UPDATE: According to the Ministry of Highways, the Riverhurst Ferry reopened as of 1 p.m. on Thursday.
The Ministry of Highways is hoping to have the Riverhurst Ferry operational by the end of the week if the water levels on Lake Diefenbaker continue to rise.
“Crews have been estimated that Lake Diefenbaker needs to increase about a metre for the ferry to operate,” said Steve Shaheen, Senior Communications Consultant for the Ministry. “The lake has gone up considerably since last week, and we’re hopeful with the increasing water levels that we’ll allow the ferry to reopen by the end of the week.”
The ferry, which is located just northwest of Moose Jaw and connects residents to both the east and west shores of the South Saskatchewan River, hasn’t been operational yet this season.
In early May the Ministry of Highway delayed the ferry’s opening date, due to the water level being too shallow on the Riverhurst side of the crossing.
The Water Security Agency has stated the reason for the low levels on the river, which feeds Lake Diefenbaker, are three-fold: a lack of precipitation in the area, evaporation due to the warm temperatures, and a slow melt in the Rocky Mountains.
With the ferry out of service, people are having to navigate further to get around the river. This includes travelling to Highway 19 past Elbow, and Highways 44 and 45, which has caused some frustrations.
“We understand the importance for local residents, the agriculture community, tourism, and all those folks that rely on ferry service. We’re certainly doing our best to get the ferry operational as quickly as we can,” adds Shaheen.
Shaheen notes that in past years the ferry has been able to run with low water levels, but this year the issue is a lot of sand accumulation on the east side of the river that is not allowing it to dock.
The South Saskatchewan River originates at the confluence of the Bow and Oldman rivers in Alberta, near Taber, and those two rivers are fed by the melt from the snowpack in the Rocky Mountains. As conditions there have been cooler than normal, it means there has been less water coming from the source of the river.
This is the first time the ferry has had a late start to the season since it first opened in 1967.
(With files from Steven Wilson)