Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Province backtracks on gauge claim

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MANITOBA officials are backing away from a claim they made Friday that a faulty federal gauge in the Qu'Appelle River in Saskatchewan had thrown off their flood projections for Brandon.

An official with the Water Survey of Canada office in Regina said Monday the gauge in Welby, Sask., is working properly.

"I don't know where the report came from that it was malfunctioning," Jeff Woodward, an engineer with the office, said in an interview. "I really don't know what to say because the statement that was made is garnering a lot of attention."

On Friday, provincial officials suggested the faulty gauge had caused Manitoba flood forecasters to greatly underestimate river flows into Brandon. The Qu'Appelle is a tributary of the Assiniboine River.

Woodward said his office constantly makes corrections to its water-flow readings. He said the gauge at Welby was off by no more than five to 10 per cent. That would hardly have accounted for the tremendous difference between projected and actual flow rates on the Assiniboine, he said.

On Monday, Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton agreed.

"I want to stress that the gauge on the Qu'Appelle River did result in a minor revision to the forecast on Friday. But it is not the key factor," he told a news conference in Winnipeg.

Ashton also played down the Saskatchewan station reading in answer to questions in the legislature by Conservative MLA Larry Maguire (Arthur-Virden).

Maguire said the province's forecasts seemed to be fairly accurate until an April 30 snowstorm smacked western Manitoba.

The snow melted quickly and the melting snow drained into the river quickly because the ground was already saturated.

Maguire said it is doubtful that a Qu'Appelle River gauge in Saskatchewan played a big role in the vastly rising flows around Brandon.

"Somebody missed something somewhere and you can't blame it on a gauge," he said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

River flow

26,000 cubic feet per second -- Assiniboine River's projected peak flow through Brandon announced on Wednesday by Manitoba Water Stewardship.

27,500 cfs -- the predicted peak for the Assiniboine River in Brandon announced on Thursday.

32,000 cfs -- the projected peak flow at Brandon on Friday. Manitoba flood officials said a faulty gauge on the Qu'Appelle River near Welby, Sask., was not a key factor for the revised forecast.

38,000 cfs -- actual flow rates through Brandon on Sunday afternoon, according Manitoba Water Stewardship.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2011 A4

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