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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Higher than normal water levels forecast for central Saskatchewan this spring

REGINA - Saskatchewan's Water Security Agency says the Saskatoon, North Battleford and Prince Albert regions could be facing some significant problems with the spring runoff.

The threat of higher than normal water levels is forecasted for a band stretching across the middle of the province to the Alberta and Manitoba boundaries. The agency says the water level could be well above normal in and around Prince Albert.

"That's an area of concern," Environment Ken Cheveldayoff said Thursday. "It's received well above normal precipitation and runoff.

"There's many closed basins, so there's bodies of water that are very high and really have no where to go. So anything above normal in that area will be a concern this year."

Cheveldayoff said there's potential for flooding.

Flood mitigation projects, such as berms and culverts, completed over the last several years have helped to ease flood risks in communities across the Saskatchewan, he said.

The other good news is that there hasn't been as much winter precipitation as last year, when a record snowfall had the agency warning of above normal or well above normal spring runoff in almost all of the southern half of the province.

However, the agency also cautions that the February runoff forecast is based on limited precipitation data and should be used as a general guide for large areas.

It said above normal precipitation before the spring runoff and a fast melt could significantly change the forecast.

"Things could change very quickly," Cheveldayoff said. "That's a lesson we learned last year for sure and we know that can happen. So that's why we'll continue to monitor it and we'll have a major update ... early in March, when we'll know much more.

"It's just nice to see that we don't have the same level of concern as we did last year at this time."

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