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Diversion protest 'irresponsible,' puts Manitobans at risk: province

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A protest that delayed the opening of the Portage Diversion by 12 hours on Monday could have had dire consequences for four municipalities downstream, provincial officials said Tuesday.

While the government sought a court injunction to remove protesters -- which for a time included an opposition MLA -- greater water flows than expected were heading east along the Assiniboine River, officials said this afternoon.

The government sought to open the diversion to prevent flooding due to ice jams at 11 a.m. The gates did not open until 11 that evening.

The protest — and the involvement of Portage la Prairie Conservative MLA Ian Wishart — dominated debate in the legislature this afternoon, with Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton terming it unacceptable and irresponsible.

Ashton repeated those statements in a later news conference, flanked by the deputy ministers of Infrastructure and Transportation and EMO.

"What happened yesterday was irresponsible, was not acceptable. It created a real risk. It put other Manitobans at risk," Ashton told reporters.

The municipalities that could have been impacted by ice-jam induced flooding, had the Portage Diversion not been operated, included the RMs of Portage and Cartier, Headingley and St. Francois Xavier, officials said.

"If the opening of the diversion had been delayed further, residents and properties downstream could have been affected by a surge of water than occurred after an ice dam broke upstream of the diversion," the province said in its flood bulletin.

"After the ice dam broke, inflows to the reservoir during the night reached 13,000 cubic feet per second, with 7,000 cfs directed to the diversion," according to the bulletin. "An instantaneous peak with ice resulted in inflows to the reservoir reaching 17,000 cfs with 10,000 cfs directed to the diversion at 8:20 a,m. (today)."

Meanwhile, ice jams against a bridge along the Whitemud River at the town of Gladstone caused some overland flooding yesterday. Levels on the Whitemud are dropping upstream of Gladstone today.

The Seven Regions Health Centre in Gladstone required some minor sandbagging on a road access point, but the facility is not at risk, the province said. Ten area homes experienced minor flooding. There were no evacuations.

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