Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Flood threat easing for much of province

'Perfect spring' creates more optimistic outlook

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Thanks to benevolent Mother Nature, the flood forecast is much more optimistic than it was three weeks ago.

The province had been expecting a flood worse than Manitoba experienced in 2009, perhaps one of the worst in the last 50 years after 1997 and 2011.

Farmers holding rally today

TWO Lake Manitoba farmers who were at the centre of a protest at the Portage Diversion last week said in a statement Monday night

they're relieved the province has dropped the case against them.

Joe Johnson and Kevin Yuill had expected their day in court today to oppose an extension of a court injunction that ordered them not to interfere with the operation of the Portage Diversion. Now they say they will lead a rally at the legislative building today at 10 a.m. instead.

"We are relieved we don't have any charges against us," Yuill said in the statement released by the Lake Manitoba Flood Rehabilitation Committee. "We made the government back off and more people in the province are now aware of our situation."

The two were among a group of farmers who blockaded the diversion over compensation they claim they are still owed for the 2011 flood.

"We want to keep the pressure on because nothing has changed. We want compensation, the channel at the north end and the diversion fixed up," Yuill said.

The Selinger government called the 12-hour protest at the Portage Diversion "unacceptable" and "irresponsible," claiming if it had lasted any longer, communities to the east might have been flooded.

Flood Fight

Not anymore. Beginning late last week and reaffirmed Monday, the flood threat on the Red River has been scaled back significantly. Elsewhere in the province, while there is still minor flooding in some parts, it's nothing compared to what was originally feared.

Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton, the lead minister on the flood fight, said that's mostly because of the slow arrival of spring. The prolonged cooler temperatures the province experienced until late last week allowed for the slow, gradual melt of much of the thick snow cover that blanketed the Prairies and North Dakota.

"Flood-wise, we had the perfect spring," Ashton said. "The scenarios we were looking at before, most of them no longer apply."

What's on the radar now for flood fighters is the breakup of ice on the province's lakes and the possibility of ice floes, pushed by winds, piling up on the shore. In past years, ice has crashed into lakefront cottages.

Doug McNeil, deputy minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, said while water levels remain high in some regions, flood risks are generally easing in many areas of the province.

"Things are looking good on most fronts. We're just watching very carefully what's going on in western Manitoba," McNeil said.

The Red River is at or near crest through most of the province and flowing north of Selkirk without any concerns of ice jams. A second, lower peak is expected next week.

McNeil also said the Fisher River to the west is receding, reducing the flood threat for Peguis First Nation. While the Red River has yet to peak in Winnipeg and the Assiniboine River has yet to peak in Brandon, both levels will be far less than predicted only three weeks ago.

The province had said the flood threat was severe enough that approximately 1,300 residents of 250 homes in the Red River Valley faced precautionary evacuations and there was potential for Highway 75 at Morris to be closed for more than a month. The Emerson border crossing was also preparing to close.

Now, the border will stay open, Highway 75 will stay open and the 18 ring-diked communities south of Winnipeg are unlikely to close.

Inside Winnipeg, where river levels are moderated by the Red River Floodway, the Red River has fluctuated over the past seven days between 18.8 and 16.9 feet above normal winter ice levels at the James Avenue monitoring station.

Flows south of the floodway channel are expected to peak around the Victoria Day long weekend. The Red River is expected to crest at the Canada-U.S. border on May 11, according to the U.S. National Weather Service.


-- with files from Bartley Kives

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 7, 2013 A6

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