Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cottagers may be next victims

High water flow boosts chance of winter ice damage

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Another front is about to open up in Manitoba's flood fight, which has already forced 763 Manitobans to flee their homes and swamped nearly 600 roads.

And the looming battle in cottage country means Winnipeggers who thought they'd be spared the water's wrath will be nervously watching what could hit properties along the shores of Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba.

Flood Fight

The emerging threat comes from higher water flows into the two lakes, raising the spectre of winter ice crashing into lakefront homes and cottages if wind conditions turn severe.

"We will be clearly looking at the impacts of this flood season well into May," Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton warned. "There will be after-effects for some time to come."

Manitoba's senior flood fighter Steve Topping said the province is anticipating higher water levels for most, if not all, lakes well after the ice melts, raising the threat of further erosion from what was seen last October, when an overland cyclone removed on average of about eight metres of shoreline in the south basin of Lake Winnipeg.

"After the ice moves off we'll have to be very vigilant of the weather forecasts as to the prevailing winds and their strength and their speed to address the wind setup and the wave-action issues that can happen around those lakes," Topping said.

The province will offer new information on lake ice conditions to property owners and municipalities that might have to deal with shifting ice during the spring breakup.

"I think most people who have cottages or permanent homes in these areas know some of the challenges that can provide," Ashton said.

In anticipation of the flood impacts in cottage country, Ashton said the province is reviewing diking along some lakes, particularly dikes built in 2005 on the west side of Lake Winnipeg, to see if they need to be shored up.

Municipalities around the south basin are also improving diking along the lakefront.

"We're aware that with these levels you'll see impacts on beaches... there may be areas where normally there is a beach, but with these high water levels you won't see that."

The challenges already facing the province -- which has thrown 700 employees into the battle -- are increasingly widespread as 32 municipalities have declared states of emergency.

Flooding has forced the closures of an unprecedented number of roads in southern Manitoba, including 55 provincial roads and 500 municipal roads.

In the southwest corner of the province, Melita was dealing with its state of emergency by topping up its clay dikes with large flood-tube barriers.

Some 130 kilometres to the north of the fight raging against the Souris River was St. Lazare's battle against the Qu'Appelle River. The community's ring dike was raised one foot.

The rising Red and the end of safe road access forced 29 people from their homes in the RM of Montcalm, which borders North Dakota and 21 from the RM of Ritchot, just south of Winnipeg.

At the same time, a kilometre-long wall of Hesco bastions went up on a service road at the southern edge of the city.

The bastions -- wire-mesh and canvas bags -- were filled with sand along a service road east of Pembina Highway near St. Norbert to complete the Turnbull ring dike, which protects the southernmost properties in St. Norbert.

In previous years, the city used clay to seal the ring dike. A barrier made of Hesco bastions is quicker and easier to build and remove.

The bastions will add extra protection to the ring dike in the event an engorged Red River is whipped up by winds from the south when the crest reaches Winnipeg later this month.

Meanwhile, troops from the North Dakota National Guard were deployed to Pembina, N.D., just across the Canada-U.S. border, to fight the Red River, the Grand Forks Herald reported Tuesday.

About 4,000 sandbags were shipped to the Canada-U.S. border station, which is north of the confluence of the Red and Pembina rivers.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca bart.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Western Manitoba

WORK continued in St. Lazare, about 330 kilometres west of Winnipeg, to add an additional foot on top of the lower portion of that community's ring dike. Eight homes outside of the ring dike were being sandbagged to protect against forecasted crest levels.

Water levels in the Shellmouth Reservoir increased 1.67 feet since Monday to 1,392.1 feet.

The revised forecast for the Assiniboine River predicts slightly higher flows from St. Lazare to Brandon.

Repairs were also continuing on the Assiniboine River dikes between Poplar Point and the Baie St. Paul bridge after dikes were damaged by high water levels. The Pembina River crested at all locations in Manitoba.

The Souris River in Manitoba downstream of Melita is expected to receive a second, prolonged crest this week in the Souris and Wawanesa areas. Melita water levels should crest within the next two days. The second crest is expected to reach similar or slightly higher water levels than the first crest. Water levels on Pelican Lake increased since Monday by 0.06 feet to 1,353.31 feet and are expected to continue increasing until April 23-27. They are predicted to stay below the flood stage of 1,354 feet.

 

Red River Floodway

CLOSER to Winnipeg, the floodway gates will be raised again today to deal with higher water levels on the Red River and expected higher levels on the Assiniboine River. The rising of the gates will remain within the range of 761.15 feet to 761.5 feet today until the Red's crest between April 30 and May 4. Officials still expect the Assiniboine River to crest at the same time in Winnipeg.

Water levels just south of the Red River Floodway inlet were 761.15 feet.

Water levels at James Avenue in Winnipeg increased 0.34 feet since Monday to 19.06 feet.

 

Red River Valley

RISING Red River levels and loss of safe road access resulted 29 people from the RM of Montcalm and 21 people from the RM of Ritchot being forced from their homes. Twenty-two people left a number of communities and rural municipalities because of overland flooding affecting safe road access.

The Red River is expected to crest in Emerson between April 25 and 28. The upper level of the forecast range for the Red River remains somewhat above 2009 levels for most points on the river.

 

-- Staff

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 20, 2011 A4

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