Tag Archives: Lake Manitoba

WFP The View from the West: Peter Schroedter

A commentary from Peter Schroedter in The View from the West in today’s Free Press.

“I am one of the people affected and even though my losses are minor compared to those who have lost everything, this government-caused flood has become the defining event in my adult life.”


Lake St. Martin Emergency Channel Update: Province of Manitoba

On November 1, the following update was posted on the Province of Manitoba’s Flood Information website.

  • Exploratory work for possible channel locations started July 4.
  • Logistical work such as setting up camps, building an access road and establishing drainage started in early July and additional contractors began work Aug. 15.
  • Actual channel digging started Aug. 29.
  • More than 130 workers have been involved in this construction project. At times, the Aboriginal worker complement was up to 50 per cent.
  • The total excavation project moved about 1.5 million cubic metres of material. Approximately 30,000 more cubic metres of rock were also used.
  • Ditches, dikes and temporary roads have been constructed on either side of the 6.5 kilometre (about four-mile) outlet.
  • The 95 pieces of heavy equipment used included excavators, bulldozers and rock trucks, one dredge, two Amphibex machines, one floating excavator, four barges, four tugs, two helicopters, 15 boats, 10 high-velocity pumps and 30 support vehicles.

Create a flood commission: Scott Forbes, WFP

In today’s WFP View from the West, Scott Forbes says we need a flood commission so the province is prepared for floods in  increasingly unpredictable times.

“Clearly the lake has been managed to sit in the upper reaches of the operating range: residents around Lake Manitoba who have argued that for years the lake has been too high have been correct.

The government of Manitoba needs to establish a blue ribbon Assiniboine Flood Commission that brings together stakeholders — the residents of the Assiniboine basin, farmers, ranchers and business owners — with our best hydrologists and engineers to design a comprehensive water management strategy.

We don’t need finger-pointing and political games. We do need to identify shortfalls in our current flood preparations and a logical plan to address these needs expeditiously.”

Progress report from province of MB website

Today’s update from the province on the emergency channel:

  • Construction of the Lake St. Martin Emergency Channel is over 75 per cent complete and remains on track to be finished in November. However, progress on the final stage depends on weather conditions and logistical issues;
  • Once the project is completed it will result in lower levels on Lake St. Martin;
  • The Fairford Dam Structure is expected to remain open throughout the winter, which will help lower Lake Manitoba water levels;
  • Over 130 workers and 95 pieces of heavy equipment continue to work on the project. The Aboriginal employment rate on the project has ranged up to 50 per cent;
  • Ditches, dikes and temporary roads have been constructed on either side of the 6.5 kilometre outlet and most of the outlet has now been built;
  • The work site is remote and workers, equipment and supplies must be moved by boat or barge across eight kilometres of Lake St. Martin, to the site;
  • Plans are now underway, and an open tender will be issued very soon, for construction of an extended reach of the channel from Buffalo Creek to Lake Winnipeg. This will help ease spring break-up and ice jam-related flooding along the Dauphin River by diverting water more directly into Lake Winnipeg. This reach of the channel project was outlined as a possible component in the original project description and is accounted for in the initial cost estimates. Once the main portion of the channel is completed and operational in November, construction of the extended reach will begin with a goal of it being operational before the spring melt.
Visit the Lake St. Martin Emergency Channel update page here. You can also see photos and aerial footage.

Lake Manitoba Flood 2011: Slideshow

Local resident Patty Thomson created this slideshow depicting just some of the widespread destruction around Lake Manitoba. The photos were submitted to Patty by homeowners.

You can find the slideshow on YouTube.

Profile: Blair Olafson, LMFRC member

Blair Olafson stands in front of the road that leads to The Narrows West Lodge boat launch, which is completely submerged.

Blair Olafson figures it will be two or three years before business is back to usual at The Narrows West Lodge.

The lodge, about 220 kms north of Winnipeg, has been in Olafson’s family since 1970 and his family can trace its roots in this area back to 1895. Never has anyone seen the water like this. Last month Olafson took his father and some friends for a boat tour of the damage. He was shocked to discover he could easily place a hand on The Narrows bridge as they cruised under it, when clearance of about 12 feet is normal.

But there is nothing normal about this summer at The Narrows West Lodge. Beautiful rental chalets face huge raised dikes instead of vast Lake Manitoba waters. The boat launch is gone, replaced by murky waters and green slime. Bottles, tires and anonymous debris stick out at odd and dangerous angles.

“The garbage is terrible, you can’t imagine it,” Olafson says. “Staircases, gazebos, play structures. It washes into us every day. And the stench is overpowering. I don’t know what makes that smell, but it can’t be healthy.”

