Lake Manitoba update: Jan. 29, 2017

There is some very good news to pass along this week. The gauge at Westbourne on Lake Manitoba has been recalibrated, and this has resulted in a new estimate of the level of Lake Manitoba that has dropped nearly half a foot. The Westbourne gauge was consistently reading much higher than the Steep Rock gauge, which is obviously incorrect when there are no wind effects. The gauges are now giving similar readings. The new estimate of the level of Lake Manitoba is now 812.08 feet, well below the previous estimate of 812.56 feet. This gives us considerably more breathing room for the spring and reduces substantially the likelihood of flooding. Outflow at Fairford (6,531 cfs) is exceeding inflow from the Waterhen River (5,006 cfs), which means we should see a slow decline in the level of Lake Manitoba (the gauge reading at Steep Rock declined 0.02 feet on the week, indicating such a decline is taking place). The level of Lake St. Martin is rising and is now sitting at 802.25 feet, about a half foot below the level at which the Ministry of Infrastructure intends to open the Emergency Channel. Lake Winnipegosis is 833.88 feet, unchanged from last week.

The level of the Shellmouth Reservoir continues to fall rapidly dropping more than 1.5 feet last week. It is currently 1393.37 feet.

Flow on the Assiniboine remains high, with a gauge reading of 2,760 cfs at Holland and 2,662 cfs at Headingly. It appears that the issues with the Headingly gauge (it was previously reading twice as high) have been corrected.

River update
Time: 8:30 AM January 29, 2017
Portage Diversion: closed
Assiniboine at Holland: 2,760 cfs
Assiniboine at Headingly: 2,662 cfs
Waterhen: 5,006 cfs
Whitemud: 106 cfs
Fairford: 6,531 cfs
 
Lake update
Time: 8:30 AM January 29, 2017
Steep Rock: 812.44 ft
Westbourne: 812.41 ft
Mean level: 812.08 ft
Lake St. Martin: 802.25 ft
Lake Winnipegosis: 833.88 ft
Shellmouth Reservoir: 1393.37 ft

Emergency Channel Operation: Support Needed

The ALMS executive wishes to bring to your attention a proposal initiated by Manitoba Infrastructure to allow for the interim operation of the Lake St Martin Emergency Outlet Channel(a copy of the proposal is contained in this post). Submissions of support or opposition can be made by email to: bruce.webb@gov.mb.ca no later than February 27.

We support this proposal to protect the band communities to the north of Lake Manitoba. A principle that we hold is that the solution to flooding should not be at the expense of other communities. By opening the outlet these communities would be protected while maximum flows continue through the Fairford Water Control System which reduces water levels on Lake Manitoba.

There is no doubt that your voice has been heard by the government through ALMS. While the ultimate solution for flooding is dependent on the direct drain projected to be completed in 2021, Manitoba Infrastructure has acted responsibly in the interim by drawing down the Shellmouth Reservoir thus creating storage capacity for spring melt; has run water through the Fairford Water Control System this winter; and has begun talks with Saskatchewan aimed at reducing flows into the Assiniboine River system.

We urge Associations and residents to support this positive initiative. It is important to recognize positive steps on this path toward a managed Lake Manitoba.

Jack King
President
Association of Lake Manitoba Stakeholders

notice-of-environment-act-proposal

Lake Manitoba update: Jan. 22, 2017

It has been an uneventful week on the lakes and rivers. The level of Lake Manitoba (812.54 feet) is almost unchanged from last week. Inflow from the Waterhen River is currently 4,949 cfs, which remains below the outflow at Fairford (6,636 cfs). The level of Lake St. Martin is almost unchanged from last week, sitting at 802.03 feet. Lake Winnipegosis is up to 833.88 feet, about 3/5 of a foot above the maximum level ever observed at this time of year.

The level of the Shellmouth Reservoir continues to fall rapidly dropping more than 1.5 feet last week. It is currently 1394.93 feet.

Flow on the Assiniboine remains high, with a gauge reading of 2,775 cfs at Holland and 4,942 cfs at Headingly. I suspect that the Headingly reading is incorrect, likely due to ice effects.

The most significant news this week is not related to the current gauge readings. The Ministry of Infrastructure is making application to open the emergency channel on Lake St. Martin. Under the permit provisions, it can only be opened under ‘emergency conditions’, defined under the permit application as when the level of Lake St. Martin is forecast to exceed 244.7 m (=802.82 feet) for an extended period. Opening the Emergency Channel has no effect on the level of Lake Manitoba: it is designed to lower the level of Lake St. Martin when inflow from Lake Manitoba is high, as it will be for an extended period in 2017 and likely into 2018.

The Red River Commission is now forecasting likely flooding on the Red River this spring. The province will be updating the Assiniboine River flood forecast next month: it is already clear that we will be facing challenging conditions this spring with high water on Lake Winnipegosis, the Waterhen River, Lake Manitoba, the Fairford River and the Assiniboine River. It is also already clear that the province will need to open the Portage Diversion this spring with high water on the Assiniboine. Flooding on the Red River makes that prospect even more likely, as it is used to divert water away from Winnipeg when the Red River is high. With very high inflows from the Waterhen River once the ice is out in April / May due to the record high level of Lake Winnipegosis, the additional inflow from the Diversion will cause the level of Lake Manitoba to rise this spring. How high will depend on how much water is diverted from the Assiniboine.

