Staff at Dryden’s Domtar mill say water levels in the area are the highest they’ve been in over 40 years.
“We had a long winter, a lot of snow, a quick melt and large amounts of rain. All of that has caused very high water levels in the region, including levels on Wabigoon Lake,” says Regional Public Affairs Manager with Domtar, Bonny Skene.
Skene explains that Domtar staff operate a dam adjacent to the mill on the Wabigoon River, as water is used in their pulp making process, with an approved water management plan through the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry, with set upper and lower water level limits.
“You can only do so much with a dam. Mother Nature really controls the rest,” Skene adds. “We do our best to manage what we can within those limits. But the water level has come up very quickly.”
Currently, Skene says water levels are roughly 30 centimetres above the upper limit specified in the plan. According to mill records dating back to 1913, it’s been about 40 years since levels were this high on Wabigoon Lake.
“We’re working with a number of stakeholders to do our best to manage the flows coming out of Wabigoon Lake and downstream. We’re all trying to work together to minimize the impact and manage this the best we can.”
Stakeholders involved in the process include the MNDMNRF, the Ministry of Transportation, the City of Dryden, the Municipality of Machin and operators of dams in the area, who are all also working to address roadways, flooding and washouts in their areas.
“It’s impacting our operations just like it’s impacting everyone else, with road and highway access,” Skene adds. “We have products going to customers and fibre coming from suppliers, and those are affected by the detours...But the mill itself continues to run normally.”
Domtar is reminding residents to use extreme caution when driving or walking near fast-moving water, to avoid river banks in the area for the time being, and to keep themselves safe.