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Cottagers contend with massive floe

Need snowshoes on Lake Manitoba

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John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press

Rod Bollman, harbour master with the Victoria Beach Harbour Authority looks over the ice covered Lake Winnipeg.

Ice is coming in faster than spring at Pioneer Beach on Lake Manitoba near St. Laurent.

Drawn away from Mother's Day celebrations last Sunday, a number of cottage owners along the beach watched giant walls of ice crawl toward their properties, emitting loud cracks and groans.

"What happened here was a little closer to shore than what normally I've seen. Last year we had a similar event but it was a little farther out," said Fred Hartmann, a lakefront cottage owner at Pioneer Beach since 2001.

"I was working on my building, my wife and my neighbour were out front raking up and we saw this big mountain of ice start to develop closer to the shoreline.

"It started stacking up, stacking up, stacking up, and it lasted for about 10 minutes. Everything was moving and then it stopped. Now when you look up and down the lakeshore, you see big piles of ice."

Hartmann said the ice chunks closest to the beach didn't seem to be moving Tuesday but had crept to within 100 metres of cottages. But he said there is a public preserve between the cottages and the water so the cottages should remain safe.

"It would have to come a long, long way to actually impact on our buildings," he said, noting it was a strong west wind on Sunday that caused the problem but the wind had changed to northwest.

"What's different this year than last year is that you can see (the ice) all the way up and down the shoreline. Last year, it was here and there where mountains of ice were piling up."

Hartmann said he's "a worry wart" because he knows there's still plenty of ice on the lake, which is 290 kilometres long and 40 kilometres wide.

"You consider the volume, I can't imagine all that ice coming our way but I don't know what Mother Nature does.

"I've done some shoreline restoration, some rocks to prevent any wave action from happening so if the ice comes in toward all the rocks it might disturb all of that but it's still got a long way to go to get to the buildings."

There's still plenty of ice on Lake Winnipeg as well. With the May long weekend approaching, there won't be any boat rides, said Rod Bollman, the harbourmaster at the Victoria Beach Harbour Authority.

"It's just starting to break along the edges. The ice is going to be here until June, I think," Bollman said. "Often, commercial fisherman are on the lake now, but not this year. It's going to put us back at least two weeks for their season in particular.

"The cottagers, some of them put their boats in on the May long weekend but for the most part, they don't put them in until June anyway. They're getting their cottages ready and everything else on the May long weekend and not worrying about their boats right way."

At Victoria Beach, Kathy and Dave McKibbin were at their cottage last weekend for Mother's Day and said all is well.

"Normally we would have been going back and forth prior to now but this year we didn't go until Mother's Day, which was a lovely day, and we will be opening on the long weekend," Kathy said, noting they've had the cottage for 45 years. "Usually we open on May long weekend anyway because our water goes on then. We're on a municipal system so unless you want to haul water prior, which we have done in the past, but my husband prefers to do labour when there's water on."

The RM of Victoria Beach said water service might not be on this weekend due to the cold spring.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 14, 2014 A3

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