“There would be minimum disruption.”
– HERM MARTENS, R. M. OF MORRIS
The Manitoba government has signalled its interest in digging another floodway.
Manitoba Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation Steve Ashton said last week the province may consider diverting the Morris River to help ease chronic spring flooding of Highway 75 at Morris.
That would involve building a channel to divert water from the Morris River into the Red River north of town – in effect, moving the Morris.
The project, if it goes ahead, would reduce the number of days Highway 75 is closed due to perennial flooding in spring, Ashton said.
The province expects to release a plan in a few weeks.
Highway 75 is Manitoba’s main trade artery with the United States and one of the most heavily travelled routes in the province.
The floodway is one of several options the province is looking at, said Ron Weatherburn, executive director of construction and maintenance for Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation.
Another option could be raising the highway and associated bridges for better flood protection, he said.
“We haven’t done any analysis on any of these options to get to a detailed design stage,” said Weatherburn. “The first thing is to determine what option the government wants to go with.”
The area immediately north and south of Morris is the one that gets closed most often. During flooding, water from the Red River tops Highway 75 south of town, flows westward around the town and enters the Morris River to the north. The combined flow leaves the highway closed for extended periods, Weatherburn said.
Traffic has to be rerouted via Highway 3 southwest of Winnipeg, adding expensive additional haul distance for freight.
After the plan is rolled out, the province will consult with affected municipalities and local residents. Then it will conduct hydrological and environmental studies before doing design work. The project will take several years to complete, Weatherburn said.
But it may not involve a huge amount of digging, said Herm Martens, reeve of the Rural Municipality of Morris.
Martens said the required ditch would be only about a mile long. Construction would occur along road allowances, so not much farmland would be affected.
“There would be minimum disruption. We would need two bridges over the highway, southbound and northbound, and maybe one for the (railway),” he said.
Martens said the project would be less expensive than a bigger diversion around the nearby community of Rosenort, which cost $12.2 million.
Martens said he and Morris town officials suggested diverting the Morris River to the province about two years ago, but never heard back about it. He was surprised when Ashton mentioned it at a news conference held last week to issue the province’s first 2010 spring flood outlook.
The forecast called for significant flooding along the Red River with levels one to three feet lower than in 2009.
Last year saw the second-biggest flood along the Red River since 1900, exceeded only by the flood of 1997.
Flooding in low-lying parts of the Interlake and along the Souris River are also likely, according to the forecast released Feb. 22. [email protected]