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Manitoba Flood Update – June 27

Reid Dickie
More Water Sooner!
 
It’s the next crest of the Souris River that we are watching and preparing for now. Water volumes arriving from North Dakota are higher than expected making existing dikes inadequate to the coming water levels. The new crests could start arriving in Manitoba by the end of the week, sooner than anticipated.
 
Melita, already virtually under siege by the Souris River, is calling for more volunteers to fill sandbags and do other duties and they are paying $15 an hour. If you can help out call the Melita town office at 522-3413. Mayor Bob Walker seems pretty confident the dike system will hold but he says two businesses near the dikes have been evacuated. So far no homes in Melita have been evacuated but that could change quickly. One section of the town is on alert.
 
A little further downstream Wawanesa begins to evacuate homes. Evacuation notices have been issued for 13 homes. Residents will have to be out by 6 pm Tuesday. Wawanesa mayor Bruce Gullet says it’s a precaution as is evacuating Wawanesa’s personal care home for the second time. He says the entire dike system is being rebuilt to make it stronger and higher. Volunteers are needed badly in Wawanesa as well.
 
The town of Souris has issued approximately 30 more mandatory evacuation notices for homes. Residents, mostly right along the Souris River and Plum Creek, must be out today. Sixty-four homes in Souris have already been evacuated. Famous for having the longest swinging bridge, which spans the Souris, crews have determined that saving the bridge is too risky. With the strong current, the landmark may be swept away. The town’s dike system is being raised and reinforced.  Souris emergency coordinator Sven Kreusch says they have requested military help but received no response.
 
If these small towns are having to pay for “volunteers” to help protect them, isn’t it a no-brainer to get the troops back to support these flood-weary people. Various protocols have to be satisfied for this to happen but, while the bureaucracy grinds slowly, the Souris River rises fast and travels furiously. While the province provides engineers to determine required dike work, they have few bodies to contribute to the actual building. I would hate to think Tsar Selinger is holding back on inviting the military to assist because they would steal his thunder, such as it is. Selinger is desperate. He needs to seem competent at something/anything but comes off looking cynical, manipulative and unkind again.
 
I don’t watch television but my friend Terry said the CBS Evening News translated the French word souris, meaning mouse, into English, changing the name of the river from Souris to the Mouse River. Pronouncing a word as complex as souris (sir’ iss) would be a major challenge for American talking heads and editors.
 
I took this picture of the Portage Diversion at Trans Canada Highway crossing yesterday. It’s still almost filled to the brim but with a little freeboard to accommodate the Souris now barreling toward it.

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Lake Manitoba Flood Protest Rally

Reid Dickie

Several hundred angry, frustrated Manitobans gathered in front of the Manitoba Legislature early this afternoon to give the provincial government an earful. The all-ages crowd consisted of cottage owners, ranchers, permanent residents, First Nations people and farmers flooded out by Lake Manitoba. Their signs indicate their frustration level, which is as high as the water level in the lake. Due to overuse of the Portage Diversion, 900 properties around the lake are now inundated.

The provincial government stumbles along, still denying the lake flood is man-made (to quote Stan Struthers, our provincial minister of agriculture, “There’s nothing we can do about it.” Appropriately, Stan was thoroughly booed for that comment.) Next up was our minister of EMO, Steve Ashton who received the completely negative crowd reaction he has earned and so richly deserves. Ashton’s speech was mostly drowned out by shouting.

Was Our Great Leader, Moses Selinger, there? Nope. He was out at a media photo-op in Lundar, pretending to care, while The People he should be talking to came right to his doorstep. Also hiding out from The People today was our minister of water stewardship, Christine Melnick. Though there were calls for her from the crowd, no reason was given for her absence. I’m sure she had business much more pressing than dealing with the mere rabble outside.

The other hacks that lead the Conservative and Liberal parties in Manitoba spoke, with McFadyen, the Conservative ‘leader’ striding right up to the mike without waiting for an introduction. He’s a blatherer, dull, witless. The most inspiring speeches came from a cattle rancher flooded out by the Shoal Lakes and Barry Swan, the fiery young chief of Lake Manitoba First Nation, all 190 residents of which have been evacuated and are living indefinitely in Winnipeg hotels.

What I distilled from the event was there are six points and questions that the provincial government needs to address right now to assuage The People. In case the government doesn’t understand what the points and questions are (they don’t) I’ll list them:

  • Admit the flood of Lake Manitoba was man-made because of too much water coming into the lake and not enough leaving (it’s not rocket science),
  • Figure out a better drainage system at Fairford that will create a manageable balance in lake levels,
  • Treat people equally and fairly regarding compensation.
  • Why hasn’t the area around the lake been declared a provincial disaster area?
  • Where is the federal government?
  • When will we have access to our properties?

