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Low water levels causing havoc for residents
Docks high and dry as fourth year of drought continues

Evan Kiyoshi French
Northern News Services
Friday, August 7, 2015

Camilla MacEachern said she and her family members have never seen the water so low on Prosperous Lake, where her family has had a cabin for the past 35 years.

NNSL photo/graphic

Cameron Falls was but a trickle on the July 17 weekend, when Cory Vanthuyne visited and took this photo. - photo courtesy of Cory Vanthuyne

NNSL photo/graphic

Cameron Falls, about 45 kilometres east of Yellowknife was flowing fairly heavily in the summer of 2011. photo courtesy of the Government of the Northwest Territories

"Water levels are shockingly low, that's for sure. We've never seen it this bad," she said. "Not even close."

She said her father has had to work hard to keep up with the receding water.

"My dad had to completely re-position our dock," she said. "And he had to move the water pump in order to reach the water."

They've moved their dock 10 feet or so during dry periods in the past, but this year the dock had to be pulled 40 feet out into the lake, and yet it's still only touching water on one side, said MacEachern.

"There's a lot of rocks that have appeared," she said. "You definitely have to watch out when you're boating around."

Area water levels are causing alarm among residents who are having difficulty accessing the water.

Johanna Tiemessen - who has lived on the eastern shore of Prelude Lake for 12 years - said the water in the bay she lives by has dropped almost two-and-a-half feet over the past few years.

She said her dock is sitting on the bottom of the lake now, so her family hasn't been making trips in their boat as they have in previous years.

"Ten years ago it was about mid-chest high (in her bay), now it's mid-thigh," she said.

"We need to put some thought into rebuilding the dock. Hopefully next year there will be a higher water level and our dock will rise back up," she said.

"Losing two-and-a-half feet of the lake along the shoreline ... will cause havoc."

Judy McLinton, spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the water levels in Great Slave Lake and the surrounding area are influenced mainly by snowfall and rain in the Peace River basin in northern B.C. and Alberta, which flows into the Slave River. Last year, she said, Great Slave Lake was about 10 cm below average.

"We are in the fourth year of a drought," she said. "We had just under 20 cm of rain, which is 10 cm lower than last year."

Long-time resident John Stephenson - who lives by the water on Latham Island - said although there has been rain this year it hasn't been enough to bring the area out of the long-term drought.

"It may seem like we got a little bit more rain this year but really the rain we get is a pittance," he said.

"It hits the pavement and in an hour it's dry again. It's been a long time since I've seen days and days of rain in this region," he said.

He said he's noticed how low the water has dropped in the area.

"Out on Prosperous (Lake), out on Cassidy Point, it's like a mudflat out there," he said. "It must be 150 feet of mud."

Stephenson said boaters need to take care when navigating water bodies they think they know well.

"There are new rocks under the water you might have boated over before. People who have cottages at Walsh Lake or Banting Lake, they're having increasing trouble to get from one body to the other."

Stephenson said he feels the drop is part of a normal cycle and that the lakes should rebound.

"It's a really interesting change," he said. "I assume it's a cycle and we'll come back up some day."

Coun. Cory Vanthuyne said he visited Cameron Falls during the July 17 weekend, and found the once raging torrent has diminished to a trickle.

"I had gone out there last fall and it was noticeably lesser water than it had been in years past," he said. "When I got out there (this year) I was astounded. It was literally down to a trickle. You can walk right across them. These things kind of come and go, but it will be interesting to see if this is a trend."

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