At least 15 cattle and four horses have drowned in the Souris River south of Glen Ewen, Sask. near the U.S.- Canada boundary this winter.
The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority has been releasing water from the Rafferty and the Alameda dams to make room for spring run-off water. The flow of water has eroded the ice from underneath making it dangerous for livestock, and snowmobilers travelling down the river.
“Just before Christmas we lost four horses when they fell through the ice,” said Bill Boyes, who raises livestock and lives close to the Souris River south of Glen Ewen, Sask., which is located about 80 km west of Melita.
The horses had gone down to the river for a drink and the ice collapsed beneath them.
“It is just one of those things that happens,” he said.
Boyes said the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority had called to warn them later about the water releases.
“They phoned and let us know when they opened up the Alameda Dam and then they phoned again when they opened up the Rafferty Dam at Estevan and warned us about the water coming down. They told us how much water they would be letting through everyday,” Boyes said. He is not sure if the neighbours received the same warning as he did.
Another neighbour lost 15 cattle two weeks ago when they fell through the ice on the Souris River. The livestock producer declined to be interviewed, but confirmed the loss of the cattle.
The spokesman from the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority was unavailable for comment.
Water releases from Alameda Reservoir have been ongoing since November 2010, and will continue throughout the winter. Due to these releases and the excessive precipitation of 2010, the flow on the Souris River will be significantly higher than normal.
The public must be aware that thin ice could occur at any point along the river, especially near bridges, culverts, or crossings, a press release issued last week said.
Saskatchewan Watershed Authority is urging caution when crossing ice on any stream this winter due to the risk of thin ice resulting from stream flow. This includes streams which normally do not flow in the winter.