It’s a hot muggy day here today, thunderstorms are likely this evening. Ironically, The People had gathered just a block away from the river that is causing their havoc. The Assiniboine flows past the Legislature, filled to its banks but not threatening Winnipeg. That’s because the lakeshore residents took the hit. It’s time for the provincial government to own up and pony up for its bad judgment and mismanagement.

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Manitoba Flood Update June 11, 2011 – My Driving Tour

Reid Dickie

Last Thursday I took a drive into rural Manitoba, destination Dauphin, to check out the aftermath of the torrential rains we received at the beginning of the week. There’s still water everywhere!

I travelled out the Trans Canada Highway west from Winnipeg to Portage. At the TCH crossings of the Assiniboine River, the water was as high as it’s ever been this spring. The Portage Diversion, carrying water from the Assiniboine into Lake Manitoba, was filled to the brim again. There appeared to be topping up activities along the dike. I turned onto Hwy #16 and didn’t encounter much new flooding until around Woodside, past Gladstone and almost into Neepawa, where the Whitemud River had spilled its banks. For miles and miles ditches and fields on both sides of the highway were flooded, as far as the eye could see in some places. The Whitemud drains the southeastern foothills of Riding Mountain, exactly where heavy rain fell Monday and Tuesday, causing flash flooding along its course. The earth here is already saturated, flash floods now more possible. This picture shows the brown murky water of the Whitemud, which has a distinct sewage odour, flooding the lower section of a rest stop on Hwy #16 before the Arden turnoff. Manitoba Water Stewardship (MWS) says the Whitemud will remain high until the runoff abates.

I turned north in Hwy #5 along the east side of Riding Mountain, crossing many of the streams that feed the Whitemud. Most of them were full and fast flowing. As I passed Ste. Rose du Lac I could see their ring dike which they just recently reopened. That evening my cousin Vonda and I took a drive east of Dauphin to view the flooding around Dauphin Lake. Dauphin Beach and Ochre Beach are inundated with many waterfront properties diked with heavy stones piled along the beach to protect their property from wave erosion. Many properties were flooded, sandbags were available at several locations  and people were busy hauling them away. The worst areas are Ochre Beach and Crescent Cove. The picture above is an aerial view of Crescent Cove on Dauphin Lake that appeared on the front of this week’s Dauphin Herald. The other pictures are ones I took of Dauphin Beach and Ochre Beach and show water levels that are still high but have subsided from the storm earlier in the week. Click to enlarge any picture.

Yesterday (Friday) I drove home through Riding Mountain National Park where I spotted deer, a coyote and a moose lifting its dripping head out of the swamp water with a mouth full of water weeds, a classic Hinterland Who’s Who moment. Trucks three axles or more cannot travel the highway through the park due to some soft road conditions. Overall, it’s still a pleasant and easy drive through a beautiful lush forest.

My next encounter with flood water was in the valley of the Little Saskatchewan River south of Erickson. Some of the fields were still flooded and the river hurtled along filled to the brink. The same river flows through Minnedosa which was diked in several areas. I drove south to Brandon and surveyed their situation. First and Eighteenth Streets are open and still thoroughly diked to about twelve feet. The water has receded in some areas around Brandon but a new crest of the Assiniboine is expected this week, returning the river to its record highs of a month ago.

As they await the next crest, towns and cities all along the Assiniboine from St. Lazare to Winnipeg are on tenterhooks. The town of Souris has declared a local state of emergency and sandbaggers are working day and night against the Souris River. In this picture a Souris family prepares to leave their diked home as the flood waters rise. Wawanesa is under the same conditions though MWS says the Assiniboine is now cresting in both those towns. More rain is expected early next week so they remain on alert. See NASA’s view of Souris River flooding.

The place least worried about this is Winnipeg. If the Assiniboine gets too high, ‘Magic’ Duff Selinger, Manitoba’s unelected premier, has promised to open Hoop and Holler Bend again to relieve the nasty river of a few hundred cubic feet of water per second so he can don his Moses outfit and blink and grin again. This man is so dumb he thinks this cynical ploy will work twice on Manitobans. We got it the first time – it was a fake-out, a publicity stunt. This time there is more at stake. The government has bungled Lake Manitoba water management so badly this year, both with the actual level of the lake and dealing with the tragic human aftermath of man-made flooding, they need a saviour move at Hoop and Holler Bend to divert attention away from their big mistakes on the big lake. MWS reported yesterday the Fairford River outlet from Lake Manitoba is flowing at its highest level ever. Grain of salt, folks. I just can’t believe what these people say any longer. The above After picture is of Twin Lakes Beach on Lake Manitoba after recent devastation from high water and winds. Compare it to this Before picture from the 1980s.

It’s becoming the flood that never ends. Build an ark people, build an ark. Get a grant or maybe even a buyout after the flood from the province to build it. Which reminds me the widely touted parting of the Red River by Moses Selinger has been moved off the back burner, I hear. Stay tuned.

