Calls for a second outlet to improve the province’s ability to prevent Lake Manitoba from flooding shoreline properties were heard at the recent Manitoba Beef Producers annual general meeting.
Jackie Jonasson, who ranches near Vogar, spoke in support of a resolution that was passed to lobby for keeping the lake’s level at 813 feet above sea level.
“Everybody knows that it exceeded that level by extreme amounts in 2011,” said Jonasson. “I want to have a guarantee that they will maintain the lake at that level.”
The province’s stance that the epic flood of 2011 was a once-in-500-year event doesn’t mean that it won’t happen again, and continued reliance on the Portage Diversion means that Lake Manitoba residents can expect to bear the brunt of future excess flows from upstream.
“The only way to do that is to put a second outlet at the north end of the lake, and I don’t see any movement from the government to do that,” said Jonasson.
But Don Guilford, a rancher from Clearwater, said that a second outlet would address the symptoms, but not cure the disease.
“It’s not the amount of water going out of the lake, it’s the amount of water going in,” said Guilford, adding that drainage in the upper watershed needs to be halted.
Last year’s dry summer in his area saw more drainage works dug and sloughs drained than ever before with seemingly no response from the authorities.
Moosehorn-area rancher Glen Metner supported the call for an additional outlet, noting that the existing drainage capacity of the Fairford dam at the north end of the lake is dwarfed by the potential inflow volume coming from the Portage Diversion at the south end.
“There’s no way they are going to close the Portage Diversion to protect us on Lake Manitoba, so we need a second outlet to get that water to Lake Winnipeg,” said Metner.
Langruth rancher Tom Teichroeb, who is also chair of the Lake Manitoba Flood Rehabilitation Committee, said that the province’s decision to increase the Portage Diversion’s capacity from 18,000 cubic feet per second pre-flood to 36,000 cfs post-flood will “never change,” and the lack of a secondary drain to keep lake levels from flooding out ranchers, farmers and cottagers around the lake will only end up costing taxpayers more for future flood compensation payouts.
“Why would we spend $2 billion at any time?” he asked.
Outgoing MBP president Ray Armbruster called on all members to support the resolution and “responsible water management,” noting that the flooded areas that he had toured were an “ecological disaster.”
“I spent some time with those folks and saw what happened to their ranches. They still have a monumental task in front of them in rebuilding their livelihoods and that landscape,” he said.