long cleanup has to be done by hand.

    Sewage-contaminated water and silt seeped into some homes, while mud cakes the exterior of others, calling for a serious scrub down, he said. 

    Floodwaters burst through stretches of Highway 88, cutting off vehicle access to the community. (Caroline Wagenaar)

    The damage extends to the local highway, with washouts in three places. Single-lane bridges are being used as a temporary fix for the washouts on Highway 88, which reopened Friday, Kerik said.

    The community has been flooded with river water twice in 13 months.

    "Residents are in really bad shape," Kerik said. "You don't know if you should be saving your house again or running away in fear."

    Those who choose to save their homes might have to spend a lot of money to do so. Many residents used their overland flooding insurance last year, and won't be able to cover the damages from last weekend's flood as a result, Kerik said.

    Disaster recovery programs help the municipality cover its share of the cleanup cost, but he said the municipal district still hasn't gotten paid out for last year's flooding.

    The cleanup is expected to take weeks. (Caroline Wagenaar)

    Alberta Emergency Management is on scene, but Kerik said the province needs to start being proactive instead of reactive.

    The district needs money to study environmental factors that may have led to worse flooding in recent years, and to put mitigation strategies in place, he said.

    "Not just municipal, but provincial taxpayers, we can't keep paying these kind of bills," he said. "We have to come up with a solution."

    The hamlet was evacuated on July 25. The order was lifted on Thursday. (Caroline Wagenaar)

    With files from Josee St-Onge and Jordan Omstead


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