Tag Archives: man-made flood

Before the flood–and after: Jody Fletcher

A thoughtful, articulate commentary in the Winnipeg Free Press today.

“We have settled in a rented house in town, finally feeling a sense of gratitude for what we do have, but it is tempered with the knowledge that all is not well at home. We wait. We wait for the strong and menacing fall winds and wonder if we will survive another storm. We wait for the winter and know how vulnerable our home is to vandalism. We wait for the spring breakup and wonder if the lake will be lowered by then, and if the ice storms we fear will become reality. We wait for the time we can move back home and resume a lifestyle that has worked its way deep into our hearts in a way we had never imagined. We wait.”

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.”

Ruined by Act of Government: Sandi Knight

Great article in today’s Free Press from writer Sandi Knight.

“There seem to be many misconceptions about the flooding of Lake Manitoba. First of all, the residents around the lake do not live on a flood plain. The Portage Diversion is a man-made structure, completed in 1970 as part of an attempt to prevent flooding downstream on the Assiniboine, including the city of Winnipeg. With its construction, Lake Manitoba became a “managed” lake. In May, water volumes up to 34,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) were forced down the diversion — 9,000 cfs over its original design capacity.”


Footage of flooding at Lake Manitoba

Thank you LMFRC member Kevin Yuill for sharing this footage.

LMFRC demand consultation and further lake relief

 (WINNIPEG, Manitoba) July 26, 2011 – Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton met with the Lake Manitoba Flood Rehabilitation Committee on Tuesday to discuss the emergency channel to lower the levels of Lake St. Martin and Lake Manitoba. Ashton says the channel route, from Lake St. Martin through Big Buffalo Lake and on to the Dauphin River, is the best option in terms of timeline and payoff.

“The key to Lake St. Martin is Lake St. Martin. The key to Lake Manitoba is Lake St. Martin. This channel will give immediate relief as soon as it’s accomplished,” says Ashton.

While the LMFRC is relieved to see an announcement from the province, members say the plan is overly optimistic, as it is based on optimal conditions of several factors.

“They’re assuming meeting their deadline of November 1, perfect weather, no excess moisture, and no flooding next year,” says Joe Johnson, LMFRC Co-Chair. “That’s a lot to ask of Mother Nature. There are more options to explore. There are generations of knowledge in this area and we urge the province to engage us and work with us.”

The LMFRC hopes for more collaboration and consultation with the government during construction of the channel and the duration of the flood.

The Lake Manitoba Flood Rehabilitation Committee represents all 11 municipalities surrounding Lake Manitoba. It gives voice to the urgent needs of all residents and businesses for an immediate solution to the flooding. It seeks adequate and inclusive compensation for the rehabilitation of land, businesses and residential properties damaged by the man-made flooding of Lake Manitoba.