Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Defences beefed up as Red crests

Municipalities steel for peak

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Higher water and moving ice have led municipalities along the lower portion of the Red River to increase preparations for the peak of the spring flood.

The Red is expected to crest upstream of Winnipeg today or Wednesday at a peak flow of 46,000 to 47,000 cubic feet per second. Previously, the province pegged that crest at 40,000 cfs.

Provincial flood officials attributed the higher-than-expected flow to more water emanating from tributaries of the Red. The peak flow is still predicted to be less than half the river's volume during the height of the 2009 spring flood.

Nonetheless, the province may activate the Red River Floodway apparatus to reduce water levels inside Winnipeg. The presence of ice on the Red prevented the closure of the floodway gates earlier this spring.

The province said Monday in a statement it was consulting with city officials about diverting more water into the floodway. Approximately one-tenth of the Red River's flow already was spilling into the floodway channel on Monday without the operation of the gates.

As of 7:42 p.m. Monday, the Red in Winnipeg stood at 19.1 feet above normal winter ice levels at James Avenue, a new peak for the season. River levels in the city have fluctuated for two days because of the formation and breakup of ice jams.

City flood-protection engineers nonetheless did not expect the Red to rise higher than about 19 feet James, city spokeswoman Lisa Fraser said. Low-lying properties in the city have been protected to a level of 20.7 feet.

"There are still only three properties at risk and the city is working closely with the province and monitoring river levels," she said in a statement.

North of Winnipeg, ice on the Red River caused localized flooding near Selkirk, closing a short section of Provincial Road 204 between the city and Provincial Road 212.

Selkirk itself also braced for flooding due to ice jams. Selkirk Park has closed because of the rising water levels, while city crews used earth to fill in low spots in a permanent dike along the river.

"We've got more ice coming in from Winnipeg," said Darrell Kupchik, Selkirk's emergency measures operations co-ordinator. "We're expecting that to raise water levels. It all depends on how high the water gets."

Kupchik said he was talking to the province, but not much could be done until an ice jam near the north end of Selkirk moved downstream.

"There's just no flow in the river to get the ice away," he said.

Kupchik said there are no homes at risk in the city. Areas of Selkirk at risk include the Marine Museum of Manitoba, Selkirk Park and a golf course.

Marine Museum manager Shaylene Nordal said if the museum site doesn't flood, it should open during the May long weekend.

If it floods, it will open later this summer. The non-profit museum houses several historic ships, including the 1897 SS Keenora and the province's oldest steamship.

North of Selkirk in the RM of St. Andrews, tube dikes were being filled Monday around low-lying homes that may be vulnerable to ice-induced flooding.

Across the river in the RM of St. Clements, Mayor Steve Strang said he feels his municipality is in good shape. In recent years, vulnerable St. Clements property owners were bought out to allow the construction of a permanent dike. That dike will be made permanent this summer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 22, 2014 A4


Updated on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 9:12 AM CDT: Corrects spelling of Darrell Kupchik's name

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