Major risk of spring flooding along Red River, province warns


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Major dumps of snow south of the U.S. border have put the Red River in Manitoba at major risk of flooding this spring.

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Major dumps of snow south of the U.S. border have put the Red River in Manitoba at major risk of flooding this spring.

“The biggest concern we have today is the amount of precipitation that happened in North Dakota,” Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk said at a media briefing Wednesday.

Snow storms have dumped heavy amounts of precipitation in the Dakotas and Minnesota in the last month and the province’s flood watchers are bracing for how fast it melts and how much more falls, the minister said as the provincial government released the spring flood forecast.

“We’re going to be preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best,” Piwniuk said.

High water on the Red River will lead to the use of the floodway. (John Woods / Pool / Canadian Press files)

For now, there’s a “very low chance” that Highway 75 — the main transport and travel corridor between Winnipeg and the U.S. — will have to close because of flooding, said chief flood forecaster Fisaha Unduche.

On May 2, 2022, the province closed a section of Highway 75 at the town of Morris, 60 kilometres south of Winnipeg, after the Red River rose. The southbound portion reopened May 27, but the highway didn’t fully reopen until June.

This year, if the weather is unfavourable and there’s a major risk of significant flooding, the situation on the Red River would be similar to 2020 from Emerson to just south of Winnipeg, at the Red River Floodway inlet.

Manitoba communities are prepared, the province said.

“The flood protection level of the community dikes and the individual flood protection works within the Red River basin are higher than the predicted peak levels, even in the unfavourable weather scenario,” the flood forecast said.

Piwniuk said the risk of flooding is low to moderate along the Fisher and Icelandic rivers in the Interlake. As a precaution, the province has been cutting up ice where jams have caused flooding in the past.

Piwniuk said the forecast looks good for Peguis First Nation, which suffered devastating floods last year.

The community, which has 3,000 permanent residents, was hit in April by a one-in-200-year flood that damaged 300 homes, wiped out sections of roads, including its only major highway, and overwhelmed new sewage and septic systems. More than 2,000 people were forced to evacuate and take up long-term residence in hotels across the province.

The risk of Peguis flooding this year is low to moderate, Piwniuk said, “but we’re keeping an eye on it.”

There’s a low to moderate flood risk along the Assiniboine River and a low risk along several other rivers including the Souris, Roseau, Rat and Pembina rivers. Water levels are expected to remain below community and individual flood protection levels.

Major dumps of snow south of the U.S. border have put the Red River in Manitoba at major risk of flooding this spring. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

There is also a low flooding risk on the Saskatchewan River, lakes in Whiteshell Provincial Park and northern Manitoba.

As well, both Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba are predicted to stay within their operating ranges. The only exceptions are Dauphin Lake and Lake St. Martin, which will receive increased water flow due to the use of the Portage Diversion.

The province warns the situation could change depending on the weather between now and the spring melt.

Manitoba farmers can look forward to “great” moisture level this spring, Piwniuk said with caution.

Last year the situation looked favourable at this time, too, before a Colorado low in April blasted Manitoba with a big dump of snow, he said.

Chief flood forecaster Unduche is keeping a close eye on the different weather systems Manitoba may be getting, said Piwniuk.

“The outlook for the next two weeks looks pretty promising,” the minister said.

Just to be safe, his assistant deputy minister and head of Manitoba’s Emergency Management Organization Johanu Botha has visited Red River communities to ensure they have flood preparedness plans and resources, such as sandbags, at the ready, Piwniuk said.

Flood prevention work on Highway 75, which was tendered but had to be put off because of flooding last year, is expected to get done this year, the minister said.

March Flood Outlook Report 2023

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.


Updated on Wednesday, March 22, 2023 4:44 PM CDT: Adds PDF

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