Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Near-record peak in Brandon

But city not at risk from Assiniboine, officials say

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The Assiniboine River at Brandon is at its second-highest level in recorded history -- surpassed only by the peak in 1923.

But Manitoba's second-biggest city is not likely at risk, provincial flood officials said Monday.

The city is protected with dikes that stand three feet above the expected crest, which is predicted to arrive May 11-13. Water levels rose a little over four inches there Monday.

The province has been tracking river levels in Brandon since 1906.

Flood officials said Monday that except for some minor erosion, dikes protecting many Manitoba communities held over the past 72 hours -- a period characterized by high winds and considerable precipitation in some areas.

"Overland flooding is expected in areas that had significant precipitation," said the province's senior flood-fighter, Steve Topping.

"Red River water levels south of Winnipeg are the sixth-highest in recorded history," he told a news conference. However, in answer to a reporter's question, he added that levels remain below 2009.

On Monday, the Red River was cresting in St. Adolphe and just south of the Red River Floodway inlet. Sustained high flows are expected for a prolonged period along all reaches of the river -- just like the Assiniboine.

Meanwhile, some farmers in the Interlake area say flooding has cut off road access to grazing cattle and bison.

Pete Doerksen, an Inwood bison rancher, may have to airlift feed to 500 stranded animals as early as Wednesday, the Manitoba legislature was told Monday.

"He just doesn't know what to do anymore," said the rancher's MLA, Ralph Eichler (PC -- Lakeside).

Highway 229 is under water, preventing the rancher from hauling feed to the bison, Eichler said. He blamed the province for not doing enough to help farmers in the area. He said the road should have been raised.

Eichler said the farmer is looking at hiring a helicopter to transport feed. He said the animals are on high ground and not threatened by the flood water.

"The animals are safe but they're going to run out of feed," Eichler said.

Farmers have few road options in the area. Another east-west road (415) was closed last June.

Agriculture Minister Stan Struthers told the legislature officials from his department are working with the bison rancher and other area farmers who need help.

Peter Doerksen, an Inwood-area bison rancher, says a potential problem is that a helicopter may not be able to lift a round bale.

"It's far from OK. If they took this serious, they'd be out here," he said, referring to the government.


Flood update

MTS restored telephone service to six southern Manitoba communities Monday morning after flooding severed a fibre-optic cable along the banks of the Pembina River. The cable break meant Swan Lake, Crystal City, Somerset, Pilot Mound, Mariapolis and Snowflake were temporarily without 911 service.

Fourteen people were evacuated Sunday from their homes outside the ring dike at St. Lazare due to loss of road access.

Ninety-one provincial roads are affected by flooding, with 62 closed. Some 650 municipal roads are closed.

There are 19 rural municipalities with states of emergency still in place, down from a high of 33 on April 22.

The Red River is predicted to crest at James Avenue Wednesday or Thursday at between 19.5 and 20 feet -- lower than the peak 2009 level.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 3, 2011 A14

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