N.W.T. gov't warns Nahanni Butte residents to stay aware amid 'very high' water levels

Residents are preparing for a possible evacuation, says Steve Vital, who lives in the community.

Flooding hasn't occurred and the territory isn't yet issuing an evacuation notice or alert

Water levels captured around 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Liard River crossing. (Priscilla Betsaka/Facebook)

Water levels near Nahanni Butte, N.W.T., are "very high" says the territorial government, but it's not yet issuing an evacuation notice or alert.

Even so, residents are preparing for a possible evacuation, says Steve Vital, who lives in the community.

"It seems everybody is getting ready to evacuate here, once the water rises two more feet."

Spring melt combined with heavy rain over the weekend has driven up water levels near Nahanni Butte, which sits on the banks of the Nahanni River. The community is accessible only by boat or plane in the summer. 

As of Wednesday evening, no flooding had occurred, said Jay Boast, a spokesperson for the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA), but he warned residents to be aware of the risk and to prepare their property in case water levels rise further.

"It is our understanding that currently water levels have stabilized and dropped a little but it is still considered high," said Boast in an emailed statement. He said the community started a flood watch Tuesday afternoon. 

The spring has just begun and the mountains are still full of snow.- Steve Vital, Nahanni Butte resident

Vital said a mix of weather conditions and poor timing is causing water levels to rise.

"The spring has just begun and the mountains are still full of snow, and all this rain that we're having just happened to come at the wrong time for the spring rise," he said. "And now we're getting all this rain so it's just contributing to the spring melt."

Boast said if necessary, residents would be evacuated by air to Fort Simpson. He said there is enough personal protective equipment in the region to conduct an evacuation in accordance with public health measures. 

"The MACA regional superintendent has been in contact with Nahanni Butte leadership to maintain awareness and assist with flood preparedness activities if needed," he said.

The river bank near the band office, captured on Tuesday. (Priscilla Betsaka/Facebook)

Liard River also high

Meanwhile, the MV Lafferty Ferry, which crosses the Liard River near Fort Simpson, was suspended Wednesday due to high water levels and debris in the water.

Boast noted that water levels on the Liard River are usually high in mid- to late-June because of rain and snowmelt in B.C.

Hillary Deneron, mayor of Fort Liard wrote on Facebook that the water in both the Liard and Petitot Rivers are "extremely high," though not yet a threat to Fort Liard. 

With files from Lawrence Nayally


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