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Hefty price tag for flood protection

More than $1B for task force's recommendations

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The Selinger government says it could cost well over $1 billion to implement the large infrastructure projects proposed in two major reviews of the 2011 Manitoba flood.

On Wednesday, the province offered its first detailed comments on the Manitoba 2011 Flood Review Task Force Report (also known as the Farlinger Report) and a companion document on the regulation of Lake St. Martin and Lake Manitoba. The two reports were issued on Friday.

Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton said the government supports a key recommendation in both reports calling for construction of an additional outlet from Lake Manitoba to better control water levels in the province's second-largest lake. It also supports making permanent an emergency outlet built in 2011 to relieve pressure on Lake St. Martin.

These were two of several infrastructure improvements identified in the reports. Others included beefing up dikes along the Assiniboine River east of Portage la Prairie, investigating the feasibility of constructing a reservoir near Holland, putting gates on the Shellmouth Reservoir near the Saskatchewan border to improve water storage and control of that dam, enhancing control structures on the Portage Diversion and building a permanent controlled "wasteway" or outlet channel on the Assiniboine River east of Portage.

"We do recognize that there were very significant impacts (in 2011) on Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin and it will be a priority to deal with that," Ashton told a news conference.

He said the government will take the Farlinger report's recommendations on improved flood forecasting to heart. The report recommended a full-time operations centre for flood forecasters and improvements to data acquisition and management systems as well as an improved flood-prediction model that adequately factors in rainfall during the spring melt.

Ashton said as a result of ongoing internal reviews, the government has already started or completed more than 75 per cent of the recommendations made in the two reports.

Senior officials are also reviewing many of the projects identified in the reports as part of an Assiniboine River-Lake Manitoba Flood Mitigation Study that is ongoing.

The Farlinger report, named after the flood task force's committee chair, civil engineer David Farlinger, and the Lake Manitoba/Lake St. Martin Regulation Review report will become the blueprint for the government's response to the 2011 flood, Ashton said.

When asked, he couldn't name one proposal in either report that he outright rejected.

He noted, however, that in some cases the reports merely call for a feasibility study into certain infrastructure projects.

Included in that category was the idea of building a dam on the Assiniboine River near Holland, upstream of Portage la Prairie. Such a project alone could cost $500 million, officials estimated on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Alf Warkentin, Manitoba's former chief flood forecaster, takes issue with some of the statements and conclusions reached in the Farlinger report.

In an interview this week, he disagreed with an assertion in the report that "most of the largest floods in Manitoba" were the result of rainfall on top of, or shortly after, a snowmelt.

Along the Red River, in only two of seven major floods since 1900 did rainfall contribute more than five per cent of the water involved, he said. Those were the floods of 1950 and 1979.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Winnipeg Free Press photographer Boris Minkevich took to the air to get a look at conditions along the Red River in early April.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 11, 2013 A3

History

Updated on Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 12:13 PM CDT: adds slideshow

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