ALMS meets with Province to discuss Flood Situation

On November 14th the Executive of ALMS met with Minister Struthers and other staff of the Province of Manitoba to raise concerns relating to the current situation at Lake Manitoba. These concerns were a direct result of issues and priorities expressed by the membership of ALMS in a recent meeting.

In follow-up to the meeting, ALMS sent a letter to Minister Struthers to confirm our discussions, and clarify our position. Below is the text of the letter.

Dear Minister Struthers,

Please find attached a letter which summarizes our discussions of November 14th, 2011 between Manitoba and ALMS Executive.
It is our understanding that the various departments are working on an official response on behalf of Manitoba.
We anxiously await your response, thank you again for your time on these matters,
Cheryl Smith


Association of Lake Manitoba Stakeholders

 November 23, 2011

Minister Stan Struthers                                                                  VIA: e-mail
Manitoba Legislature
Winnipeg MB

Dear Minister Struthers;

Re: Further to Our Meeting of November 14, 2011

On behalf of the Association of Lake Manitoba Stakeholders (ALMS), we would like to thank you for taking the time to meet with us on November 14, 2011.

In our meeting, we articulated a number of issues facing the stakeholders around Lake Manitoba who have been severely impacted by the government initiated decision to intentionally divert the Assiniboine River to Lake Manitoba resulting in an unprecedented flooding of the Lake.

In our meeting, we discussed:

  1. Lake Manitoba Levels – we continue to be focused on the absolute priority which the Premier agreed to undertake in June – the immediate reduction of Lake Manitoba levels on an emergency basis.  The Lake continues to be dangerously high, and at this point, there does not appear movement in Lake levels as a result of the creation and operation of the emergency channel built from Lake St. Martin to Lake Winnipeg.
    1. Since our meeting, we have requested a special meeting to address this observation.
    2. We re-iterated the critical nature of Manitoba establishing a mechanism on an urgent basis to allow regulation of outflows from the Lake to match the inflows – both natural and man-made.  At this point, the Fairford structure cannot match the outflows of the Portage Diversion, let alone the natural inflow to the Lake.  Given current circumstances, we believe there is a high probability of such a re-occurrence this spring, and as such, this is a critical priority for Manitoba.  Neither we, nor the taxpayers of the Province, can afford a reoccurrence of this year’s disaster.  Money spent now to address this situation would pale in comparison to that which will be spent should a repeat of this year’s event re-occur.
    3. Currently projected Lake levels for April 2012 do not appear to have an adequate safety factor to handle a typical spring melt, let alone a high level melt we experienced this year.  As such, again, there is a high probability of a repeat occurrence of this year’s event.  We are concerned that if we have a reoccurrence of this year’s flooding at even a 50% of event size, the current measures and plans to reduce the Lake level are grossly inadequate and in fact have given the public a dangerous misconception of our preparedness.
    4. There is a need for legislation to specify what should happen when a flood occurs, as well as the operation of the Portage Diversion, the Fairford dam, and the newly constructed channel.  This should spell out boundaries for operation(i.e. When it can and cannot be operated) as well as prescribed remediation for damage cause by its operation including such issues as property protection, compensation, shoreline remediation, as well as which departments shall be responsible for the action.  This would prevent much stress and uncertainty such as that we have experienced this year.
    5. ALMS has asked to be involved in consultation in regards to any consultations, commissions, committees, or other reviews which may be conducted on regulating the Lake level, or visiting this flood event.
    6. We mentioned the issue that Lake Manitoba was not designed to be a reservoir, and yet this year it was operated and treated as one.  Such action and use requires consultation and compensation to the impacted property owners.
  2. Compensation Programs – We appreciate the efforts undertaken by the Province, the Ministers, as well as the organizations under the Province’s control – MAFRI, MASC and Water Stewardship to help provide both compensation and flood protection against future reoccurrences.
    1. While we understand that you do not view these as compensation programs, we must point out that this event was largely due to the operation of the Portage Diversion, and the diversion of the Assiniboine water away from the Red River and Winnipeg into Lake Manitoba –something which the River does not naturally do.  As such, and by definition, this is a man-made event.  As such, its operation was an intentional decision to sacrifice the communities, properties, and economic well-being of those on Lake Manitoba to prevent devastation to larger communities and economic areas such as Winnipeg.  Further because of comments made by the Premier both in the media and in private conversations, we believe the Province has accepted responsibility for this decision, and as such has a moral and legal obligation to make those impacted “whole again” through compensation which restores ALL stakeholders to their pre-flood condition.
    2. Administration of the current programs is very confusing for the flood victims.  There needs to be better coordination between departments and agencies involved, perhaps moving to a single delivery coordination point.
    3. There is a lack of accounting information on flood assistance claims provided to flood victims.  It is unclear what is approved, what is denied, what is paid against which claim limit, and details as to how to get problems resolved.  In many cases, payments made cannot be reconciled by flood victims against their submitted claim.  It simply does not make sense, and in many cases, flood victims are left without payment or explanation and frustrated.
    4. There is substantial delay in the receipt of payments.  Many flood victims are out of pocket significant costs – ranging well in excess of $5,000 advances, and are facing further financial hardship because of waiting 90 to 120 days for cheques.  Retired pensioners on fixed incomes are hardly in a position to finance $10,000, let alone $50,000 in flood costs.
    5. We urge that a principal of claim payment within 30 days from receipt of each claim be set for departments and agencies to provide payment to flood victims.  Where this is not possible, we urge that a recoverable advance be made to cover the cost of claim while it is being adjudicated.
  3. Deductible – Currently there is a deductible in place for the Water Stewardship program.  As we discussed, deductibles are typically used by insurance programs where the claimant has some responsibility for the occurrence and/or can find ways to mitigate the occurrence.  The Lake Manitoba flooding is truly outside the control of those impacted, a result of an intentional decision to divert water and use the Lake as a reservoir.  To apply a deductible suggests the victims of this flood could have prevented the damage – and adds “insult to injury.”
    1. We ask the deductibles be removed.
    2. At a minimum, we urge the Province to refund any/all PST paid by flood victims as a gesture of the sincerity of the Province to assist in the economic costs in this situation.  It is unpalatable that the Province should receive tax revenue on the misery of those impacted by this disaster situation.
  4. Manitoba Water Stewardship is directing many people to raise structures to newly increased heights.  We need height benchmarks to be visibly provided to assist, as without a benchmark, home owners are unable to determine correct levels and under the Water Stewardship program are then penalized after the work has been completed.
  5. We raised concerns that stakeholders along the west side of Lake Manitoba do not appear to be receiving adequate attention from agencies involved.
  6. In terms of the upcoming spring melt, the issue of ice damage is of great concern.  Again, Manitoba’s history with ice control is largely limited to rivers and small lakes.  Lake Manitoba is an inland ocean.  As such, the damage from ice break-up is a real concern.  We urge Manitoba to consult with other jurisdictions which have large lakes, and investigate measures to control the damage proactively.  We re-iterated the importance and urgency of the Lake level being reduced to a level which provides a buffer to allow for a Spring Melt of significance.  We offer ideas such as those tabled by our members that simple, cost-effective measures, such as creation of snow roads/banks around the shoreline which might help to reduce the likelihood of spring ice damage.
  7. We discussed the Federal Government’s involvement in compensation as well as a broader definition of DFA to include all property owners.  We will pursue a direct discussion with the Federal Minister Responsible for Manitoba in this regard and understand you are continuing to do so.

