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Considering provincial liabilities

By LMFRC member Oli Olson

The Manitoba Government, by running the Portage Diversion on the Assiniboine River, through times of excessive snow melt or rainfall, has been relatively successful at protecting the city of Winnipeg, and farmland en‐route. This diversion of waters from an unnatural source into Lake Manitoba has, at times, caused severe loss of economic opportunities, economic hardship, loss of property, and property damage to many Manitobans living along Lake Manitoba, and Lake St. Martin.

The present government has recognized this, and is considering its liabilities to those that have been sacrificed.

In an attempt to help relieve the flooding, the government has commenced to dredge a relief channel to help remove water from Lake St. Martin. At this time, the government is not committing to a relief channel for Lake Manitoba. Their plan is to let the Fairford River slowly handle the flow over an 8-month period, getting Lake Manitoba down to 813 ( 1 foot higher than the top-of-normal operating range) by next year’s flood season. Then, I assume, they hope for a drought, throughout southern Manitoba and Saskatchewan as the Fairford River Dam can only handle about one third of the Portage Diversion input, should there be the likely need to operate it. In this scenario the flooding and liabilities recycle.

The probabilities of again flooding for 2012 are most likely, as historic evidence shows the lake rises a minimum of 1.5 feet from pre-run off to early summer crest. Therefore the lake will again be put into flood levels.

The Fairford Dam, built in the 60s, is simply outdated. The requirements of today, and the increased drainage in the southwest, are far beyond its capacity. Additional drainage of Lake Manitoba must be constructed, or the continued flooding, and consequent annual liabilities to the taxpayer, will far exceed the cost of channel construction.

The emergency channel to lower Lake St. Martin will do very little to reduce liability, due to damage caused by flooding. Lake St. Martin is less than 8 per cent the size of Lake Manitoba, and a large portion of its shore line in the east and south-east has no development, or very little economic activity. The liabilities are minute compared to Lake Manitoba, which is settled all around, with ranching, and farming, and many large cottage developments, throughout.

The proposed costs to construct an additional channel to enhance drainage from Lake Manitoba range from $195‐330 million. Liabilities and compensation for 2011 alone will greatly exceed this. It is obvious that doing nothing to enhance the exhausting of water from Lake Manitoba, other than running the Fairford River Dam at its full capacity, will be the most expensive option for Manitoba taxpayers.