WANASING BEACH, MAN. -- On a sunny Sunday afternoon, the water licked the top of the shore but, calmed by the sun, sat in its banks.
But residents in Wanasing Beach know it won't stay that way forever.
Over the weekend, about a dozen intrepid volunteers in the cosy community in the RM of Victoria Beach took to the banks, toting sandbags and yards of thick geotechnical fabric.
Their goal: to shape the sandbags into a protective fortress around the vulnerable sand dike that protects about 55 lakefront cottages -- and more hidden in the green woods behind them -- from the swollen lake's incursions. "All it takes is a wind out of the northeast to push the waves into the dike," said Bryan Peters, who has taken the helm of the volunteer effort. "And the dike won't withstand much more."
That is despite the dike being brand new. Last October, Wanasing Beach was hammered by the weather bomb that ravaged the shores of Lake Winnipeg. The province responded by building a sand dike that stretches the length of the beach -- or what used to be the beach in summers when the lake hadn't risen so high.
But now, many residents' property lines are underwater and dozens of metres of beach are long since submerged. So when a storm struck two weeks ago, the waves devoured chunks of the sandy dike. It now wends moth-bitten along the water's edge, eroded where the waves crashed into its walls. "It's good for holding back water. It's not good for holding back waves," Peters said.
And cottagers fear that if the wind picks up, then worse damage could be on the way. "If we don't have help, we could end up like Delta Beach," said one cottager, who frets about the future of the home her family has held there for over 50 years.
For Peters, the president of the Wanasing Beach Cottagers Association, the flood fight of 2011 has marked a turning point for the community. Many residents in Wanasing Beach are seniors, he said, and the close-knit crowd used to devote most of its organizational energy to planning games for kids at summer picnics.
Now, these same cottagers are learning to fight a flood. It hasn't always been easy, Peters said, but by Sunday afternoon the group had hit its stride. The sandbag wall against the dike sat 15 rows deep while about a dozen neighbours rolled up their sleeves to press the bags into place. That wall will help stop angry waves from eating the dike away when the next storm comes, they hope.
Wanasing Beach cottagers plan to continue the sandbagging effort next week. Volunteers are welcome, Peters said, as the scope of the work may yet prove a challenge -- but volunteers will do whatever it takes to save their homes, they said.