In closing, we must underscore the continued urgency of this situation.  Lake Manitoba is a very large body of water, and our Province’s past flood fighting measures, experience and knowledge are largely based on dealing with rivers and small lakes – Lake Manitoba is a very different situation – it is therefore essential the Province understand how this lack of past experience underscores the need for decisive action sooner rather than later.  Further, we are dealing with a situation which is largely a result of a decision to divert water from watershed to another, and is likely to occur again this spring.  We urge you to prepare for a likely repeat of this year’s events, in order to avoid disastrous economic and political consequences.  “Hope for the best and plan for the worst” should be a principal of Manitoba’s actions.  This is a time to plan for not only next year’s events, but also the protection of future generations of Manitobans.

In terms of next steps, we would appreciate an official reply from you on the Province’s intentions on the items above, so that we may communicate to the stakeholders of Lake Manitoba.  We would welcome any request for clarification or assistance from us on the items discussed.  We would prefer not to debate these issues, but rather work together to resolve them.

Again, we wish to re-iterate our appreciation for the open and honest dialogue of our meeting.  We thank you, Minister Struthers for your immediate action and reply.

Yours truly,

Cheryl Smith,

cc           Linda McFadyen, Deputy Minister
               Barry Todd, Deputy Minister
               Scott Greenlay, Director ALMS
               Don Clarkson, Vice-President, ALMS
               Doug Connery, Director ALMS
               Lia Baksina, Secretary ALMS
               Jane Hook, Treasurer ALMS
               Members of ALMS


ALMS requests meeting with Premier over concerns about Channel’s inability to reduce Lake Manitoba levels

ALMS Executive has requested a meeting with the Premier over concerns that since the start of the operation of the Lake St. Martin Chanel on November 1st, Lake Manitoba water levels don’t seem to be dropping, and rather have stabilized. Lake St. Martin levels have dropped almost 6 inches since the operation of the Channel began, while Lake Manitoba levels have remained stable over the same period of time. ALMS is concerned that the Channel is not resulting in Lake Manitoba levels dropping as expected and has requested a meeting with the Premier to seek clarification and action.