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Manitoba Flood – Phase Two

Reid Dickie

WHAT A DAY!

After a week of heavy rain and high winds, we have arrived at phase two of the 2011 “high water event” with new flooding in many parts of the province, new states of emergency and new evacuations. Deloraine, Ochre River RM and Miniota RM have all declared states of emergency due to overland flooding, Brandon and several other RMs have extended their states of emergency, Ste Rose du Lac has closed its ring dike against water from the Turtle River for the first time in 25 years, Brandon just received another three-quarters of an inch of rain in 45 minutes this morning, golf-ball size hail pounded southwestern Manitoba today, dozens of roads are closed due to new washouts, inundations stretch more than a kilometer inland from the shore of Lake Manitoba around St. Laurent, the Souris River is rising quickly and residents around much of Lake Manitoba’s south basin have been evacuated while their homes and cottages are eaten away by the rising water. The surging water and waves swamped dikes, tossed debris and even broke some cottages in half on Tuesday. Sixteen people had to be rescued by boat and one resident had to be pulled out by helicopter. Lake Manitoba is still two weeks away from its crest so many residents around the lake probably won’t be able to return to their properties this summer.

Meanwhile, our head-in-the-sand provincial government still pretends that the Portage Diversion, which today is releasing 16,000 cubic feet of water per second into Lake Manitoba, did not cause this vast lakeshore destruction. Manitoba Water Stewardship and their “minister” are claiming the natural flows from the Whitemud and Waterhen Rivers are causing the high water levels in Lake Manitoba, thus the flood is due to “natural causes.” The government’s own water flow numbers don’t support this ridiculous claim. The amount of water supplied to the lake by these two streams is small compared to the Diversion’s contribution. In fact, the outflow from Lake Manitoba is about equal to the inflow of both rivers thus cancelling out their effect. Add in the man-made Portage Diversion and you have current conditions. Politicians unable to tell the truth who spend their day covering their asses abound here now. The NDP faces an election this fall so they will go to any length to shift blame but, unlucky for them, there aren’t any other places where the blame can land except on their heads.

On that note, let me expound a bit on the events at Hoop and Holler Bend last month. First the opening of the dike was touted as essential to save hundreds of properties between Portage and Winnipeg, then it was demoted to a just-in-case measure and then they closed it after a few days when they realized people had caught on to what it was all about. In retrospect Hoop and Holler was nothing more than a desperate publicity stunt to make Selinger look like he saved the province. The puny amounts of water that flowed through the cut made an insignificant difference in the Assiniboine’s flow but caused major inconvenience for the affected properties. Part two of the Hoop and Holler plan was the compensation package where the government appears completely benevolent covering 100% of costs. What a great guy Selinger is, eh? The photo op of Charleton Selinger parting the Red River has been put on a back burner, for now.

As I write this today in Winnipeg, thunderstorms have been passing overhead with some rain and lots of wind tossing the fully-leafed elms around. The unstable weather is predicted to continue into next week over southern Manitoba. We have entered phase two of our flood and approach the heart of darkness.

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Manitoba Flood Update – Monday May 23

Reid Dickie

The heavy rains that fell Saturday are making their way through the river system causing some concern and slowing the water’s decline in most places along the Assiniboine. The major concern is about inflow from the Souris and Qu’ Appelle Rivers and how it will affect dikes and drainage downstream. In Brandon, where river levels have been dropping about 6 inches a day, the decrease was minimal yesterday and today due to the rains.

Since the water diverted north from the Assiniboine into Lake Manitoba has to go somewhere, it is causing major flooding around the shores of the lake and residents are still scrambling to protect or evacuate their properties. Today many of the best cattle producers in Manitoba, six First Nations and dozens of cottages around Lake Manitoba are flooded due to dumping more water than the lake can accommodate. Lake Manitoba’s outflow at Fairford is totally unable to handle the inflow from the Diversion thus producing scenes like this.

Some Manitobans are accusing the provincial government of reckless abandon for mismanaging the flood situation then off-loading blame onto bureaucrats and generally acting like clueless idiots. The government even took out half-page newspaper ads last week to shuffle blame away from themselves. The Black Rod wrote a fine piece this week about Premier Selinger that sums up his self-inflicted and well-deserved dilemma. Read it here.

The provincial state of emergency has been extended until June 5 “to support continued flood responses around the Portage la Prairie area” as stated yesterday by Manitoba Water Stewardship. It’s the newly flooded properties around Lake Manitoba that need sandbags and the troops right now. It was reported last week that today would be the last day the military would be involved with the flood fight, just when they are needed most around the lake! Whether that is actually the case remains unknown at this time.

The provincial government will announce its compensation package for flood victims tomorrow. Also tomorrow I will have a new update on the flooding at Spruce Woods Provincial Park and the prospects for opening the park this year.

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