Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Warning on high flows east of Portage

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The Assiniboine River has crested at Brandon at levels lower than the 2011 flood, the province announced Sunday.

East of Brandon, communities are bracing for the floodwater surge to arrive, Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said Sunday.

Flood Fight

Water levels around one foot higher than 2011 are expected on the Assiniboine River downstream of Portage la Prairie. Landowners on the lower Assiniboine River are advised to immediately make necessary preparations for these high flows, the province said as it tries to prepare for the worst.

"We, as Manitobans, are working 24/7 to deal with whatever is coming," Ashton said during a teleconference.

Provincial and municipal workers as well as volunteers dealing with the state of emergency are getting help from Alberta flood officials on the ground here as well as 400 Canadian Forces troops helping out along the Assiniboine River dikes close to the Hoop and Holler bend, Ashton said.

The province said it hasn't decided yet if it will dig a trench though Highway 331 to conduct a controlled breach of the Assiniboine River. Ashton said Sunday they won't unless there's inclement weather or problems on the Portage Diversion. Crews have removed the pavement from the provincial road and are ready to make the cut if the province needs to, he said. That beats the "worst case scenario" of having uncontrolled flooding, Ashton said.

Soldiers from CFB Shilo, municipal workers and volunteers started making up to one million sandbags to save about 200 homes along the Assiniboine River and 150 properties south of the Hoop and Holler bend, a twist in Highway 331 southeast of Portage la Prairie.

The same spot was intentionally breached during the height of the massive 2011 flood to contain the swollen river.

If the province breaches the dike again, water will flow into lush farm fields planted weeks ago, before there was any hint of what was coming.

Right now, 771 Manitobans are evacuated from their homes because of flooding, said Ashton.

"It's very stressful time for a lot of people preparing for the surge of water," he said Sunday.

The province is also working on the east dike of the Portage Diversion channel before its expected peak at noon on Tuesday. Ashton said it may be necessary to make an intentional cut in the west dike of the channel.

"The short-term surge of water will have some significant impact on the Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin watershed," Ashton said.


-- Carol Sanders

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 7, 2014 A5

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