Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Crest to hit Portage this evening

Water levels could threaten dikes along Assiniboine River

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With dikes along the Assiniboine River holding and only sunny skies in the forecast for most of the next week, the chance of the province making a deliberate breach at the Hoop and Holler Bend decreases by the hour.

Provincial officials said today it’s now unlikely a controlled release will take place at Hoop and Holler Bend unless Assiniboine River dikes become stressed.

The province deliberately flooded farmland at Hoop and Holler during the height of the 2011 flood, but that decision was made when rain was in the forecast and out of concern for the stability of the dike system. The amount of water released through the Hoop and Holler breach in 2011 was approximately 400 cubic feet per second from May 14 to 20, 2011.

Doug McNeil, deputy minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, said at a flood briefing today all dikes along the river are holding with only minor seepage.

Right now the river is handling the peak amount of 18,000 cubic feet per second of water, with the crest of the floodwaters now expected to hit the Portage Reservoir today between 6 p.m. and midnight. The projected inflow to the reservoir is now 51,600 cfs. What doesn’t go down the Assiniboine River towards Winnipeg will be directed up the Portage Diversion into Lake Manitoba.

Once the crest passes through the reservoir, levels are forecast to drop relatively quickly.

Levels are forecast to rise again next week as a second crest builds on the upper Assiniboine and Qu'Appelle Rivers. Water levels between the Shellmouth Reservoir on the upper Assiniboine and St. Lazare to the south will be higher than 2011 flood levels, the province says.

The province is to release a revised forecast on what the second crest means for southern Manitoba later today.

The province says floodwaters are the product of a month of rain that has seen a large portion of western Manitoba and Saskatchewan inundated with more than 200 per cent of normal rainfall. (See map here.)

The province has already said it is studying how to improve western Manitoba's flood defences, originally built in the 1960s and 1970s, to accommodate more water. Recommendations for the improvements came out of an April 2013 independent report that reviewed the province’s response to the 2011 report.

The province has a preliminary plan and was supposed to open the plan to public consultation this spring, but that was delayed because of the flood threat.

Public meetings will now be held this fall.

Tim Smith/Brandon Sun

Flood water covers the Assiniboine River Valley in Brandon on Saturday morning, hours ahead of the expected first crest.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 9, 2014 A3


Updated on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 1:50 PM CDT: Updates with full write-thru; changes headline.

2:52 PM: Updates with full write-thru.

5:41 PM: Adds Red Cross information.

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