Dikes, ditches and dams: Manitoba’s struggle towards flooding is complicated

It has develop into an annual ritual in Manitoba — mid-winter ideas flip to the spring soften and whether or not land and communities will likely be threatened by rising water that comes from rivers as far-off because the Rocky Mountains and South Dakota.

The water comes by yearly on its approach to Lake Winnipeg and Hudson Bay. Typically it stays inside riverbanks. However generally it combines with heavy precipitation and different components to spill over, pressure evacuations and threaten injury within the thousands and thousands of .


During the last six many years, Manitoba has developed a posh community of dikes, dams and ditches to maintain water flowing to its vacation spot with out harming Winnipeg, Brandon and plenty of different communities.

“If there was an institute for floods — a Noah Institute — it must be positioned in Winnipeg as a result of we now have spent all our historical past, almost, coping with the flooding drawback,” Paul Thomas, professor emeritus of political research on the College of Manitoba, mentioned in a current interview.

As a younger boy, Thomas and his household have been amongst nearly 100,000 individuals compelled to flee their properties through the huge flood of 1950, which prompted Manitoba to start out constructing intensive flood-prevention infrastructure.


“We couldn’t journey on the freeway at one level. My grandfather went on the railway observe driving … with one wheel contained in the observe and one wheel out, bumping alongside,” Thomas recalled.

“We’ve got household images of my dad paddling a canoe into the lounge in our modest storey-and-a-half house.”

Following that flood, the Manitoba authorities constructed the Purple River Floodway — a channel nearly 50 kilometres lengthy that diverts water from the Purple River earlier than it reaches Winnipeg from the south, carries it across the metropolis and dumps it again in.


Different initiatives adopted. The Shellmouth dam and reservoir on the Assiniboine River maintain again water coming from the west. A diversion channel close to Portage la Prairie directs water from the Assiniboine away from Winnipeg into Lake Manitoba. An outlet controls the movement out of Lake Manitoba into Lake St. Martin.

Tons of of thousands and thousands of have been spent to forestall billions of in injury. And in current many years, floods appear to be taking place extra incessantly.

The so-called Flood of the Century in 1997 prompted officers to construct group dikes and different defences larger alongside the Purple River Valley. The floodway round Winnipeg was expanded to deal with extra water.


A flood in 2009 was made worse by ice jams north of town, so the federal government invested in additional ice-breaking gear.

The Assiniboine River Valley was hit in 2011, and dikes in Brandon, Souris and different communities have been enlarged quickly after.

First Nations communities alongside Lake St. Martin have been evacuated and many individuals couldn’t return house for years whereas new properties have been constructed. Some enhancements to flood prevention within the space are nonetheless ready for federal regulatory approval.


Total, the province seems assured that its array of flood-prevention measures can deal with what may come, particularly within the Purple River Valley, the place most of Manitoba’s inhabitants is.

“For probably the most half there isn’t plenty of property injury within the Purple River Valley throughout a big occasion,” mentioned Ruth Eden, appearing assistant deputy minister of water administration and constructions.

In unhealthy years, the water can wash out roads and encompass small cities protected by ring dikes. It could actually pressure rural residents to depend on boats to get round for a number of days. However finally the water subsides.


“The water goes down, we go in and repair what injury has been performed and life goes again to regular,” Eden mentioned.