Province addresses residents’ anxiety

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RESIDENTS immediately south of the Red River Floodway are readying themselves for what's coming up the river -- and what they claim will happen when the floodway's control gates kick into action.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/03/2011 (4273 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

RESIDENTS immediately south of the Red River Floodway are readying themselves for what’s coming up the river — and what they claim will happen when the floodway’s control gates kick into action.

They say the floodway’s gates, when raised to divert water into the floodway channel, also push more water south toward St. Adolphe and onto their properties, creating a higher level of flooding.

“We know that the flood levels are decided by people to some extent,” RM of Ritchot market garden owner Dan Weins said Tuesday. “At the very least, the duration of the high water we see is artificial.”

The province argues that’s not the case in most flood years — only once in 1997 during the Flood of the Century was water intentionally held back by the floodway gates to protect Winnipeg.

“We maintain the state of nature,” Manitoba Water Stewardship’s Steve Topping said during a technical briefing Tuesday, held to explain the floodway’s normal springtime operation does not increase flooding for homes immediately south of the floodway.

There are more than 1,800 homes, businesses and farms in the Red River Valley south to Emerson that have been raised or diked to withstand a 1997-like flood. The province has surveyed 465 homes south of the floodway to plan the closing of dikes around them — driveway openings must be filled with clay.

Topping said that work after the 2009 flood altered a berm at the channel inlet so that more flood water gets into the channel sooner, reducing the flood threat in Winnipeg and upstream.

Weins and others said that while their homes stay dry, roads such as PR 200 are flooded. Many residents are readying boats and canoes so they can get to their homes in the event the province’s forecast holds true and the valley sees a flood on par with 2009, the fourth-worst recorded flood.

“It’s a nice place to live, but I tell you, each spring it’s pretty frustrating,” Red River Drive resident Frank Woytowich said.

Woytowich and Weins said they fear the impact of flooding on the Assiniboine River. If the Assiniboine brings a lot of water into Winnipeg, the floodway will have to be used to divert more water from the Red River into the channel.

Topping said flooding on the Assiniboine will be handled by the Shellmouth Dam near Russell and the Portage Diversion, which siphons water into Lake Manitoba.

Weins said his family is preparing for the worst. “Last night, we sat down to make a list of things to do…” he said. “We ran out of paper.”

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

 

The Red River Floodway operates under four rules depending on the flood severity.

This year it will most likely operate under Rule 1, which will keep the river level south of the floodway at a natural level and still protect Winnipeg.

Rules 2 and 3 are in place in the event of a huge flood. Both would back water upstream and cause significant artificial flooding. Rule 2 was used only once in 1997. Rule 3 has never been used.

Rule 4 is only used in the summer months when high river levels threaten Winnipeg’s sewer system.

The province is studying a fifth rule: To operate the floodway in the summer months for recreation purposes, such as keeping the river walkway above water.

If adopted, critics say a Rule 5 would create harmful artificial flooding south of the city by threatening private property and wildlife, including fish.

An answer on Rule 5 will come in the next few months, Manitoba Water Stewardship’s Steve Topping said.

“If this (spring) flood gets over with, we’ll get on with it,” Topping said.

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