River update
Time: 9:00 AM January 22, 2017
Portage Diversion: closed
Assiniboine at Holland: 2,775 cfs
Assiniboine at Headingly: 4,942 cfs
Waterhen: 4,949 cfs
Whitemud: 69 cfs
Fairford: 6,636 cfs
 
Lake update
Time: 9:00 AM January 22, 2017
Steep Rock: 812.46 ft
Westbourne: 812.61 ft
Mean level: 812.54 ft
Lake St. Martin: 802.03 ft
Lake Winnipegosis: 833.88 ft

Lake Manitoba update: Jan. 15, 2017

Many of the gauges have been calibrated this week, including the Waterhen River, so we have a better idea of what is going on. Inflow from the Waterhen River is currently 4,977 cfs, which is below the outflow at Fairford (6,813 cfs). The level of Lake Manitoba is 812.53 feet, down slightly from last week. Lake St. Martin is up a quarter foot on the week and has now reached 802.05 feet: flood level is 803.0 feet. The gauge on Lake Winnipegosis was calibrated and as result, the reading was reset downward slightly (833.78 feet). This is still a third of foot above the maximum level ever observed for this time of year.

The level of the Shellmouth Reservoir continues to fall rapidly dropping more than 1.5 feet last week. It is currently 1396.49 feet.

Flow on the Assiniboine remains high, with gauge readings of 5,899 cfs at Holland and 4,984 cfs at Headingly.

River update
Time: 8:00 AM January 15, 2017
Portage Diversion: closed
Assiniboine at Holland: 5,899 cfs
Assiniboine at Headingly: 4,984 cfs
Waterhen: 4,977 cfs
Whitemud: 64 cfs
Fairford: 6,813 cfs
 
Lake update
Time: 8:00 AM January 15, 2017
Steep Rock: 812.48 ft
Westbourne: 812.58 ft
Mean level: 812.53 ft
Lake St. Martin: 802.05 ft
Lake Winnipegosis: 833.78 ft
Shellmouth Reservoir: 1396.49 ft

Lake Manitoba update: Jan. 8, 2017

Little has changed since last week. The level of Lake Manitoba remained unchanged at 812.55 feet, just above the top end of its desired operating range. The level of Lake Winnipegosis is also little changed from last week at 834.01 feet. That is about 3/4 of a foot above its previous maximum level for this time of year (observed in 2011), and nearly 4 feet above its average level for this time of year.

The cold weather is affecting outflow at Fairford which is declining as ice builds: outflow this week is 7,307 cfs. Lake St. Martin rose this week to 801.8 feet. Flow on the Dauphin River, which exits Lake St. Martin, is now just under 6,000 cfs, about 1300 cfs below the inflow Lake St. Martin receives from the Fairford River. This is why Lake St. Martin is rising. Flood level on Lake St. Martin is 803.0 feet.

It appears that inflow from the Waterhen River to Lake Manitoba is declining with the build-up of ice, but the gauge readings remain unreliable and obviously ice-affected.

The level of the Shellmouth Reservoir continues to fall rapidly dropping nearly 1.5 feet over the last week. It is now sitting at 1398.03 feet.

Flow on the Assiniboine remains high, with the gauges reading 5,782 cfs at Holland and 5,048 cfs at Headingly.

River update
Time: 10:30 AM January 8, 2017
Portage Diversion: closed
Assiniboine at Holland: 5,782 cfs
Assiniboine at Headingly: 5,048 cfs
Waterhen: ice affected
Whitemud: 97 cfs
Fairford: 7,307 cfs
 
Lake update
Time: 10:30 AM January 8, 2017
Steep Rock: 812.48 ft
Westbourne: 812.61 ft
Mean level: 812.55 ft
Lake St. Martin: 801.80 ft
Lake Winnipegosis: 834.01 ft
Shellmouth Reservoir: 1398.03 ft

Lake Manitoba update: January 1, 2017

The level of Lake Manitoba has risen over the last week and is now sitting at 812.55 feet. If the gauge readings are correct, the lake is now above the top end of its operating range. The level of Lake Winnipegosis continues to rise, and has now reached 834.00 feet. This is about 2/3 of a foot above its previous maximum level for this time of year (observed in January 2011), and nearly 4 feet above its average level for January. It is now within a foot of its record height of 835.0 feet, reached in June of 2011. There is no sugar coating this: the high level of Lake Winnipegosis, which feeds the Waterhen River, means there will be high water on Lake Manitoba this spring and summer. Exactly how high is not yet clear, but the growing snowpack is obviously worrisome. The good news is that the province has kept Fairford wide open this winter. This has kept the level of Lake Manitoba relatively stable. Had winter flows at Fairford been reduced as has been done in the past, the spring outlook would be much worse.

The gauge on the Waterhen River remains ice affected, so we don’t know right now what the major river inflow is to Lake Manitoba. Inflow from the Whitemud is currently 95 cfs. Outflow at Fairford remains high at 8,013 cfs. The level of Lake St. Martin is currently 801.57 feet.

The level of the Shellmouth Reservoir continues to fall rapidly dropping 1.5 feet over the last week. It is now sitting at 1399.48 feet.

Flow on the Assiniboine is high, currently reading 5,895 cfs at Holland and 5,224 cfs at Headingly.

River update
Time: 8:00 AM January 1, 2017
Portage Diversion: closed
Assiniboine at Holland: 5,895 cfs
Assiniboine at Headingly: 5,224 cfs
Waterhen: ice affected
Whitemud: 97 cfs
Fairford: 8,013 cfs
 
Lake update
Time: 8:00 AM January 1, 2017
Steep Rock: 812.47 ft
Westbourne: 812.62 ft
Mean level: 812.55 ft
Lake St. Martin: 801.57 ft
Lake Winnipegosis: 834.00 ft
Shellmouth Reservoir: 1399.48 ft