The Narrows West Lodge provides several streams of income to Olafson, including fishing and hunting packages, bait fishing and camping, and they’ve all taken a hit. His revenue is down this year by about half. Just before the May long weekend, media reported high waters at The Narrows. TV stations showed a photo of The Narrows bridge covered in water and that, Olafson says, was the beginning of a desperate season.

“People haven’t even called. They just saw those photos and decided we weren’t open. We usually see 1,200 campers and this year, it’s been about 200. We usually have half a dozen weddings but this year, they were all cancelled.”

Every year, Olafson offers 45 spots for rent on his boat dock. This year, the boat dock is entirely submerged. Not only has he lost that guaranteed income, those boaters aren’t coming in because they don’t want to run their boats on shore and risk damage. More loss.

The lodge serves as the local gathering spot for coffee, beers, and everything in between. But neighbouring farms and communities, such as Reykjavik, have been evacuated for months. Business is slow, and the locals that arrive have only grim news to report.

“I was talking with two farmers, one is 77 years old, the other is probably 70. Well, they have all this lake property. They can’t sell this land. Who wants to buy it? And if someone wants to buy it, how do you value it? If the water goes down, if it goes back to its natural state, it’s going to take five, six, maybe seven years. A farmer retires with his land, that’s his pension plan. So what happens to these guys?” Olafson says.

Olfason is frustrated with the government’s coping abilities as the problems continue to rise due to the man-made flooding of Lake Manitoba. He says officials are spreading the word that compensation is being promptly doled out to local businesses and farmers, but the truth is another story. He offers up a tale that shows just how effectively compensation is being handled.

“They were using my equipment to pump water, 24 hours a day. Finally it came time I needed to be compensated. So I went to the municipality, because we directly did the original transaction. But they’re tapped out, of course, so they sent me to EMO. They pushed me to DFA. I’m not kidding! DFA sent me to MAFRI. Then I went to MASC. Believe it or not, they sent me back to the municipality. And they paid me there, but you know, they probably don’t have their own compensation for it either, they just felt badly for me and paid it out of pocket.”

While the frustration of trying to stay afloat keeps Olfason busy during the day, it’s fear that keeps him up at night. He cautions we haven’t seen the worst of it yet.

“I’m a commercial fisherman, I know ice. And when that ice comes in, there’s trouble. Ice and water are night and day. Sure, you can hold water back if you build the dike high enough, but ice will just torpedo right through. The ice will blast through those dikes and then the water will go through and do what it does.”

Update on channel: August 18, 2011

On August 18, Eric Blais of AECOM and Doug McNeil, Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, headed an Open House at Canad Inns Polo Park, Winnipeg, about the Emergency Channel to relieve water levels on Lake St. Martin and Lake Manitoba. The following was recorded during the question and answer portion.

Q: What can you offer us in terms of a progress report?

EB: Contracts were signed this week Monday. Construction equipment is mobilizing as we speak. We hope to have 60 pieces of equipment on the other side of the lake by September 1.

DM: I was up there yesterday; there are 12 pieces up there right now. Accessibility is our biggest issue because this is such a remote site. We’ve basically taken over the hotel in Gypsumville, the campground off PR513, is it called Big Rock? We’ve lost several days because we can’t take the barge over due to weather.

We’ve had to make tough decisions and we’re doing that. We’re getting a lot of heat because we didn’t ask for tenders. Well, that takes six weeks, so we went with contractors we know, with the right equipment, the right experience.

Let’s be honest. Those contractors still don’t know how they’re going to build the channel. If they can dewater the area, as it were, and use conventional methods, they will really be able to move on this channel.

So far we’ve built a road in the first km of the seven-km stretch. The plan is to build the road down those entire 7 kms, and then start on the channel and work upstream.

Q: You’re working on the road now, you’re hoping for 60 pieces of equipment there for September 1. Are we to assume you’re hoping to begin actual work on the actual channel September 1?

EB: Yes, that’s what we’re aiming for. The logistics of this project are staggering. We’re working on getting a big barge from Ontario. But you know, how do you get that down the Trans Canada Highway? I’m on the phone with the Coast Guard finding appropriate buoys for our barges. We need two tankers of fuel on a barge every day to keep this project going.

Maybe we set up kitchens, medical personnel, everything we need over there for 100 men so they can stay and we don’t have to be dependent on the weather and crossing back over.

Q: Are you planning for working around the clock, 24 hours a day?

DM: At this point, we just don’t know. Frankly, we don’t want to because that just adds another layer of concern. Now we need lights, there are heightened safety concerns, which are already high because we’re so remote.

Q: Should we understand the logistics of the project will require more than the actual construction of the channel?

EB: Well, we’re asking a lot of these contractors. We’re talking about 60 m at the base, probably 70-80 m at the top. We’re asking for 50,000 cubic metres of dirt a day. We’re asking for 200 metres of channel a day, and we are saying a deadline of November 1.