Here is an extract of the email ALMS sent to request a meeting to address the situation:

Dear Mr. Premier and Minister Ashton,
The Association of Lake Manitoba Stakeholders received the email below from Manitoba Waterstewardship which is causing people living and owning property surrounding Lake Manitoba a lof ot concern.  As you will note below, Manitoba Lake levels are not going down quick and ALMS would like to be granted an audience with you to discuss the issue as soon as possible.
The topic of discussion will be the channel from Fairford that is yet to be built. 
ALMS as you know has, since its inception, been proactive by communicating its number one priority (bring the Lake levels down) to Manitoba. ALMS is hopeful that we can continue to work closely with Manitoba in this regard.  We would like to relay any feedback after our meeting to the membership of ALMS as quickly as possible. There are very important decisions that our members need to make in the short term and long term depending on how quickly the levels can go down on Lake Manitoba.  
Thank you,
Cheryl Smith
President ALMS

Here is an extract of an email ALMS received on November 15th in response to our original inquiry of November 14th over ALMS’s concerns:

I would like to remind that the new channel is aimed at draining efficiently the downstream of Fairford Dam (Fairford River+Lake St Martin+Dauphin River) so that winter outflows from Lake Manitoba can be maintained high (Dam wide open) without causing disastrous frazil ice situations downstream. The normal practice was always putting logs during winter time.

Regarding Manitoba Lake levels dropping slowly since the beginning of October, it is due to inflows into the lake started equalling outflows. Around July 20th, very high levels were pushing outflows close to 22,000 out from the dam, and progressively these levels and outflows were dropping together. Now they are around 814.9 feet and 16,000 cfs (+/-).

It is worthwhile here to mention that outflows are influenced by winds and correlate rather with Steep Rock levels, which doesn’t help draining the lake when Northerly winds push waters to the south and we see Westbourne levels much higher than the wind eliminated level.

Let’s now detail the present terms in the water balance equation for Lake Manitoba during this month as an example:

Outflow ~ 16,000 cfs

1) Waterhen River           ~ 9,900 cfs
2) Whitemud River          <    100 cfs
3) Local surface flow and interflow entering from the lake’s edges (hard to   assess now, but after this unprecedented extended flooding area, the groundwater drainage towards the lake should be substantial).
4) For each mm of rain or cm of snow that would drop evenly all over the lake body in one day, please count an extra 1,900 cfs for that day. Yes! This stems from area/over-lake flow equation for Lake Manitoba.

Evidently, no one can monitor how precipitation is repartitioned over the lake; however, we check some few weather stations located around the lake, like Moosehorn and Eriksdale which received 17.8 mm and 21.2 mm, respectively, between rain and snow since November 1st. On the other hand,

5) the evaporation rates dropped down much from those of July-August.

I hope this gives some insights in understanding together the present Lake Manitoba behaviour.

Best Regards,

Youssef Loukili, PhD
Hydrologic Forecaster
Flood Forecasting & Coordination
Regulatory and Operational Services Division
Manitoba Water Stewardship
200 Saulteaux Crescent
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3J 3W3

Attendance at ALMS meetings

There has been some confusion amongst visitors/subscribers to the ALMS website about attendance to meetings.

ALMS is an association made up of stakeholder groups around Lake Manitoba. As such attendance at meetings is limited to appointed representatives from member associations/stakeholder groups. If you’d like an issue raised please contact your local association executive.

If you don’t have an association, or are interested in being a guest at one of our meetings, feel free to contact one of our chairs for guidance on how you may be represented at ALMS.

Going forward we’ll be sure to include a special note in the Notice of Meeting of attendance.

We apologize for any confusion this may have caused subscribers to our website

Draft Agenda for Nov 9th Meeting

Association of Lake Manitoba Stakeholders

November 9th 2011 7 P.M.

1. Call to Order 7:00 p.m.

2. Adoption of the Agenda

3. Reading of ALMS Minutes October 6th, 2011 – Scott

4. Introductions of members & area they represent

5. Election of Chairperson for election process

6. Review of election process by Chairperson

7. Election – Executive for ALMS

8. Break (15 minutes time permitting)

9. Review of Priority areas with members to include in agenda for meeting with Ministers responsible for MAFRI and Senior Staff of Waterstewardship. Meeting has been confirmed for November 14th, 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. The meeting will take place in Minister Struthers’ office, room 165 Legislative Building

10. Set Next Meeting Date for ALMS regular meeting.

Executive Meeting to take place right after the regular meeting is concluded to draft and finalize agenda which needs to be sent (emailed or faxed) to Minister Struthers’ office no later than November 10th (Noon, next day).