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This article was published 19/1/2016 (2192 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba’s flood forecasters have ditched their cramped headquarters in a west Winnipeg industrial park for roomier digs — equipped with $170,000 in new equipment — on Broadway.
No longer confined to cubicles and a small boardroom, they will now judge the seriousness of impending floods in a "war room" adorned with computer monitors that provide real-time information on weather, accumulated precipitation, snowpack levels and other critical information.
"It’s a state-of-the-art facility and measures up with any facility that we’ve seen in North America," said Doug McMahon, an assistant deputy minister responsible for overseeing Manitoba’s flood-fighting efforts.
McMahon gave reporters — and Premier Greg Selinger — a tour of the 15,467 Hydrologic Forecast Centre on Tuesday, the final day before a 90-day blackout period on government announcements takes effect in advance of the April 19 provincial election.
Improved technology and an expanded work space for flood forecasters were among a host of recommendations resulting from the 2011 Flood Review Task Force report, issued in 2013.
As well as accommodating about 50 staffers from the old facility on Saulteaux Crescent, two other related units within Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation — water management planning and engineering and construction — are moving into the same leased space at 280 Broadway. Until now, these units worked in separate facilities.
"This is quite different from the way we operated before," said McMahon. "We did not have a dedicated forecast centre. We did not have a dedicated data facility."
He said flood forecasters won’t necessarily receive new information that they didn’t get before. But the new computers and monitors and greatly expanded space will allow the experts to better visualize the information and debate its implications together in one space.
"We have all of our water forecasting and engineering people all in one facility, and they can work as a team," McMahon said.
The estimated cost of equipment, furnishings and the 20-year lease is expected to cost the government about $1.5 million. The new operations centre will also be close to the Emergency Measures Organization office down the street in the Wordsworth Building.
Seriously flooding has most recently plagued southern Manitoba in 2014, 2011 and 2009.
The outlook for this spring is so far positive, as precipitation has been below average in most of Western Canada in recent months. Concern remains, however, in the westernmost part of the province, which saw high soil moisture levels heading into freeze-up. Manitoba is expected to issue its first flood outlook around the end of February.
Meanwhile, the government announced late Tuesday that it had received recommendations from an independent study that urges upgrades to major components of its flood management system.
The report proposes the addition of a new channel for Lake Manitoba to provide one-in-200-year flood protection for people around the lake as well as for those near Lake St. Martin and the lower Assiniboine River.
The province said in a news release that it will also review "natural solutions" and the role surface-water management can play in protecting Manitobans from flood damage.
"First Nations and other communities across Manitoba will have a say in how we move forward with flood protection," Selinger vowed in a news release, one of about 20 the government had issued by late Tuesday afternoon before a prohibition on political announcements in advance of the election kicks in on Wednesday.
The full report of the Assiniboine River/Lake Manitoba Basins Flood Mitigation Study is available here.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.