WINNIPEG - The provincial government closed Highway 75 at 2 p.m. today due to rising flood waters.
The move comes about a week after the province originally estimated the flood-plagued highway might become impassable.
Already on Sunday, one northbound lane of the busy trade highway was closed near St. Jean Baptiste due to water on the shoulder.
During the 2009 flood, Highway 75 was closed for 35 days, which was about average for a flood year. That closure added $1.5 million a week to the cost of trucking goods back and forth between Canada and the United States, the Manitoba Trucking Association estimated at the time.
Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation also advises the following travel restrictions on Highway 75:
- Winnipeg city limits to Provincial Road 205 – closed, local traffic only;
- PR 205 to Morris – closed; and
- Morris to Highway 14 – closed, local traffic only.
All routes will be marked.
Assiniboine also raising concerns
At their daily briefing Sunday, provincial flood experts said ice jams along the Assiniboine between Portage la Prairie and Winnipeg are another cause for worry.
"We're starting to see significant impacts on the Assiniboine," said Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton, who is also in charge of emergency measures.
The Portage Diversion is maxed out, taking as much water as it can out of the Assiniboine and funnelling it into Lake Manitoba.
Several large ice jams along the Assiniboine between Poplar Point and the Baie St. Paul bridge near St. Eustache have forced water over new, higher dikes in some places. But crews are following the flow of the ice jam -- which moves about as fast as a person can walk -- and shoring up the dike as they go by adding extra soil on top. So far, no properties have been affected by water overtopping the dike.
The province has an Amphibex ice-cutting machine at the ready in Portage la Prairie but is trying to determine whether it can access the ice jams.
Another concern: Water is seeping under the sand seam of the dike on the north side of the river. Crews are checking whether the leaks are serious enough to warrant the construction of a backup dike.
Once the ice jams break up, Winnipeg could see a short spike in water levels along the Assiniboine. Levels could rise one to 1.5 feet.
The province will update the flood forecast on the Red today to account for the snow that fell over the weekend.
The crests of the two rivers, the Red and the Assiniboine, are still due in Winnipeg at about the same time, between April 27 and May 3.
"This is not even the end of the beginning," said Ashton.
This year's flood covers the largest area in Manitoba's history.