WATCH ABOVE: A First Nation two hours northeast of Edmonton has declared a local state of emergency due to terrible road conditions. Julia Wong has the details.
Road conditions in an Alberta First Nation reserve two hours northeast of Edmonton have prompted a state of emergency.
Saddle Lake Cree Nation made the announcement Sunday and it is expected to be in effect until later this week. The declaration means there is limited emergency services, home care and nursing as well as bussing.
One impact many residents are feeling very pronouncedly is the limited delivery of water as a result of muddy, slushy conditions.
Kris Moosewah, who has lived in Saddle Lake his whole life, looks after six children in his house. Houses on the reserve are spread out and the majority of people rely on water delivery to their cisterns since they are not connected to the main water system.
“I think the water situation is pretty bad,” he said.
“It affects us because of the kids. We have to limit our water for them to take baths, do our laundry, dishes.”
Moosewah received three jugs of water the day he spoke with Global News, but he admits it likely won’t last long.
Band Councillor Leslie Floyd Steinhauer said there are 110 homes that are on the water system while another 472 are on cisterns.
The community has managed to deliver water in the past, but recent months this past month have “immobilized” its water trucks.
“The conditions of the weather, the snow type — [it’s] a lot heavier, [wetter]. It just caused havoc on our roads and the driveways. We had probably 10 inches of snowfall in a matter of 12 hours. Our vehicles, our trucks couldn’t pass through the driveways, through the roads,” he said.
“It was like a perfect mix to make the roads like sponges.”
The state of emergency has, in some ways, crippled the community and brought it to a standstill.
Steinhauer said the weather is the worst he has seen in 50 years.
“Water is an essential part of life. We need that water. If we don’t have water, it hurts our nation,” Steinhauer said.
Fire Chief Robert Cardinal said it feels as though Mother Nature is working against him; his crews have been tasked with not only helping emergency services but also delivering water to those in need, such as the elderly and those with medical issues.
“The ones that are impossible to get to – we’re looking at maybe side-by-sides with the water bottle to run it to the house because you can’t even get a unit down the road,” he said.
Cardinal said the list of those needing water continues to grow. Those who are able can pick them up at the fire hall but there are many who require assistance with delivery.
“We’re hauling at night. We have a crew going around the clock,” he said.
“I don’t see no end. I’d say another week before we even get caught up. If they ration, it’s only going to be a temporary fix. To get caught up, we’ll probably have to go 24/7 just to get caught up.”
Steinhauer is calling on the federal government to assist. He estimates it would take approximately $124 million to upgrade roads and connect all houses on the reserve to the water system.
Global News has reached out to Indigenous Affairs for a comment but did not receive a response by the time of this publication.
More details to come.