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Eco-disaster feared if river changes course


June 15, 2007

Landowners and county officials in an area 175 kilometres southwest of Edmonton fear an ecological disaster if a local river carves a new channel and permanently alters its drainage pattern the next time it floods. Ten days ago, as heavy rains pelted down and river levels rose, the Clearwater River burst out of its channel. The Clearwater River normally drains west and north into the North Saskatchewan River. If it were to carve a new channel east into the North Raven River, its waters would eventually drain into the Red Deer River, part of the South Saskatchewan River system. The Clearwater has already shifted its course and left its old stream bed almost high and dry. The next time the Clearwater River floods it could top the roadway and create a new and permanent channel that allows it to flow east. That would be disastrous for people downstream. The North Raven River wouldn't be capable of handling the increased flows and people who live along its river banks could be flooded out. That's what happened further downstream in 2005 during a period of heavy rain. "It's a natural event, all part of the flood plain phenomenon where rivers move back and forth over the years. We have photos from the 1940s that show how the Clearwater River has moved."

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