Province announces review

October 16, 2013
PROVINCE LAUNCHES REVIEW OF OPERATING GUIDELINES FOR RED RIVER FLOODWAY, PORTAGE DIVERSION, FAIRFORD WATER CONTROL STRUCTURE
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Technical Report Shows Majority of Flooding around Lake Manitoba Occurred while Water Levels were Below Normal

The Manitoba government is launching a review of the province’s operating guidelines for the Portage Diversion, Fairford Water Control Structure and the Red River Floodway, Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton announced today.

The review’s findings will be used to establish interim operating rules for the water control structures while work is underway on a new Lake Manitoba outlet and the Lake St. Martin channel, the minister said.

“The province’s water control structures were designed to work as a flood protection system and none of these three structures operate independently,” said Ashton. “This review will help us ensure they operate effectively to complement each other and continue to protect Manitobans from the threat of flooding and other severe weather.”

The review will be led by Harold Westdal, who chaired the Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin Regulation Review Committee, with the support of Barry McBride, former director of the City of Winnipeg Water and Waste Department, and hydrological engineer Rick Bowering, a past water resources manager for the province. It will include major public consultations in communities in the Interlake, along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers and in Winnipeg, the minister said.

“During our review of water level regulation on Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin, it was clear the unprecedented magnitude of the 2011 flood overwhelmed Manitoba’s current flood protection infrastructure,” said Westdal. “We are pleased the province is responding to the requests we heard to review the operating guidelines of these structures ensuring the needs of all stakeholders, urban and rural, are balanced when the structures are used to prevent flooding.”

This is the first time, operating guidelines for the three structures will be reviewed with a focus on how they are operated in co-ordination.

“For decades, Portage la Prairie residents and producers in surrounding areas have been asking that the operations of these structures be reviewed and I commend the province for taking the opportunity to do this review as the construction of further flood protection is underway,” said Kam Blight, reeve, Rural Municipality of Portage la Prairie. “I encourage residents in my area and across southern Manitoba to share their concerns and suggestions as part of the review.”

The minister also announced independent hydrological consulting firm KGS Group has assisted the province in completing a technical review of Lake Manitoba, Lake St. Martin and Assiniboine River water levels during the 2011 flood. The review shows that while the Assiniboine River reached its highest recorded flow, and Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin reached their highest recorded levels, flood impacts would have been far more severe without the operation of water control structures and that virtually all property damage around Lake Manitoba occurred while the lake was below natural levels as a result of the drawdown from the Fairford Water Control Structure.

“Water management is complex, especially in a province with as many waterways as Manitoba,” said Ashton. “This review clearly shows the exceptional work of our hydrologic experts in keeping lakes and rivers well below natural levels during the 2011 flood. Hundreds of thousands of Manitobans, including city of Winnipeg residents, benefited at various points in 2011 from their expertise in operating the current flood protection infrastructure in the province.”

The minister noted the review models show the probability of significant flooding in and around southwest Winnipeg if water control structures, particularly the Portage Diversion, were not in place or had not been able to operate in 2011. It also noted that during a brief period late in the summer of 2011, approximately 9,600 hectares of pasture land around Lake Manitoba were artificially flooded through the operation of the Portage Diversion. The minister said the province is currently collecting LiDAR data (a technology that uses laser and radar to produce highly accurate measurements) to be used in developing a compensation adjustment for affected producers.

“We know investing in flood protection infrastructure pays off. That’s why we have already begun work on new water control infrastructure that will provide more protection for families and businesses around Lake St. Martin and Lake Manitoba,” said Ashton. “The total cost for a new Lake Manitoba outlet and the Lake St. Martin channel will be in excess of $250 million. The time-limited, one‑cent‑on-the-dollar increase in PST is ensuring we have long-term, stable funding in place to keep building our infrastructure and take advantage of matching dollars from Ottawa.”

A summary of the report entitled 2011 Flood: Technical Review of Lake Manitoba, Lake St. Martin and Assinboine River Water Levels can be found at http://www.manitoba.ca/mit/index.html.