Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Low and wet

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Flood waters have cut off Manitoba's major route to the United States again this year, a full two weeks before the Red River crests at Morris, where Highway 75 was closed Monday. The closure costs the trucking industry alone millions of dollars -- the flood is similar to that in 2009 when Highway 75 was closed for 36 days.

Transportation Minister Steve Ashton found some good news in the extra cost and headache to the residents, businesses and commercial interests that rely on the trade route. Mr. Ashton noted it was initially feared the highway would close as early as last week. Improvements over the years have cut the flood's impact.

Flood Fight

Since 1997, when the highway closed for 44 days, the province has mulled over how to deal with the sea that rises in the Red River Valley some springs. Highway 75 was raised as much as a foot in places, but the confluence of the Morris and Red rivers at Morris remains vexatious. The issue is how to raise the road without turning it into a dike that compounds flood problems for nearby communities.

Mr. Ashton said consultations last year focused on some options, now being refined, including the expensive diversion of the Morris River north of the town. The intent has always been to raise Highway 75 to Interstate standards, in surfacing, elevation and drainage. Flooding closes North Dakota's I-29 when the Red rises, but for many fewer days.

The Flood of the Century put a harsh light on the vulnerabilities this side of the border. Changes in the 14 years since have been piecemeal. Mr. Ashton must make this year the last that Highway 75 suffers a prolonged closure.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 19, 2011 A10

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